How to Drive Cool Cars on a Budget


One of life’s biggest expenses is transportation, especially cars. I love cars, and love driving different cars. I get bored driving the same vehicle for more than a few years.. or months. You could imagine this would be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve owned quite a few cars, and I’ve not lost much money on them at all. The biggest downside is that you have to pay registration and taxes on every car you buy, but some of that can be tax deductible.

The list that follows is all of the cars I’ve owned, how much I paid and sold them for, how many miles I put on them, and about how expensive it was to own each one. I’ve included insurance costs, city/highway MPG, and the cost of oil changes and registration so that you can see how affordable each was to own.

My first 3 cars I owned in high school, so my parents helped me out by paying for gas, insurance, and registration. Most of my cars have been RWD sports cars that were manual, but a few SUVs and other vehicles too. I’ve had great experiences with the American and Japanese cars I’ve owned, an OK experience with the Italian Fiat, and terrible experiences with both Germans, so I’ll likely never buy another German car I bought another German car.

Then I went through a phase of 3 red manual Japanese convertibles.

1. 1993 Ford Mustang LX

  • Bought: $1,700 / 195,000 miles
  • Sold: $1,750 / 205,000 miles
  • MPG: 25/30, regular gas
  • Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
  • Engine: 2.3L 4-cylinder, 100HP
  • Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

1993 Mustang

This car was bought by my parents for me and my brother to learn to drive a manual transmission. I broke the clutch in it, and the A/C compressor went out in it, which cost about $600 to fix both. We owned it for a few years as an extra car, and sold it for more than we paid.

2. 1996 Ford Mustang

  • Bought: $3,600 / 118,000 miles
  • Sold: $2,400 / 135,000 miles
  • MPG: 23/28, regular gas
  • Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
  • Engine: 3.6L 6-cylinder, 150HP
  • Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

1996 Mustang

This was the first car I bought myself, the older, silver Mustang in the middle of the picture. I put a $70 Cold Air Intake on it. Other than that, I did no major work on the car, so it had no expenses outside of gas and oil changes. I originally sold the car for $3,200, but the buyer blew a head gasket on the way home. This really surprised me, since after I had 17,000 issue-free miles, they broke a major part in a 5 mile drive home. Since they were family friends, I took it back, and sold it as is a week later for $800 less.

3. 1999 Chevrolet Camaro

  • Bought: $4,000 / 99,000 miles
  • Sold: $3,600 / 115,000 miles
  • MPG: 22/27, regular gas
  • Insurance: Unsure, parents paid for
  • Engine: 3.8L 6-cylinder, 200HP
  • Oil Changes: $30 for standard oil change, every 3,000 to 5,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

1999 Camaro

I bought the Camaro before heading to college as something more exciting – it had T-Tops! The picture doesn’t portray how enthralled I was. I drove this at the beginning of my college career and had no issues with it. Just a couple hundred dollars upgrading the headlights and front grill, hey, I was 18! When I sold it after a few years, I didn’t lose much money to upgrade to my next car, which was a…

4. 2004 Cadillac CTS-V

  • Bought: $17,800 / 49,000 miles
  • Sold: $13,000 / 99,000 miles
  • MPG: 16/23, premium gas
  • Insurance: $120/mo for full coverage
  • Engine: 5.7L 8-cylinder, 400HP
  • Oil Changes: $100 for full synthetic oil change, every 10,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: Unsure, parents paid for

2004 CTS-V

I bought this with the money I had saved from summer jobs and my first semester of Co-oping as a Test Engineer. It came with new tires, I got one set of new tires for free a few years later from my brother (he won them), and I sold it needing new tires. The CTS-V was an amazing car: a luxury sport sedan with a Corvette Z06 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. I loved it! However, the insurance was really high, and so were the gas costs. This was the longest I had ever owned a car, which was about 4 years. I sold it when I moved down to Florida for my first real Engineering job. I still find myself wanting a car like this again, and they are still selling used years later for the same prices. No more depreciation on these, unfortunately for me.

5. 2008 Chevrolet Corvette

  • Bought: $27,500 / 36,000 miles
  • Sold: $26,500 /49,000 miles
  • MPG: 23/30, premium gas
  • Insurance: $90/mo for full coverage
  • Engine: 6.2L 8-cylinder, 430HP
  • Oil Changes: $100 for full synthetic oil change, every 10,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: $3,000

2008 Corvette

I bought the Corvette after getting my first paycheck as a full time employee after college. A bright blue Corvette with a targa top in perfect Florida weather, why not? A few months later, I was wondering how bad of a financial decision it really was. My dad and brother gave me 0% loans since I couldn’t pay for all of it at once, and I was paying them about $1,000/month to pay it off quickly. It took about 6 months to pay off. Finally selling my CTS-V really helped. I owned the Corvette for a little over a year, and luckily sold it for not much of a loss in order to pay off the down payment on my house.

Buying a Corvette and a house in the same year might not be the best financial decision, but it worked out for me once I sold the Vette. This was the nicest and fastest car I had owned at this point.

The expenses on this were really low, since insurance is super cheap and it got relatively good MPG for a sports car. Everyone wonders how the insurance low, so think about this: Who buys a Corvette, and what do they do with them? Most Corvette owners are 60+ and retired, and they use their Corvette as a weekend car or cruiser, not a daily driver. This means they are garaged the majority of the time, and there are not very many insurance claims on them. This drives the insurance price pretty low, which was great for me! Most people in Corvette Clubs like to brag how few miles they put on their Vette, I was the opposite. I put about 13,000 miles on mine in the year I owned it, and loved every single one of them. It made me want to get back into one once I was more financially stable.

6. 1999 Porsche Boxster

  • Bought: $5,500 / 85,000 miles
  • Sold: $5,000 / 89,000 miles
  • MPG: 19/25, premium gas
  • Insurance: $50/mo for legal minimum
  • Engine: 2.5L 6-cylinder, 200HP
  • Oil Changes: $95 for full synthetic oil change, every 7,000 miles
  • Taxes/Registration: $500

1999 Boxster

I bought the Porsche as a replacement to Corvette, which I sold to pay towards the down payment on my house. The difference in selling my Corvette and buying a Porsche was over $21,000! My co-workers wondered why I “upgraded” from a Corvette to a Porsche, and their jaw dropped when they find out I only paid $6,000 after tax and registration for it. The insurance for full coverage on it was about $130/mo, which I thought was insane on a car that’s so cheap. Therefore, I just went for the legal minimum. My thoughts were that if I wreck it, I can just buy another car. I’m also quite confident in my driving abilities.

I called it my cheap beater Porsche, and that’s not too far off. I converted the non-functional automatic convertible top to a manually-operated top, and I just left it down all the time. The back window was plastic that has faded to yellow, so it had terrible visibility when the top is up. I spent $50 on new tail light bulbs and a new headlight switch, since those didn’t work when I bought it. Luckily for me, I picked this up for a steal on Craigslist, and bought it the same day it was posted. I loved driving a cheap car that I don’t care about anymore! I kept this about 9 months. I put about $350 into new brakes and rotors. I did them myself, since the dealer quoted $2,700 to do it. When I sold it on eBay, it needed a new water pump, which was about $700 installed.

I lost about $1,000 to drive this for close to a year, not bad. I sold it to buy my first automatic car, and first non-sports car.

7. 2005 BMW X5 4.8

  • Bought: $7,000 / 102,000 miles
  • Sold: $7,005 in trade-in / 108,000 miles
  • MPG: 14/19, premium gas (ouch)
  • Insurance: $67/mo for legal minimum
  • Engine: 4.8L 8-cylinder, 360HP
  • Oil Changes: Never had to do any
  • Taxes/Registration: $700

2005 X5

I bought this awesome BMW SUV. It was $72,000 new, and I bought it for 10% of that. It was large inside, had a panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth, and heated seats in the front and back. Perfect for Florida! It came with huge 20″ rims that are 315 in the back. I got lots of compliments on the wheels. The car was enjoyable to drive, the A/C was so cold, and it felt like it owned the road. It’s not a sports car, but it’ll scoot. 360HP in this SUV is no slouch. It’s got torque to tow as well. The gas mileage is horrific on this car, and it holds 25 gallons of premium.

I never bought new tires on it or did oil changes since I didn’t own it for long, but it had a TON of problems. The inside driver door panel was off for at least half the time I owned it, and I replaced almost every part in there myself. The window barely worked. I ended up using a zip tie to solder a piece of plastic together inside the door. The BMW and Porsche I had might have been lemons, It needed a water pump and coolant flush before I tried selling it private party, then ended up trading it in on this…

8. 2016 Chevrolet Corvette

  • Bought: $40,000 / 44,000 miles
  • Sold: $31,000 / 50,000 miles
  • MPG: 23/32+, premium gas
  • Insurance: $110/mo for excellent coverage
  • Engine: 6.2L 8-cylinder, 455HP
  • Oil Changes: $0, included with CPO
  • Taxes/Registration: ~$2,500


Newest car and by far the most expensive car I’ve ever owned. Something about lifestyle creep… I got a 1.49% interest rate 48 month car loan on a USED car. Found this 1-owner, higher mileage C7 Corvette at a dealer. It was the exact combo I wanted, blue exterior and brown/tan interior, 2LT, manual transmission. It was Certified Pre-Owned, so it has free oil changes and services for a few years, plus it was a better price than any 2016 for sale in the country at the time. I haggled for a while, got up to leave a few times, and got about 3k off the dealer price and got more than I paid for my BMW on trade in.

The 2016 came with a front camera so you don’t hit the front bumper parking, and a flat bottom steering wheel. This is such a nice car, and I tried making some money on the side renting it with Turo, but then this happened. I was just really tired of how expensive the BMW was and how unreliable it was, so I was happy to pay a premium to get into a reliable American car again. Plus it had cylinder deactivation to run on 4-cylinders when you want to, which helped me get 36 MPG on a road trip to Tampa.

Since my Vette was CPO, I never paid for oil changes on it. I owned it for almost 2 years before trading it in for a nicer car for my wife. I lost more on this car than any car I’ve ever had.

9. 2007 Lexus GX470

  • Bought: $10,000 / 145,000 miles
  • Sold: $10,500 / 193,000 miles
  • MPG: 15/19, premium gas
  • Insurance: $60/mo for excellent coverage
  • Engine: 4.7L 8-cylinder, 270HP
  • Oil Changes: $70-80
  • Taxes/Registration: $1,700


We needed something larger than a Corvette or Fiat to move our dogs around and do more home improvement projects, so I wanted to get something reliable SUV that would last a very long time. I did my research and decided on a Toyota 4Runner, with leather and a V8. So the 4th generation (2003-2009) Toyota 4Runner V8 Limited. Unfortunately, those are rare, and relatively expensive. Then I found out that Lexus made the same car, with more factory options and it’s even nicer than the 4Runner, has a V8, leather, and it sells for less than a V8 Limited 4Runner. That sold me.

I was originally going to buy a 2003 GX470 in Pennsylvania for $5,000, but it had rust, was a little rough, and the owner was seeming like he was never going to deliver it. I was paying him to drive it down, but he flaked on me 3 separate times. I had searches set up on every website you can think of, and not many come up for sale. One ended up showing up in my city for $10k. It was more than I was wanting to spend, but it was much lower miles, newer, and nicer than I was planning on buying.

I was planning to go look at it, so I scheduled and appointment with this local car dealer for the next day. They called me that day and said the car had already sold, pending financing. Oh well.

They called me back another day later and said financing fell through, so I went down that day and bought it, putting almost $7k of the purchase on a Capital One Venture card to get a signing bonus! This car was nearly perfect, super low miles for the model, recent maintenance on the timing belt and water pump, new battery, tires, brakes - it needs nothing. I got this car for below market (the car would’ve sold the next day if I didn’t buy it), and I plan on driving it until it dies. This is a car that needs very little maintenance since it’s a Toyota, it’ll run 3,4,500k miles, and I’m already loving it.

Update: Owned this for 5 years and about 50k miles, had very few issues and learned a lot while working on this car.

If you check the cars category of my website, I detail many of the mods I’ve been doing on my GX, I really love this car.

10. 2013 Fiat 500

  • Bought: $20,000 / 19 miles
  • Sold: $2,000 / ~80,000 miles
  • MPG: 28/33, Mid grade gas
  • Insurance: $80/mo for excellent coverage
  • Engine: 1.4L 4-cylinder, 135HP
  • Oil Changes: $80-100
  • Taxes/Registration: $400, car already had taxes paid in Alabama, just had to plate it in Florida


My wife’s parents bought her this car in college. It was a decent little car for a while, it went almost 70,000 miles with not many issues. The last 10k miles we owned it, it went through 4 window regulators and the car died on her at work one day, ended up being a bushing in the shifter that prevented the car from starting. We decided it was time to upgrade her, and we bought her a…

11. 2018 Ford Mustang Convertible

  • Bought: $22,000 / 33,000 miles
  • Sold: Not yet, not for a while!
  • MPG: 21/32, premium gas
  • Insurance: $60/mo for excellent coverage
  • Engine: 2.3L 4-cylinder, 310HP
  • Oil Changes: $50-70
  • Taxes/Registration: $1,500


Sweet convertible Mustang! It has white paint with a rare red interior, there were only 3 for sale in America with that combo when we bought this. This car is fast for a 4 cylinder, and is just as nice as my Corvette was. It has the Premium Plus package, so it has lots of digital displays, heated and cooled seats, CarPlay and Android Auto and tons of other great features. This is a super comfortable car that is also fun to drive.

We bought this CPO from Sarasota Ford over in Sarasota, FL. We drove both the Fiat and Corvette over and traded them both in. It was really sad to see my C7 go, but at the same time, it was way too expensive of a car for me. I got a little upset not having a fun manual sports car though, so I bought myself a…

12. 2004 Honda S2000

  • Bought: $10,000 / 85,000 miles
  • Sold: $12,000 / 88,000 miles
  • MPG: 18/25, premium gas. Great smiles per gallon!
  • Insurance: $50/mo for excellent coverage
  • Engine: 2.4L 4-cylinder, 237HP
  • Oil Changes: None
  • Taxes/Registration: $700


A great deal on an AP2 S2000, with very low miles. So now we have the Lexus, Mustang, and my S2000. This car doesn’t get driven with the top up, only down. It’s a fun little sports car to drive around town in, but not comfortable at all. It has some aftermarket bumpers and side skirts, and a paint job, and I hate all of those things. It was sports car red from the factory, and the previous owner painted it maroon. Maybe eventually I’ll convert it back to stock and get the nice red paint back on it, but for now I just use this to run errands around town, as long as I don’t have to carry too much stuff. This drives just like my old Boxster, which is great, but it’s a Honda, so it is reliable.

I owned it for about 7 months, put in about $200 of parts into it, and sold it for a 4 figure profit. Waited a whole business day before putting down a deposit on my next car - 1991 Suzuki Cappuccino!

13. 1991 Suzuki Cappuccino

  • Bought: $5,000 / 122,000 km
  • Sold: $5,000 / 123,000 km
  • MPG: ~35/50, premium gas. Insane MPG! It has a whopping 5 gallon gas tank
  • Insurance: $45/mo for some coverage
  • Engine: .6L 3-cylinder Turbo, 63HP
  • Oil Changes: $40 or so, did the first one myself the day after buying it
  • Taxes/Registration: $350


This is a very unique car. Never sold in America, and can only be imported once 25 years old, this right hand drive JDM kei car gets tons of attention. It is slow, difficult to drive, but it’s a blast. The top speed is about 83mph. I’ve got it up to 120…kmh. Everything is in Kilometers, so you have to convert in your head to know how fast you are going. It doesn’t matter too much, since it might be the slowest car on the road, barely can get up to the speed limit. It has a 3 piece targa/t-top, a fold down back window, and it’s SO SMALL. Very fun car.

This was such a fun car to drive around in, got tons of look and was just a blast. Unfortunately, it needed quite a bit of work and had to get towed home. If you want parts, you basically have to find someone in the UK (where it was sold 27-29 years ago), or in Japan, and get them to ship them to you. I’m not the greatest mechanic, so even after trying to replace everything I knew how to, I gave up and sold it as a non-running car. I broke even on it, and the next owner is planning a 2.2L turbo motorcycle engine swap for it.

14. 2016 Mazda Miata

  • Bought: $16,000 / 36,000 mi
  • Sold: $19,500 / 37,500 mi
  • MPG: ~25/33, premium gas.
  • Insurance: $43/mo for full coverage
  • Engine: 2.0L 4-cyl with a BBR Turbo, 200RWHP
  • Oil Changes: $40 for full synthetic
  • Taxes/Registration: $800


So I finally bought a Miata, third time is the charm. First time I tried to buy one I got a S2000, then a Cappuccino. Found this Miata locally for sale by widow, and got it for a great deal. She had it listed on Facebook only, 1 picture and no description. Haggled down a few grand and bought this for well below market value. It’s got a BBR Turbo kit, intercooler and intake from Flyin Miata, and it’s the Club trim, so it’s got the digital display. Fun to drive, quick enough, and I love how quick the top goes down.

I kept this for about 6 months, and used cars prices started going up a ton during Covid. I decided to sell for a pretty solid profit before depreciation started to really hit. I had it listed for only an HOUR online before someone from Michigan booked a flight to come pick it up.

15. 2002 Porsche 911 Targa

  • Bought: $21,500 / 118,000 mi
  • Sold: $24,750 / 122,000 mi
  • MPG: 18/26, premium gas.
  • Insurance: $57/mo for full coverage
  • Engine: 3.6L 6-cyl, 320HP
  • Oil Changes: $100 for full synthetic
  • Taxes/Registration: $912.

996 Targa

I said I would never buy another German car, but I like Targas, and not many manufacturers make a targa with a manual. This popped up in Tampa, about 3 hours away from me, at a steal of a price, so I went and bought it that day. It has a manual transmission, nice rims, lowered a bit, and drives really nice. Even has a solid stereo for a 2002.

The Targa is a relatively rare Porsche 911, only 5k of the 175k 996 911s produced were a targa, and they are my favorite body style. All the practicality of a coupe and the nice body lines, but with a mostly retractable roof like a convertible. Plus, it’s a hatchback! It’s fast, but not too fast. I’ll probably keep this for 1-2 years while I save up for my dream car, a Ferrari 360.

Update: I did it.

16. 2001 Ferrari 360 Spider

  • Bought: Too much/ 29,000 miles
  • Sold: No
  • MPG: 10-12 on Premium, it’s bad
  • Insurance: $45/mo for agreed value coverage
  • Engine: 3.6L 8-cyl, 400HP
  • Oil Changes: $740 for full synthetic at Ferrari dealer. Never again.
  • Taxes/Registration: too much


I bought my dream car. I’m writing this a year later. It is the most expensive, least reliable, most attention getting car I’ve ever owned. It’s my dream car. It’s amazing and I love it and hate it at the same time.

All the parts are expensive. I spent $40k getting it running at a shady mechanic in town. I love driving it so much, but it’s so expensive and half the stuff doesn’t even work still. But I don’t plan on selling it.

I did finance my Ferrari through Lightstream, and this is a referral link. I’d highly recommend them if you need a car loan and need it quick, and the rates were competitive. They deposited the money for the car in just a day, and you can pay it off on your own terms (faster, not slower).

I initially tried to get a car loan with DCU, which ended up wanting me to pay for an appraisal and send the car to them for 2 weeks, before I even bought it. Not a fan of DCU. They even made me open a bank account just to apply for the car loan.

17. 1992 Suzuki Cappuccino

  • Bought: $6,200 / 33,000 km
  • Sold: No
  • MPG: 50ish on premium. 5 gallon tank
  • Insurance: $50/mo
  • Engine: .6L Turbo, 63HP
  • Oil Changes: Cheap - 3L and a filter.
  • Taxes/Registration: $500ish - tag was cheap because it is antique


I bought Kyle’s Cappuccino. It’s the only car I’ve ever bought 2 of the exact same style of car.

18. 2014 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

  • Bought: $13,500 / 167,000 mi
  • Sold: No
  • MPG: 37mpg Diesel
  • Insurance: $60/mo
  • Engine: 3.0L Turbo Diesel 6 cylinder
  • Oil Changes: $80 DIY
  • Taxes/Registration: $1,000


I bought a 7 year newer car to replace the GX470 we owned for 5 years.

So those are the cars I’ve owned, and the details on how much they cost to buy and own. Do you have any good stories about cars and how they impacted your plans? Leave them in the comments!

Written on March 29, 2021

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