A Small Price to Pay

The Used Cars We’d Buy Right Now for $10,000


Ten grand. It’s not unusual to lust after a watch that goes for that much or more. As far as new cars go, however, 10 large could be anywhere from an impressive to acceptable down payment — indeed, it’s somewhere around 20 percent of the entire cost of some of our favorites. But a used car is a different story. A used car may be your first car or your city commuter; it may be your winter beater or a weekend toy. Around the office this week, we leaned into the thought experiment: spend no more than ten thousand dollars and get something you really, really want. If we had a [limited] blank check, this is what we’d pick up.

1966 Triumph Spitfire

Admittedly, I’m on a British roadster kick at the moment, for whatever reason — I’m even in the process of convincing my mom to pull the trigger on a British racing green ’79 MG B with a saddle tan interior. (It’s a deal; the seller just doesn’t want to fix one minor thing). So given a budget of $10,000, this slightly warn Triumph Spitfire was calling to me. I always loved the look of the Spitfire, which from 1962-1980 hardly changed because it didn’t have to. With that said, this particular Spitfire doesn’t look too beat up, but I’ll rest easy knowing I have an extra $5,500 to cover any minor repairs the English mid-century engineering feels like throwing my way. — Bryan Campbell, Staff Writer

Mileage: 76,000
Original MSRP: $2,155

2000 Land Rover Discovery Series II SE

The family next door while I was growing up always had Land Rovers. They had a Series II Disco and a number of Range Rovers over the years. Something about the way Disco’s seats fold down in the trunk from the sides was so intriguing to me as a kid. It’s a capable off-roader that’s refined enough for city life. This particular example is a one-owner car from California with a hair over 95,000 miles on it. Sure it’s in Chicago now, but the odds of it having been covered in ice on Lake Shore Drive are slim — hopefully. — AJ Powell, Assistant Editor

Mileage: 95,069
Original MSRP: $36,100

2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS

“Goddammit,” I mutter as, once again, I open Autotrader and key in the familiar search parameters. The results come up — this is the fifth time in the past week that I’ve looked this intensely for an Isuzu VehiCROSS, and I exhale a lazy, defeated half-sigh. I’ve been toying lately with the idea of buying a used Jeep Cherokee of this same vintage: an edgy, cool, capable, simple machine that’ll go anywhere and haul a bunch of crap or people or both. Now, after almost two decades of thinking it was too weird, I think the VehiCROSS is perfectly weird. And now I want one of these instead: a lifted, capable off-roader with genuine sports-car handling; unmistakable styling; rarity in spades. And it’s nearby. I want this car — badly enough that I’m calculating loan payments. Goddammit. — Nick Caruso, Associate Editor

Mileage: 123,000
Original MSRP: $30,350

1993 Nissan Skyline GTS-T Type M

Thanks to an upcoming story that’s in the works, I’ve got JDM fever. More specifically, non-GT-R Skylines are looking tempting — they can be had in good, original shape around the $10,000 mark. While some might lament not buying the full-spec Godzilla, the more basic Skylines are still great machines. This GTS-T has a 212-horsepower turbocharged inline six sending all power to the rear wheels via a manual transmission. It’s like a Japanese 3-Series. That combined with the rush of having something never meant to be sold in the US makes it all the more alluring, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with that basic, ’90s plastic interior, complete with patterned cloth seats. — Andrew Connor, Associate Staff Writer

Mileage: 103,000
Original MSRP: ~$31,000+

1991 Suzuki Cappuccino

No, it’s not a Miata, it’s a damned Suzuki Cappuccino. Yes, Cappuccino, but not the foamy milk and two-shots-of-espresso European drink. This one is a Japanese Kei car that weighs a mere 1,600 pounds and comes equipped with 657cc turbocharged inline-three-cylinder that makes about 63 horsepower. Its 50/50 weight distribution makes for a fun little JDM package. Although this example could do without a few of its modifications — e.g. the wing, weird bubble shifter, GT3-inspired “Cappuccino” decal and obnoxious boost gauge — I think it’s really quite awesome and unique. Please, leave your Starbucks jokes at the door. — Hunter Kelley, Design & Photography Apprentice

Mileage: 14,065
Original MSRP: ~$18,500
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