The 14 Most Reliable Sports Cars That Won't Break The Bank

Blue Subaru BRZ on the road

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Buying a sports car is the dream for many enthusiasts, but few can ever justify spending the cash to actually get one. It's not just the initial outlay: maintaining any kind of performance vehicle requires a bigger budget than a standard passenger car, and then there are insurance and fuel costs to think about. The last thing any new sports car owner wants is for their pride and joy to unexpectedly break down, as the resulting bills could be the final straw for more budget-conscious drivers.

Thankfully, there are plenty of sports cars on the market that are both relatively affordable to buy, and reliable enough that owners shouldn't have to worry too much about unexpected repairs. Japanese sports cars have traditionally enjoyed a reputation as some of the most reliable models on the market, but there's something out there to suit all tastes, from American icons to German track day toys.

It's worth noting that, although these cars will be generally reliable, each individual example will have its own history (and service record, or lack of) which will affect its reliability down the line. It's always important to carefully check a car's maintenance record before buying it, as even the most reliable models will develop problems under a reckless or careless owner. That being said, these 14 sports cars are among the safest bets on the market for long-term reliability.

Toyota 86

Toyota 86 on display at a dealership

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One half of the Toyobaru twins, the Toyota 86 entered its second generation for the 2022 model year. The new model packs a more powerful 2.4L engine than its predecessor and boasts one of the most engaging chassis in the business. It's also one of the few small sports cars still offered with a manual transmission option at no extra cost. Especially with a car like the 86, rowing through the gears and pushing for the redline is half the fun, so it's good to see that Toyota hasn't taken away its stick shift option even if manuals only account for around 4% of the overall U.S. market.

The first-generation 86 felt best to drive when its engine was being pushed to its limits, but when we drove the 2022 car, we found the new 2.4L made all the difference. It felt more eager even at lower revs, and although its 228 horsepower output still doesn't sound like much, it's plenty given that the car weighs less than 2,900 lbs. Toyota has a long-held reputation as making some of the most reliable cars on the market, and recent data affirms that sentiment, with Consumer Reports ranking the brand number one for overall reliability in 2022. Toyota has also confirmed that, if an 86 is under warranty, coverage won't be affected if the car is used at an autocross event or track day.

Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang by the Mexican coast

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It's hard to think of a car that's had as much of an impact on American auto manufacturing as the Ford Mustang. Originally unveiled in 1965, every generation of the Mustang has won over enthusiasts and gained itself a strong fanbase (perhaps with the exception of the Mustang II). Now in its sixth generation, the current Mustang launched in 2015 and quickly established itself as a well-rounded sports car, with the 5.0L V8 GT trim standing out as a highlight. With well over 400 horsepower on tap and a transmission that encourages rough treatment, the Mustang is very much a sports car for the driver that likes to put their foot down.

The reliability of the Mustang varies slightly depending on the model year, but J.D. Power suggests that 2020 is a particularly strong year, giving the car a Reliability score of 88/100 based on its data from thousands of owners. Cars from the 2016 model year are also ranked highly, with a score of 80/100. If anything does go wrong with a Mustang, it's also one of the most hassle-free cars to fix, as its long-standing status as one of America's best-selling sports cars means that parts are both affordable and easy to source.

Nissan 350Z

Nissan 350Z with British plates

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The Nissan 350Z was designed to reboot the Japanese manufacturer's Z line of sports cars, as the high price and increasing complexity of the previous-generation 300ZX had led to a sales slump that saw it axed without an immediate successor. The 350Z, in comparison, brought the Z line back to its roots. It featured top-notch handling, attractive styling, and a tried-and-tested 3.5L V6 engine that was also used in everything from the Altima to Infiniti's QX60 SUV (via Low Offset). With 287 horsepower on tap, the 350Z offered nearly as much power as the Porsche 911 of the era, but at less than half the cost (via Car and Driver).

Nissan sold over 165,000 examples of the 350Z in the U.S. between 2002 and 2009, and it's this popularity that's helped keep prices down on the used markets. Older examples can now be picked up for a fraction of their original retail cost, and on well-serviced models, reliability won't be an issue. Reports say the engine is good for more than 300,000 miles providing oil changes have been carried out regularly, although it's best to avoid modified or obviously track-run examples, even if their maintenance is up to scratch in other regards.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata on a mountain road in winter

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Anyone who wants a cheap, reliable car that's also great fun to drive will find it hard to go wrong with a Miata. Car magazine notes that over 1 million examples of the car have been sold since it first launched in 1989, and the current ND generation does nothing to dim the little sports car's appeal. The 2022 model is a delight to drive, with a manual transmission available as standard. That transmission is one of the best stick shifts in any modern car, with our reviewer reporting it feels short and slick, with a clutch that's weighted just right for both spirited driving and heavier traffic.

It's still not exactly a fast car, with a relatively skimpy 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque available from its SkyActiv-G engine, but straight-line speed has never been the Miata's strong suit. This is a lightweight roadster built for the backroads, where its excellently balanced chassis and diminutive curb weight make it a joy to thread through corners. Data shows the Miata should also be hassle-free to own, with owners only having to bring their car in for unscheduled maintenance on average 0.3 times a year. Perhaps the biggest endorsement of the Miata's long-term reliability, though, is the number of used examples that sport high mileage. One particularly well-used example even crossed the half-million-mile mark in 2019, with its owner reporting that it's still going strong (via Auto Evolution).

Audi TT

Audi TT at sunrise

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It might have gained a name for itself as a "hairdresser's car" or a poor man's R8, but look past the stereotypes surrounding the Audi TT and you'll find it's one of the most reliable cars on the market. A 2020 study by iSeeCars that analyzed over 11.8 million car listings found the TT to be the most reliable used sports car of all, getting a near-perfect 9/10 score. The report put this stellar result partly down to the TT's practicality-focused design, which makes it an attractive option for buyers looking for a sports car they can daily drive. Its two small back seats are suitable for transporting children or smaller adults, and it packs a 228 horsepower four-cylinder engine, which strikes an excellent balance between power and fuel-sipping efficiency.

The TT was revamped in 2021 with new equipment and a mild styling refresh for top-spec trims, although Auto Express confirmed that the long-running sports car will be axed when production of the current generation ends in 2023. It's set to be replaced with a larger, electrified model that aims to be just as "emotional" as the current-gen car, albeit with a very different powertrain. It's likely that used prices for the TT will rise after the gas-powered variant is consigned to the history books, but for now, it remains a bit of a bargain on the used market, with plenty of options available for budget-conscious buyers.

BMW M235i

BMW M235i at Geneva Motor Show

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BMW is another brand that many buyers wouldn't immediately associate with reliability, but data shows that they're actually a lot more dependable than many people would think. The 2022 edition of Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey placed the brand third overall, behind only Toyota and Lexus. The 2 Series also won the category for small premium cars in J.D. Power's 2020 dependability survey, and anecdotal evidence from owner forums also shows mostly glowing reviews. 

Evo drove the car and called it "one of the high points of the BMW range," even if it wasn't quite as good as a full-fat M2. The M2, however, is also a lot more expensive, putting it out of the reach of more budget-conscious buyers. Drivers wanting to have fun at mostly road-legal speeds won't be missing out anyway, as most of the M235i's shortcomings can only really be noticed when the car is driven on the limit, notes Evo.

Chevrolet Corvette C5

Chevrolet Corvette C5 parked up

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Buyers looking for a healthy dose of horsepower wrapped up in a tried-and-tested package should find it hard to go wrong with the Chevrolet Corvette C5. Built between 1997 and 2004, the C5 has gained a reputation for being one of the most reliable generations of Corvette to date, and many examples have now depreciated enough to become affordable to buyers on a budget. The car's LS1 V8 is both mainstream enough that any repairs should be straightforward, and powerful enough to leave a surprising amount of foreign sports car rivals in the rear view mirror.

It packs 345 horses under the hood, but in most everyday driving situations, very few of those horses will be needed. That's a good thing, because as the RAC puts it, it means the engine spends most of its time "under about as much stress as a dozy librarian." The C5 also wins enthusiast brownie points for its six-speed manual transmission, which isn't the smoothest, but is great fun to punch from gear to gear.

Acura Integra Type R

Honda/Acura Integra Type R studio shot

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The Integra Type R never found the same level of fame as its hatchback sibling, the Civic Type R, but it's the Integra that most would agree is the more accomplished driving machine. Imported to the U.S. for just a few short years between 1997 and 2001, the car featured a hand-built 1.8L engine making 185 horsepower, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. At lower revs, the car was relatively docile compared to many of its sports car rivals, but hit the upper ranges of the rev counter and the engine would start to sing.

The Integra Type R has gained a reputation as the best-handling front-wheel drive car of all time, and according to Road Track at least, that reputation is justified. Finding one that's not been heavily modified will be a challenge in today's market, especially since only 4,000 of them were imported in the first place, but it's not impossible. Since it's still a Honda, expect excellent mechanical reliability, although it's worth noting that rust can be an issue with Integras, so make sure to conduct a thorough inspection before purchase (via Autocar).

Honda S2000

Honda S2000 with Russian plates

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If finding a decently-priced Integra Type R that hasn't been ruined by mods or rusted away seems like too much hassle, Honda's S2000 roadster offers just as much high-revving fun, and it's easier to source used. Much like the Integra, the S2000 is built to be driven hard, feeling the most exciting to drive when it's pushed as close as possible to its redline. It sports 237 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, which in a car as light as the S2000, means a 150 mph top speed.

Over 110,000 units were sold between 1999 and 2009, with over 66,000 of those being sold on American shores. The S2000 also followed Honda's reputation for reliability, with reports of 300,000 miles being achieved on cars with regular servicing. Like the other cars here, just because it's a reliable car in general doesn't mean that every individual example is going to be reliable, so it's worth checking out the service history before putting down on one. There have been rumors of a successor to the S2000 for years now, but each time, they've turned out to be false. So far, buying a used S2000 is the only way to get your hands on Honda's excellent lightweight roadster.

BMW Z4

BMW Z4 roadster in white

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Buyers who prefer their roadsters to be German rather than Japanese have plenty of choice, as Audi made a convertible version of the TT for years, and Porsche has the excellent entry-level Boxster, which now serves as one of the cheapest ways into Porsche ownership. If neither of those quite fit the bill, there's also the BMW Z4, the brand's mildly-sporty small roadster which like many of its rivals, is rumored to face the ax within the next few years (via Motor1). Higher-mileage Z4s can be found for a fraction of their original retail price, and they're dependable too. A study by iSeeCars ranked the BMW Z4 as the second most reliable sports car on the market, beaten only by the Audi TT.

The Z4 comes equipped with either a 255 horsepower 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.0L six-cylinder that makes 382 horsepower (via iSeeCars). With only two seats on offer, it's not as practical to drive everyday as the likes of the TT or even the Ford Mustang, but that won't matter much if you already have another, larger vehicle. While it's only a rumor for now, it seems the Z4's days are numbered, so it's best to get a cheap one soon, while they're still in plentiful supply.

Chevrolet Camaro

2015 Camaro at the Geneva Motor Show

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The Camaro has been fighting with the Ford Mustang for American sales dominance for decades, but the truth is, both of them make excellent choices for an affordable sports car. Although the current-generation Camaro makes advances in performance, handling, and its interior, it's not quite as reliable as the previous generation 2015 model year car, which received a "Great" score from J.D. Power for reliability and quality. The older generation car is also cheaper on the used market, and with only 12 horsepower separating the last-gen and current-gen V6 models, most drivers won't notice the difference in power (via U.S. News, Auto-Data).

Either option will be easy to maintain, as like the Mustang, the Chevy's continued popularity over the decades has meant that parts and knowledgeable mechanics are in plentiful supply. SlashGear reviewed both the 2015 and 2016 model years in a head-to-head on track, and it was the newer-generation 2016 model year that came out on top. The primary improvements were in the corners, as both cars packed plenty of punch in a straight line. So, which option is best will largely come down to budget, and what type of driving you're going to be doing.

Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ parked by a factory

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When the second-generation Subaru BRZ debuted in 2022, it was clear that the brand had listened to the feedback from owners. The new car addressed many of the shortcomings of the first generation, with a larger, more powerful 2.4L boxer engine that made 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. There's a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed paddle-shift automatic, and both get a limited-slip rear differential and double-wishbone rear suspension.

This all translates to one of the best affordable sports cars you can buy in 2022. There's not much data available on the latest generation car's reliability, but the previous-gen car was ranked the second most reliable car on the road in a 2017 Consumer Reports study, so it's a pretty safe bet. Just be aware: the BRZ's insurance rates might be a little higher than expected, as it's one of the most popular cars for drivers to get caught speeding in.

Nissan 370Z

Yellow Nissan 370Z on the road

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The Nissan 370Z is a lot closer in nature to an old-school muscle car than many buyers might expect. With a meaty 324 horsepower on tap and a heavy manual transmission, it's a long way from most other contemporary sports cars. Some saw this as a bad thing, especially since the 370Z Roadster was only axed in 2019, despite being on sale almost completely unchanged for 10 years. The car limped on in coupe form for another year, before it was discontinued in preparation for the 2023 Nissan Z.

The 370Z's driving profile, efficiency and interior were seen as a little dated when the car was first unveiled, but by the time it was axed, Car and Driver claimed "it needed a full overhaul to be competitive again." While, yes, it wasn't modern in the slightest, the 370Z's retro feel gave it its own distinct charm, and earlier model years are now temptingly affordable. WithClutch gave it a rating of "Very Reliable" since its tried-and-tested internals mean there's less scope for pricey unexpected repairs to crop up.

Porsche Cayman

Red Porsche Cayman

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Part of the reason that the 370Z always felt a little dated is that for a similar price, buyers could get a Porsche Cayman, which was both sharper to drive and surprisingly practical. It was dismissed by some as a "poor man's 911," but in fact it was just as engaging to drive as Porsche's flagship sports car, and considerably more affordable. Its mid-mounted engine setup also gave it a natural advantage over the rear-engined 911, with near-perfect weight distribution from the get go.

Caymans have also proven themselves to be very reliable, with only a small number of issues reported with the electrics and engine (via WhatCar). While a major failure on a Cayman might leave owners with a bigger bill than some of the other cars here, buying a properly maintained car with a full service history should ensure that you don't need to lose sleep over it.


Source: https://www.slashgear.com/1113983/the-14-most-reliable-sports-cars-that-wont-break-the-bank/