Let’s say you were one of the lucky dogs to get a $4,000 stock market windfall into a questionable car decision. Maybe you got in on the GameStop goofiness or bought Bitcoin at the right time. Of course, I am more than happy to offer insights. I’m even happier to spend a few minutes browsing used car ads in the name of work!
Let’s find some fun cars you could add to a modest collection (read: not have to commit to driving daily) that list for around $4,000.
Check out these three suggestions I’ve assembled from Facebook Marketplace in Southern California. It is possible (likely, even) that these specific listings might have sold by the time you read this, but hopefully, if that’s the case, these suggestions give you some inspiration on where to look in the future.
Open Your Bibles to the ‘Renesis’ Chapter
This one is near and dear to my heart: The much loved and hated rotary-powered Mazda RX-8. They belch flames with the right exhaust setup, rev to the moon, and were widely regarded by journos as being one of the best-handling cars of all time when they hit the North American market. But they’ve got their issues, too. While I find RX-8 problems are largely due to clueless ownership, it can still be a tad scary to put one’s faith in keeping a rotary-powered car running reliably. People who own them and love them really love them, though.
This example I’ve shared looks pretty reasonable. Some highlights: its got the cloth seat interior, and is sans sunroof, so it’s lighter and more tall-guy friendly. The body looks to be in good shape, and it looks overall pretty clean. It’s also a manual; nothing’s worse than clicking the link to really any car listed as manual, and it ends up being an auto, or even worse, early-00s tiptronic-like. This might be a fun car to lightly tinker with and have fun behind the wheel of, but I’d slowly set aside some scratch in an engine rebuild fund to be safe.
Though, I’d watch out for the seller, as the usage of two periods in between sentences is troubling. Plus, they’re all the way out in Wildomar, which is a heck of a haul due to this stretch of the 15 being one of the worst freeways in all of SoCal. Also, it is higher mileage. The jury is forever out on when exactly Renesis rotary engines need to be rebuilt, but there’s a chance this one’s iron bees nest is a bit cashed.
Though the nice thing about a quick $4,000, is it’s not money you’ve sweated a ton of elbow grease earning, so maybe it’s worth the risk. Plus, if it’s still available, and been that way for a few weeks, there’s gotta be some room for negotiation.
The ‘Period Piece’
Feast your eyes on this bad boy. A CRX that’s in need of some love, and holy heck that body kit! Wings West circa 2001 called, they’d like to get some promo shots for their physical, mailed catalog! But man, I’m not gonna lie, the body kit kinda rules, and would certainly earn some individuality points in this cursed year of 2021. Some benefits: the CRX is widely considered one of the most fun FWD cars of all time, and its already got a reasonable swap, a variant of the common Honda D16. This makes more power than the original lump, around 125 horses, and has a nice 7,200 RPM redline.
This lil’ fella needs some work, though. A new fuel pump, probably a general service, maybe some suspension components, a new tire, a good detailing, etc. The good thing is I bet you could negotiate the price down a lot. Then, sell the Hondata ECU; just stick with a cheap OEM unit if you’re able to. Or, pull the D16 out, and since you’ve got a lot of scratch left, swap in a more powerful engine. B20B, B18A1, etc. A K-swap would be enticing, but I’m more a fan of keeping things inexpensive and easy; 160ish horsepower in a CRX is a beautiful thing.
A German Turbo Hatch
I don’t care what anyone says, I love the Mk5/A5-generation Volkswagen. My mother actually bought one new in 2006, and while it had some issues, it was a very fun, torquey car. It was the first time VW put independent rear suspension in a GTI, introduced the optional DSG automatic dual-clutch transmission, and dropped the torquey 2.0-liter FSI under the hood. This engine gets a lot of hate, but from my research, as long as you do the scheduled service intervals, keep an eye on carbon buildup due to its direct injection, and do some mild things to improve reliability, they’re fine.
This one has had a lot done to it, too! New seals, new axles, new front tires, recent scheduled maintenance (well, I assume it is; the high-pressure fuel pump) -it looks good! It’s also a manual, so it’ll be cheaper to replace the clutch, than two inside a DSG ‘box. However, all of this works points to one obvious thing: it’s been beat on. I’d do what I can to negotiate the price down, and it looks like they’re open to this. Also, I would definitely have it compression-tested in addition to checking for any leaks, and other general goings-over.
Also, their choice to paint the grille badge that dumb red color is a little worrying. Still, if it’s indeed in good shape, I’d call this a deal. They’re known to reliably accumulate a ton of miles if taken care of, and they’re a quintessential mid-to-late-00s hot hatch. Even Clarkson loves them.
Looking for suggestions about what to buy? Whether you joined in all the Reddit stock market hilarity a few months back or not, email me!