Cars, along with real estate, are the premier status symbols. Roll up in a flashy ride and everyone will take a second look and have a second thought concerning your financial worth. Indirectly, these assumptions of riches change how people value you. However, this is not the place for advanced analysis of societal perceptions of material wealth that coincide personal perceptions. Turn to Psychology Today for that.
If you want to portray yourself as well off, but do not have the sufficient bank roll, these cars will give you the appearance of affluence at a discount rate well under $20,000. All that you want is the illusion, the façade of having it all, when you know that it is all a dream. The closest things to making that dream a reality are these vehicles. Though they are not the latest and greatest of their kind, everyone will think that you can comfortably pick up the tab.
15. 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Coupe <$10,000
2003 signaled a return to classic styling for the Mustang. In the ‘90s, they were a Mustang in name and grill icon only. This Mustang is the real deal not only in looks, but the power plant under the hood throws down a hefty amount of force. With the same 4.6L DOHC V-8 used in the SVT Cobra model (minus the supercharger), the Mach 1 produces 305 horsepower and sprints from 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds lending even more credibility to this brand’s resurgence.
From a body standpoint, the Mustang has a snarl to it that only was improved upon in later editions. For what it’s worth in terms of muscle car appeal, the 2003 Mustang exceeds that in its value to your imaginary worth. If you don’t have the disposable income for a Shelby, the ’03 Mustang will suffice as a worthy addition to your stable.
14. 1996 BMW Z3 Roadster <$10,000
Suave and debonair are two of the classier adjectives that come to mind when thinking about the Z3. This is due, in part, to its introduction to the world via Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in 1996’s GoldenEye. While you will not have a license to kill, the Z3 Roadster gives off the impression that you can handle yourself. The Z3 will, in turn, give you all that you can handle with a 2.8 liter, inline 6 motor, which became available with the 1996 model.
This roadster looks like the prototypical sports car, but since it was discontinued in 2002, there have been great advancements not only in aerodynamics, but engineering and technology. These deficiencies do not take away from the status boost the Z3 has attached to it. In fact, by choosing the Z3, it shows off your shrewd, frugal side as well as your stylish sensibility.
13. 2000 Chevrolet Corvette <$13,000
To find a turn of the century model year Corvette, you will be required to make due with a mileage heavy vehicle in order to get a cheap deal. However, considering that the C5 came with a 5.7L V8 engine that cranked out 345 horsepower, you should understand that this car was not built to sit idle. It was built to drive.
The Corvette name alone may add a few hundred dollars to the sales price. But isn’t that a small price to pay for the prestige of America’s iconic muscle car? 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds should be the numbers you care about when buying a used, 2000 Corvette.
12. 2012 Ford Escape <$14,000
Frugal and fuel efficient go hand in hand when choosing the Escape. If you want people to think that you have money to burn, but not at the sake of incinerating massive amounts of fossil fuels in the process, The Escape’s four cylinder, Ecoboost engine is the ticket. Plus, since undergoing a makeover for the 2013 model year, the Escape of years prior is a very affordable option for a used SUV. Think of all the green you will save for going green.
11. 2007 Infiniti G35 <$14,000
A rarity thanks to being a one-off production in 2007, the G35 was made with style in mind. At the time it was new, the G35 was not a big seller, contributing to its short production life span. However, Infiniti’s reputation for making great cars form an aesthetic standpoint makes the G35 an attractive addition to your collection.
10. 2005 Lexus IS300 <$15,000
The 2005 version of the IS300 can be had for under $15,000, but you will receive a much more dependable used car than most on the secondhand market. Safety is one of Lexus’s top priorities. The IS300 is equipped with airbags all around the interior and has superior stopping power thanks to an anti-lock braking system. Take heart in the fact that you are the owner of a luxurious ride with premier performance and safety for an affordable price.
9. 2003 Nissan Murano <$6,000
Among Nissan’s crop of crossovers, the Murano is the sophisticated, stylish model. This large SUV offers up a V6 engine, a more than adequate power plant to fuel this behemoth. Not only is the Murano a streamlined sport utility, it is also one of the safest on the road; a five star rated vehicle in crash tests and four stars in rollover testing. The Murano is a safe, durable, high class ride.
8. 2005 Cadillac CTS-V <$12,000
Cadillac is characterized as the classiest American auto brand going, and rightfully so when you take a look at the CTS-V. This sedan is the modern version of Cadillac’s sophisticated vision of days gone by. The 2005 model is sleek, the picture of elegance. Suffice it to say, you will have no problem pulling off the impression of affluence.
Make no mistake about it, the CTS-V is not your grandmother’s Caddie designed solely for trips to the grocery store. It has the power to more than complement its good looks. The CTS-V will show that you appreciate the finer things in life, but will not sacrifice performance in the exchange.
7. 2003 Nissan 350z <$12,000
A two-seat sports car, the 350z is the poor man’s high performance vehicle. No longer in production, model years between 2002 and 2009 can be hand for well under $20,000. However, if you can find a convertible with low mileage, you have hit the jackpot. As a bonus, everyone will think that you have come into a sizable chunk of change as well.
6. 2010 Kia Soul <$10,000
Don’t let it’s rudimentary, boxed-out style fool you. The Soul is more than an urbanite’s compact dream. This four-door crossover seats five, but also can achieve substantial cargo space when the seats are folded down. However, the real value is in the Soul’s entertainment system. A six-speaker sound system pumps out your tunes via a USB iPod connection while you cruise the streets in style.
5. 2012 Ford Fiesta <$10,000
The 2012 Fiesta marked a revitalizing movement in the compact’s history. Now, the Fiesta is a fully equipped, smaller model that drives bigger than its size would suggest. A fuel conscious 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine is a great selling point, but so are the tech feature Ford added to the Fiesta. Ford’s Sync voice activation system takes hands-free technology to another level. Be the master of all your connected devices behind the wheel of the very affordable Fiesta.
4. 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer <$10,000
The Lancer takes its design cues from the race track, but it is not an imitation brand race car. The Lancer, particularly the 2009 model, sports a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. If you want to show off your sports car driving aspirations, you need a manual transmission for the appropriate driving experience. Take the Lancer through its paces like you are running Le Mans at a fraction of the cost.
3. 2009 Ford Focus <$10,000
Similar to the Fiesta, the Focus has moved on from compact, fuel conscious status to a mighty, smaller sport model. The sensibility towards fuel economy remains, but it’s no longer just a fun, daily driver. 2009 began the revolution for the Focus brand. Since then, the Focus has established itself as a zippy, economical vehicle which can now be had on the used car market south of $10,000.
2. 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan <$15,000
A turbocharged 2-liter engine makes the Tiguan one of the most powerful crossovers on the market. The German SUV was made to cater to the American consumer’s need for a tough, strong sport utility with all the amenities of a luxury vehicle. Leather seats, complete with lumbar support, will make your ride that much more enjoyable. As close to a sporty luxury vehicle that an SUV can get, the Tiguan is an affordable buy.
1. 2012 Mazda CX-7 <$20,000
The CX-7 met its end in 2012 thanks to its poor gas mileage numbers. However, its performance quality can hardly be argued with. A turbocharged engine with a six-speed, automatic transmission, the CX-7 is no slouch for such a large crossover model. You will not quite get the performance out of the CX-7 as you would a Miata, but it is still a decent driver and a vehicle that will definitely make you feel like a million bucks.