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Car Corner
Toys for $25,000 - $32,000

August 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

The last two months I have been dreaming of what car I could get, new or used, if my ex-wife would sell our house, and I could have my $35K equity. "Used" for last month meant... with a little of the factory warrantee still on the car.

This month I am going to look at toys. Cars that make little sense. Cars that may or may not make for good daily transportation. After all, my Mini Cooper is paid off, so I could just have another car for fun. All the cars listed below COULD be daily drivers, but that does not necessarily mean they SHOULD be daily drivers. Maintenance aside, some cars just are not comfortable or practical to drive every day. Even if money was no object... a Lamborghini or a Veyron just does not make sense to drive everyday. Some cars below are a little like that. For some it is the cost of ownership (maintenance and repairs) that would keep them in the garage a few days a week. Others, just might loose too much value if too many miles are put on them. And some might just not be comfortable in a daily grind.

Regardless... these are "modern" cars I think of when I think of having a toy to drive on the side... and in the price range of this series of articles, $25,000 - $32,000.

Porsche Boxster/Cayman

Having bought my wife a 911 (1999 Cabriolet) I can tell you that these cars require a little more regular maintenance that the average Toyota. We spent just over $1000 per year on maintenance and repairs over the course of 5 years (about $6,000 total). Because of this I could never consider a Porsche as my only car. I would have to have something else to get to work in a pinch. Granted, I still think a Porsche can be a good daily driver, it's just that I think the reality is that if you put that much usage on the car its maintenance costs will go up even more.

All that being said... if I had a backup car (my Mini Cooper S, for the purposes of this article) I would have no trouble getting a Porsche and using it more often than the backup car. I only searched for Cayman and Boxsters from 2005 - 2012. I really liked how they started looking in 2005.

Example: 2008 Porsche Cayman, 39,500 mi., $29,500

I found 3 Caymans with under 40K miles in my search. I liked this one the best. It is dark blue, instead of the usual black or silver (or even red). I would have no trouble trying to drive this car 3-4 times a week to work. At least until I find out how expensive maintenance really is.

Example: 2006 Porsche Boxster, 38,219 mi., $26,450

I don't know for sure about black on black for a convertible in Texas, but this car caught my eye. The price seemed very reasonable and leaves a lot left over in my budget to handle a couple of years worth of maintenance... and then some (I would hope). Again, I could see driving this car almost daily, especially in the very early spring and late fall here in Texas... when it is perfect convertible weather.

Porsche 911

If you have around $30K to spend (plus or minus a couple of grand), there are plenty of nice 911s out there. As stated above, I previously I bought my ex-wife a 1999 Porsche 911 Cabriolet (which we eventually sold after 5 years). That was a 996 (1999-2004) model. So I really hoped to find a 997 (2005-2012) for this article. Alas, I only saw two on AutoTrader and they did not impress me. So... here were are with a 996 to care the 911 flag.

Example: 2000 Porsche 911, 37,200 mi., $25,900

This car was listed as including the full leather interior. My ex-wife's car was a partial leather interior (mainly the seating, wheel and shifter). As I understand it... the full leather interior means that any part of the interior that touches your body is supposed to be leather. I need that.

Example: 2000 Porsche 911, 44,500 mi., $31,000

I wanted to find a 911 with a whale tail... or at least the equivalent to that for the water cooled era. I know they offered an aero kit, so here it is. Unfortunately... I do not know if I really like this rear spoiler. It seems a bit ostentatious to me. But I put it here to show I would be a bit picky if I were in the market for a 911 in this price range.

Corvette

When I think of a car to be used as a toy... I always think about the Corvette. I put no year restriction for this car in AutoTrader. But I did put a mileage limit of 75K. There were a lot of C5 (1997-2004) and C6 (2005-2009) Vettes that came back. But these cars seem almost pedestrian. I know... a Corvette that seems pedestrian. Well, next to 50 other Corvettes, yes. However, two Corvettes did stick out.

Example: 1996 Corvette Grand Sport, 24,580 mi., $28,500

This is the last year for the C4 Corvette (1984-1996) and this was the car that gave that generation a huge send off. The Grand Sport will most likely be a collectible car someday. And although I do not look at cars as investments (not yet anyway), I do like the idea of a car that holds its value (and possibly goes up some) in case you have to sell a toy due to other priorities in life. Now, this car could be a problem. It is modified. It has a supercharger and some other work. It seems to be items that are bolt-on, so it should be able to be returned to stock. However, it could be a question on value... and dependability. I would want to be sure that the work was done properly, and it can be return to stock easily. Otherwise... why not have an extra 100-150 hp on tap.

Example: 1990 Corvette ZR1, 4,360 mi., $28,999

The ZR-1 was a special Corvette. It has a Lotus developed 4 cam engine in it. It was super expensive when new... almost twice the price of a standard Corvette. Here is one with very low mileage. So this car may not be suitable for daily driving. Although I do not buy cars as investments... this car clearly could be. Putting a lot of miles on it would impact its value. But then again... it could be fun driving this American Super Car on a regular basis.

Example: 2008 Corvette Coupe, 60,874 mi., $27,999

So, I did find one C5 Corvette that didn't seem pedestrian. This two-tone car looks really nice. So I included it here to show what I would consider for a true daily driving Corvette. If I really wanted a C6 Corvette (and some day I may really do that) I would look for the full leather interior... including the leather dash. It adds a necessary touch of class to most Corvettes seem to be missing.

BMW M3

When I think of toys in the BMW line up, I think M3. I know, it is almost cliché. But it is for a reason. These actually are great driver's cars. I have a very strong affection for the E46 M3 (2001-2006). This series came with the 333 hp inline 6 engine. This engine is what BMW was most famous for... great, silky smooth inline 6 engines. The "automated manuals" of the day (read: SMG) were not the best. I would stick with a true manual transmission in these cars.

I did try to see if I could find an E90 M3s (2007-2013), but those are still too expensive in the used marketplace. Here is what I found:

Examples: 2001 BMW M3 Convertible, 41,758 mi., $20,950

I know... this car is way below my $25K lower limit. Good, in case this car requires any pricey maintenance. I did see a couple of E46 M3s for over $25K, but none of them looked as nice as this one... coupe or convertible. So I will stick with this excellent example with pretty low mileage. In fact, on the day I did this search it was the lowest mileage car I found... and every picture looked great. I really want this car.

Mercedes-Benz AMG

When I think about Mercedes I think about AMG. When I think about a car as a toy, a car to drive less often than every day... I think of AMG. So I decided to look and see what AMG models fit in the price range of this article. Keep in mind, repair and maintenance on an AMG car will be more expensive than a regular Mercedes. You may need a certified AMG mechanic to do some things. That means taking the car to a dealer, and that gets expensive. And by expensive... I mean more expensive than the already pricey maintenance on a regular Mercedes. So... if I were really looking to get an older AMG... I would get an extended warrantee. These are the only cars I would say that about outright. I would just die if an E55 AMG was going to cost 5 figures to fix. And I could see that happening.

As for selection... I found quite a few AMG models, but all older models (extended warrantee... remember). You're not going to find any "63" AMGs in this price range. I did also take a look a two non-AMG models, the SLK & the SL. Both retractable hard top cars. I like them, and they should be fun even with less power than their AMG siblings.

Example: 2003 Mercedes CL55 AMG, 58,000 mi., $22,900

The CL is the coupe version of the S Series, so this is the big coupe from Mercedes. Yea, this was below budget, but when we factor in an extended warrantee I think this would make a great, fast, luxury cruiser.

Example: 2005 Mercedes SL55 AMG, 76,960 mi., $28,999

I really loved the styling change that made for the big SL in 2003. Getting an AMG version of that car is amazing. This car probably sold new for over $100K. Of course, we get an extended warrantee with a car like this. One of the reason for the low price is the cost of maintenance.

Example: 2006 Mercedes CLK55 AMG, 63,162 mi., $25,999

The CLK is basically a coupe version of the E Class sedan of these years (before they came out with an E Class Coupe.). I really would like to see the size of the back seat in this car. It could easily be the perfect convertible if the back seat is large enough to carry adults... at least for short trips.

Example: 2006 Mercedes CLS55 AMG, 55,688 mi., $31,700

The CLS is essentially an E Class sedan with the four door coupe bodywork. Arguably this is a segment that Mercedes created with this car. Here is a performance version of that. I am not thrilled with this color, but if I were in the market I could hold out for a black one.

Example: 2006 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, 45,385 mi., $29,998

So the CLS is basically an E-Series with swoopy bodywork, so here is an E-Class in AMG trim... in black! Less miles and less money that the CLS above. Seems about right actually.

Example: 2006 Mercedes SLK55 AMG, 59,727 mi., $27,991

The Mercedes SLK was considered the start of the retractable hard tops. People quickly forget the 1957 Ford Starliner had a retractable hard top... and I believe the Mitsubishi GT3000 had it as a $20K option. Let's just say the SLK made the retractable hard top viable, and kicked it off as a reasonably priced option on a lot of cars. I really liked the redesign of the SLK in 05... and I liked it even more in 2011. This car does a great job of showing how much Mercedes changes its cars so that a new generation makes the previous generation look old.

Example: 2008 Mercedes SLK350, 31,515 mi., $27,450

I would love to get a 2011 SLK on this list, but those are still too expensive. I still like these cars... and even without the AMG engine, this car should do 0-60 in the mid 5 second range. Plenty quick enough to get in trouble.

Example: 2005 Mercedes-Benz SL500, 29,453 mi., $27,995

Here is our other non-AMG listing. This was the lowest mileage 2003+ SL500 I found. And it sure looks good enough to me. Keep in mind... this car would have sticker new for over $90K. Now it is less than 1/3 that price. So repairs and maintenance is for a $90K car, so get that extended warrantee. Otherwise I love this car as a weekend cruiser.

Acura NSX

Example: 1993 Acura NSX, 45,816 mi., $31,995

The Acura NSX actually might have a shot at being a daily driver. After all, it is a Honda underneath. But in reality, this car will probably get tiring to drive after a few weeks. I don't know enough about them to know if their maintenance costs are more than other cars it would compete with, but I would still drive this car sparingly... though regularly (like twice a week or so).

Mustang Cobra/Bullit/Shelby/Boss

The special edition Mustangs can make for some nice cars. Looking for a low mileage example to use as a toy would be great.

Example: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 19,133 mi., $32,999

OK, I cheated on this one. But I really wanted to put a Boss 302 Mustang on this list. So what if this car is $999 over budget. It's worth it... isn't it? By the time my wife actually sells the house the price of used Boss 302 Mustang's will be right in line with my budget. A friend of my son let me driving his 2013 Boos 302 and I loved it. Though a bit loud for daily driving. This car would wear on me if I did not have a backup car to drive. Otherwise... it is the perfect Mustang.

Example: 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra, 9030 mi., $29,900

The Cobra edition Mustangs from 1999-2004 came with an IRS (Independent Rear Suspension). Something that has been missing from all Mustangs from 2005-2014. (Rumor has it the 2015 Mustang will finally get an IRS). For 2003 & 2004 the Cobra edition included a supercharged version of the DOHC engine that produced 390 hp. Plenty fast enough. Here is a super low mileage one that fits right in with our budget, and could make for a nice collectible some day.

Miscellaneous

I wanted to include a few other cars, but ones I would look for less than the ones above. Here are some last minute stragglers:

Example: 2005 Cadillac CTS V, 922 mi., $30,916

I love the CTS, especially the V Series. I would prefer a 2008+ model. But this car intrigue me because it had less than 1000 miles. That might be enough to get me into this 400 horsepower, Corvette powered machine. And these engine can be tweaked very easily if 400 HP is not enough.

Example: 2007 Audi RS 4 Sedan, 67,750 mi., $31,995

The RS version of the A4 means a twin turbo V-8 that makes 420 horsepower (I think). I have to assume that with twin turbos this car too could be tweaked easily. A re-flash of the computer for a little more boost... and 450-500 HP should be easy.

Example: 2002 Ford Thunderbird, 6,495 mi., $26,995

I love this car... in this color... and it must have the two tone teal/black interior (which this car does). I have a friend that has one just like this, but with about 3 times more miles. I will get one of these someday, not for performance (obviously) but for a cruiser to enjoy on nice, sunny days.

Example: 2008 Volkswagen R32, 38,547 mi., $23,880

I know... under budget. There are not a lot of these around. And I wanted to display one in this signature blue. For me the R32 has to be this color. I like them, and I would consider one.

Conclusion

Well, that's it for our three month excursion into cars in the $25-32K price range. I really wish my ex-wife would sell the house now, rather than put us through 3 more years of being poor... just to have to sell it when I get to stop paying child support. But she is never going to understand until it is too late.

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