10 Awesome Used Cars with 300+ HP You Can Get Under $10,000

Awesome yet cheap used cars available for under $10,000 11 photos
Photo: GM/Porsche/autoevolution
2008 BMW 650i Coupe2008 Dodge Charger R/T2007 Cadillac Escalade2003 Mercedes SL 5002005 Porsche Cayenne2011 BMW X5 xDrive50i2011 Chevrolet Camaro LS2006 Ford Mustang GT2008 Mercedes S 5502010 Jaguar XF Supercharged
You know, just because you’re only interested in spending $10,000 on your next car, doesn’t mean that you want to buy just any old budget-friendly compact or station wagon. If performance is of importance, why not look at cars that have been severely impacted by depreciation? It’s a good idea on several levels.
First, you get a lot of value for money. We’re talking cars that used to mostly cost upwards of $40,000 (some a lot more). Second, depreciation has already done most of its damage, so resale value should be solid when you’re finally ready to move on from whatever it is that you bought.

Sure, maintenance can be a concern, but in reality, things are never as bad as some people make them out to be. True automotive horror stories don't happen that often.

All that being said, we’re here with a set budget of $10,000 and focus on a very specific performance-related criteria – the car we’re looking for needs to produce upwards of 300 horsepower. If it’s got “just” 300 hp, that’s alright too, but the goal is to find as much performance as possible within that budget.

On top of that, the car we’re looking for needs to be generally interesting. Either because it’s fun to drive, or because it’s supremely comfortable and tech-savvy (by mid-to-late 2000s standards).

I know there are plenty of articles online about cheap cars with a certain amount of horsepower to fit certain budgets, but they generally tend to be very repetitive and generic. There are two or three models on this list that you might also find on most other people’s lists, but I did try to be a tad more original in my approach.

Method to the madness

The first thing I did was eliminate maintenance as a factor. This is not a Buyer’s Guide, so to speak, but rather an informative best-case scenario regarding exciting or interesting vehicles one would be able to purchase for $10,000.

As for sources, I’ve double checked all prices via, as well as Edmunds and CarGurus. This is to say that none of these vehicles should cost you a penny over $10,000.

I was also going to rank them from least to most interesting, but seeing as how they’re all great at what they do, let’s just lay them out in no particular order...starting with no. 10! Just kidding. Starting with the third-generation Cadillac Escalade. Oh yeah.

2007 Cadillac Escalade

2007 Cadillac Escalade
Photo: Cadillac
That’s right, $10,000 can land you a very decent third-gen Escalade, as long as you don’t go for any of the later model years – so a 2007 variant should do just fine.

These were built on GM’s new GMT900 platform, which was also used on the Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, Sierra and Avalanche. The first Caddy SUVs went into production at the carmaker’s Arlington plant at the beginning of 2006, with prices starting from just under $60,000.

Powering those early Escalades is a 6.2-liter Vortec V8 unit, good for 403 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque, working alongside a six-speed 6L80 automatic transmission. This mountain of a utility vehicle, despite its weight, can accelerate to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds, which is pretty darn impressive.

Yes, you can easily get the equivalent Tahoe too, plus a few other of the Caddy’s sister models for under $10,000, but the Escalade is arguably the most desirable of the lot - it was true for when it was new, so why should it be any different now?

As far as this list is concerned, the third-gen Escalade is the only full-size SUV present, and odds are, it’s all the SUV you’ll ever need on a tight budget.

2006 Ford Mustang GT

2006 Ford Mustang GT
Photo: Ford
Thankfully, there are Mustangs you can buy for less than 10 grand that aren’t the fourth generation SN95 model, which pretty much everyone dislikes.

On average, you’ll most likely end up with a 2006MY S197 Mustang GT. It’s the type of car a muscle car aficionado wouldn’t even get out of bed for, but most other people would likely appreciate. It looks like a Mustang, it drives like a Mustang, and it performs somewhat convincingly as a pony car.

Powering the GT-spec S197 is a naturally aspirated 4.6-liter V8, good for exactly 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Some say it can accelerate to 60 mph in under 5 seconds, to which I say bull$#!t. You might get there in a little over 5 seconds on a good day (maybe 5.4 seconds most of the time), although, overall, you should be reasonably satisfied with the performance.

It’s also worth noting that the GT came with an upgraded suspension, compared to the entry-level V6 variant. It also had larger brakes, a stainless steel dual exhaust system, grille-mounted fog lights as standard, plus available 18-inch wheels.

It just dawned on me that an early S197 Mustang GT could also serve you well as a project car. You get it for less than $10,000, and in time, proceed to give it more power, install a more aggressive body kit, and so on.

2008 Dodge Charger R/T

2008 Dodge Charger R/T
Photo: Stellantis
For its sixth generation, the Charger morphed into a muscle sedan and hasn’t looked back since. And why should it? Sales have been off the chain ever since it went into production back in 2005.

The one you’ll want for your 10k is the performance-oriented R/T model, which built on the SXT trim by adding a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, an upgraded audio system, larger wheels, dual-zone climate control, plus a bunch of other useful amenities.

It’s not quite as exciting as the SRT-8, but then again, it more than gets the job done for what you’d be spending for it. That 5.7L HEMI is good for 340 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque and should get you from a standstill to 60 mph in around 5.5 seconds, maybe a little quicker. It’s definitely not a slow car.

I did consider the Chrysler 300C for this list, because it too fits the budget, but the Charger is just a little more exciting from a driver’s perspective. Besides, those early 300Cs are dirt cheap. You don’t even need 10 grand to land a decent one.

Anyway, in case you’re thinking why the Charger and not a Challenger, well, that’s because you’re unlikely to find the latter at this price point – at least not in anything resembling good condition.

2011 Chevrolet Camaro LS

2011 Chevrolet Camaro LS
Photo: Chevrolet
It’s funny how badly the fifth-generation Camaro got hit by depreciation. To think that you can buy a 2011 model in LS trim for just under $10,000 is staggering, especially when there’s no way you could get an equivalent Mustang at that same price.

Production on the fifth-gen Camaro commenced in 2009, with GM making five different trim levels available for a single body style, initially. Both the LS and LT specs came with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, good for 312 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the SS got the 6.2-liter LS3 V8 with over 400 horsepower at its disposal.

Unfortunately, the latter is a little bit outside our budget as far as this list is concerned, but that’s alright, because there’s nothing wrong with an LS model, for example.

The spec I’ve come across the most while researching this story is the 2LS, and you can get a decent 2011 model year car for 10 grand, which is pretty good value for money, I reckon. One downside worth mentioning is that performance wasn’t exactly stellar for these power units. In other words, a 300 hp S197 Mustang will generally outrun a 312 hp Camaro LS, and do so convincingly.

2011 BMW X5 xDrive50i

2011 BMW X5 xDrive50i
Photo: BMW
Outside of the X5 M, people don’t usually think “excitement” when recalling the second-generation BMW X5. However, they’d be wrong, because with the right specification, the E70 X5 can make for a tremendous SUV, despite its age.

Here’s what I suggest you do with your $10,000 if you’re a BMW SUV fan – go for a 2011 X5 in xDrive50i specification. You get a great engine for not a lot of money, namely a twin turbocharged V8 unit good for 402 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. In a straight line, you’ll be hitting 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which is properly quick for a vehicle this size, even by 2023 standards.

Now, the E70 X5 may not be the most prestigious SUV featured in this article, but it’s certainly the fastest and if that’s what you care about most, don’t even bother looking elsewhere, because it’s difficult to top 400+ hp for the price of a new Rolex.

You can’t hit such highs with an Audi Q7 4.2 TFSI quattro, and you certainly can’t with a Mercedes ML 350 (forget about a GLE for 10k) or a Porsche Cayenne, although the latter is also on this list (for different reasons).

2008 Mercedes S 550

2008 Mercedes S 550
Photo: Mercedes
The W221 Mercedes-Benz S-Class was unveiled back in 2005 in Frankfurt and the entire luxury sedan segment froze with fear as the Merc flagship towered over both the E65 BMW 7 Series and the D3 Audi A8 in terms of comfort, luxury and available on-board technology.

You can easily climb behind the wheel of a W221 today, and not have it feel as if you’re in some lanky old four-door luxobarge. You could get these puppies with infrared Night Vision Assist, pre-collision systems, the works.

If you want one for less than $10,000, you can have it, and it doesn’t have to be the “lowly” S350 either. Obviously, you can’t have an AMG-spec car, but you can get the very impressive S 550, which comes with a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine, good for 382 horsepower. In a straight line, this will get you to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, which is about as well as can be expected.

Now, I did say that the focus shouldn’t be on maintenance as far as this list is concerned, but it goes without saying that buying a 15-year-old luxury car comes with certain risks. The same goes for this next car, which some of you might not even appreciate.

2005 Porsche Cayenne S

2005 Porsche Cayenne
Photo: Porsche
The first-generation Porsche Cayenne should be celebrated, not dissed. It saved its parent company from a financial standpoint, and despite its dubious aesthetics, people still bought it in record numbers.

Speaking of aesthetics, I think the time to stop making fun of it was circa 2015. Yes, it looked a bit awkward pre-facelift, but it’s the type of thing that grows on you, in time. With the right spec, the right wheels and all that, a first-gen Cayenne can still be aggressive-looking and imposing, from all angles.

So then, can you get one for less than $10,000? Absolutely. We wouldn’t be talking about it if you couldn’t. The best part is, you can jump straight to a V8-powered model, specifically the Cayenne S, which is powered by a 4.8 liter naturally aspirated V8, good for 340 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

With the help of a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, you can rocket from zero to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, which isn’t as good as that BMW X5 xDrive50i we just talked about. It’s about the same as that Escalade, but we’re talking about two completely different SUVs here.

Still, some people will prefer the sheer size of the Caddy, while others will likely lean more towards the prestige and superior driving dynamics of the Porsche.

2008 BMW 650i Coupe

2008 BMW 650i Coupe
Photo: BMW
I’ll be honest, I think this car has tremendous potential and a great deal of class. And no, don’t even try to mention the E63’s appearance to me, because this is by no means an ugly car. It’s been 20 years since it made its first appearance publicly and most BMW fans still speak highly of it – and for good reason.

The E63 6er rode on a shortened version of the E60 5 Series’ chassis, sharing many features and characteristics with its four-door sibling. However, if you drove both back-to-back (as I once did), you could easily tell just how different they were. The E63 is a genuine grand tourer, and it feels planted and expensive at all times.

Unfortunately, you can forget about an M6 for $10,000, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to settle for a 630i Coupe, because the 650i Coupe (a near-flagship spec) should fit that budget perfectly, at least based on our findings.

Power comes from a 4.8-liter V8, good for 362 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque. This may not sound like a whole lot in a GT car that weighs around 3,500 lbs, but it will still get you to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds.

2010 Jaguar XF Supercharged

2010 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Photo: Jaguar
It almost feels like we’re cheating with this car, but we’re not. The Jaguar XF came out in 2007 and has only gone through one generational shift since.

It’s not been as successful as say, the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E-Class, nor has it been as reliable, but from a driving dynamics standpoint, I would personally put the first-gen XF above the E60 5 Series, and above any E-Class or Audi A6 from that era.

The chassis is wonderful, and the handling is perfect for a car this size. It measures 195.3 inches in length and 74 inches in width, but you never feel as though you’re in a beefy mid-sized sedan. Rather, the XF gives off serious sports sedan vibes

Now, grabbing one for $10,000 will be no problem whatsoever. You can even go for the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 variant, literally called the XF Supercharged. This bad boy puts down 464 horsepower and 424 lb-ft of torque, which on paper could get you to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

That’s right, a sub-5 second acceleration time in a premium mid-size executive sedan for $10,000. You can’t beat that. But then again, you must be sure about wanting this car to begin with, because they can be notoriously unreliable.

2003 Mercedes SL 500

2003 Mercedes SL 500
Photo: Mercedes
Few cars are as stylish as Mercedes’ SL-Class. This nameplate has a long history, and a lot of prestige, so owning one, regardless of age, should make you feel proud.

The fifth-gen cars, also known as the R230, are beautiful to look at, and packed full of impressive tech. You get a retractable hardtop, active body control, keyless go, plus loads more flagship-worthy amenities. This is the type of car you bought to challenge your neighbor’s Porsche 911. You had to have real money.

While you still need deep pockets to land a brand-new SL today, you can easily grab yourself a 2003MY roadster for less than $10,000. Your no.1 draft pick should definitely be the SL 500, mainly because you probably won’t find a suitable SL 550 for that money, nor will you find an SL 600 or a 55 AMG.

That’s alright though, because the SL 500 should prove sufficient thanks to its 5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8, good for 302 horsepower. It’s not a lot, but you’ll still hit 60 mph in less than 6 seconds (5.8s to be precise).

So, if you value style over performance, the SL 500 might be the “best” car here, although with those early models, the interior and some of the tech will definitely feel outdated, so make sure you’re ok with that before you reach into your pockets.
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About the author: Sergiu Tudose
Sergiu Tudose profile photo

Sergiu got to experience both American and European car "scenes" at an early age (his father drove a Ford Fiesta XR2 supermini in the 80s). After spending over 15 years at local and international auto publications, he's starting to appreciate comfort behind the wheel more than raw power and acceleration.
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