We'd call £35k a ruddy good budget if you're looking for a fun and sporty car to replace your daily vehicle – or even to sit alongside it for some weekend fun.
Yes, new sports cars can go for double and triple that. But when it comes to a solid used sports car, the sub-£35k bracket has plenty to offer when it comes to fun and exciting cars.
What makes the best sports cars?
Choosing the best sports car is not just about picking the fastest. Far from it. Sports cars need to be fun to drive, responsive and have agile handling, while even an inspiring cockpit, complete with and low driving position, are likely to rank highly. Oh, and they have to look the part, obviously.
When it comes to our list of top candidates, we've also considered usability and practicality, as well as running costs.
What to look for when buying a sports car
It’s the same as any car – the main things that affect the value of a used sports car are the mileage, the servicing history (‘full’ is good, ‘full main/franchise dealer service history is best), and condition. Plenty of the below cars conform to all of the above and more, so without further ado...
The top used sports cars under £35,000:
Sorry to be predictable, but this cute used Mazda two-seater is the world’s most popular sports car for a reason – it’s really, really good.
The MX-5 is nippy rather than superfast, and handles as well as almost anything on the road. That makes it great fun without posing a danger to yourself and other road users – or your driving license.
There are plenty of generations to choose from in your budget. It's always been a two-seater and has a smallish boot but it’s extremely reliable, easy to own and cheap to run.
Recent models can come with a folding metal hard-top but most feature a simple fabric convertible roof. Older models may come with a removable fibreglass hard top that’s handy for the coldest, wettest months.
It combines premium branding with a cool design. The interior is classy, even if the coupé’s back seats are awkward and cramped. The convertible doesn’t even have any rear seats.
The coupé does offer a usefully big boot area under the tailgate though. It’s fast, fun and lots of versions come with Quattro four-wheel drive for added grip.
For around £25k, you could even push for a 2018 car with fairly low mileage.
The purposeful-looking Toyota GT86 sports coupé is not as familiar on our roads as the MX-5 or TT.
Its almost identical sibling, the Subaru BRZ, is even rarer. Both are exciting old-school performance coupés with sharp handling.
Like the TT and MX-5 they’ve been around for a while, so used buyers can find well-priced examples of this used Toyota.
Learn more about buying a used car:
We have to push over the £30k mark to access this premium two-seat sports car from Jaguar. But that'll come as no surprise as it looks classy, is thrilling to drive, and has a range of powerful engines that sound fantastic.
The F-Type comes as a convertible or coupé, and neither has much luggage space – but that’s the last thing most owners are thinking about. What they really care about is its beautiful looks and cackling exhaust note.
The Boxster has been around long enough for early cars to become very affordable. It’s still an upmarket convertible, however, with a luxurious interior and an impressive badge.
The baby Porsche feels special to drive with strong performance and poised handling – and it’s famously good at retaining its value. And if you don't fancy your hair blowing everywhere, Porsche also makes a coupé version called the Cayman.
The chunky muscular body of the Nissan sports car betrays its classic fast car character.
Whether as a coupé or convertible, acceleration is sizzling, and the car drives like a serious sports machine.
It’s no longer made new, but older models have proved reliable and used prices can be very reasonable.
The smooth power of the six-cylinder engine under the Z4’s long bonnet makes it a great long-distance cruiser.
The traditionally-styled sports car is fast, especially in a straight line. It comes as a coupé or roadster and has been around long enough for older models to be sporty bargains.
Okay, we’ve taken a step outside the normal definition of a sports car here, but we just wanted to alert you to a whole world of used fast hatchbacks, which provide many of the same thrills as a traditional sports car for a surprisingly accessible price.
The sportiest Fiesta that Ford offers is a great example, and you can bag a fresh one for less than £20k.
It goes around corners superbly and has a gorgeously-willing highly tuned engine. The ST is cheap and easy to run, and when you need to calm down and do the shopping or school run, it's probably the most suitable on this list.