10 Best Daily Driver Sports Cars Under $20k

Sports cars are a love/hate relationship. They’re fun and thrilling to drive, but most times not practical enough to drive daily and get some groceries. Normally, you would need another car to fulfill daily driver duties.

But over the years, carmakers have listened and adapted to cars to help satisfy these needs. The cars on this list show how these cars help close the gap between a fun car and a usable daily driver.

Every one of these cars is loved by their community despite their shortcomings. There are also links to listings to help with any purchase.

1. Ford Focus ST

Hot hatches are making big waves at the moment and are one of the most competitive segments in the auto industry. The focus is a favorite both in the US and many parts of Europe. The Focus ST is the sweet spot of the range, offering the comfy ride of the base focus but with dynamic handling.

The engine of choice here is the 2.0 liter EcoBoost 4 cylinder making 252hp and 270 lb-ft (366Nm) of torque. It is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, sending power to the front wheels. 0-60 comes in at 6.1 seconds, with a top speed of 154mph (248 km/h).

The fuel economy is good at 24 mpg, this is according to a real-world test done by the Edmunds team. The average annual insurance for the Focus ST is $1,253.

Note: The rates mentioned on these cars are the national average, new and younger drivers will expect to pay more.

Reliability is well above average for this vehicle, with many owners reporting little to no issues with this car as long as it’s taken care of. Just be careful of faulty transmission modules, which may make the vehicle lose power between shifts. The head gasket is another thing to look for when buying one of these.   

Also read: 10 Cars Under $20K that Look Like They’re for $50K+

2. Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Golf is the most recognizable hatchback on the planet. It takes after the beetle as the people’s vehicle. The GTI version is a great car for the money with options of a 3 door or 5 door hatchback. It is great for new drivers, teenagers, and older adults.

It is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine making 230hp and 258 lb-ft (350Nm) of torque. Transmission options are a standard 6-speed manual and an optional 6 speed DSG automatic powering the front wheels. 60 mph comes in at 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 155mph (250 km/h).

Real-world MPG rating put the car at 26.4 mpg. Insurance rates for the GTI are around $1,325 per year. Reliability for this generation has been great scoring a rating of 3.9/5 making it a very dependable hot hatch. Issues are mainly electrically related but can be solved quite easily with dealer support. 

3. Nissan 370Z

The 350Z is the car of choice for most enthusiasts, and this car can do it all. Drift car, race car, fun car, and daily driver. The updated 370Z improves on this in every way, with a slightly enlarged engine and updated interior and exterior.

It is powered by a 3.7 liter naturally aspirated V6 making 332hp paired with either a 6-speed manual or 7 speed automatic. This sends power to the rear wheels and achieves a 60 sprint time of 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h).   

Fuel economy rating sits at 26 mpg, but most drivers will drive quite enthusiastically with this car and will see this figure drop closer to 20 or less. The 370Z has great reliability, scoring a high rating of 4/5 which is excellent for a fun rear-wheel-drive sports car. Average insurance for these is around $1,600 per year.

The 370Z is a great sports car bargain at its price point, as similar model years from Porsche or Audi would be out of its price range. The most common issue with the Z is with the steering locking up and leaving drivers stranded. This issue can be avoided if fixed early.  

Also read: 3 Best Lexus for Daily Driving (With Photos)

4. Subaru WRX

Want a rally car experience and daily driver, then the WRX is a fun car to own. Previous generations have been known as Impreza but for this generation, the Impreza name was dropped and is now known as the WRX.

It has a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbo making 268hp and 258 (350Nm) lb-ft of torque. 4-wheel drive has always been standard with the WRX, along with a 6-speed manual or a CVT. I advise you to go for the manual because CVTs aren’t great.  

0-60 is 6 seconds may seem slow for an all-wheel-drive vehicle, but on loose surfaces, it’ll outperform every car on this list. The top speed is 155 mph (250 km/h). Under normal driving, the WRX will do 26 mpg.

Subarus have struggled with reliability, especially in their sporty cars. The WRX scores a low 2/5 for reliability, most versions even older cars are known to have head gasket issues even with stock vehicles. Insurance rates a bit above $1,700 per year.  

In fact, any issues you may have will come mostly from its engine and CVT transmission. But Subaru buyers are quite loyal to the brand and the WRX has a huge following and market support.   

Also read: Are Subarus Reliable? Which Subarus aren’t?

5. Dodge Charger

The charger is simply a 4 door version of the crazy challenger, having more space and practicality. This body style was introduced in 2005 but for this generation, it went through a radical change inside and out.

The most notable exterior change is the light bar at the back, with huge changes to the interior. The ideal engine here is the V8, 5.7-liter Hemi in the R/T, and 6.4 Hemi in the SRT8. The former makes 370hp and 395 lb-ft (536 Nm) while the latter makes 470hp and 470 lb-ft (640Nm) of torque.

0-60 mph is 5.1 seconds for the 5.7 and 4.3 seconds for the 6.1 liter. Top speed is 155 mph (249 km/h) and 175 mph (282 km/h) respectively. Gas mileage for both engines is rated at 17 mpg for the 5.7 and 19 mpg for the 6.4, these are thirsty engines.

The charger enjoys average reliability with good safety ratings and great performance. Most issues related to this vehicle have been solved for this generation, but mechanical components can start to go bad after 100,000 miles. You would expect to pay $1,500 on average on insurance per year.

The charger offers great value for money as model years up to 2019 can be gotten with the V8 for just under $20,000.      

6. Chevrolet Corvette

The corvette name is iconic in the American car, and every generation is great in its own right. The C5 is one of the most beautiful modern sports cars. With a big V8 under the hood, a manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive, you can make smoke clouds, awesome V8 sounds, or just cruise leisurely to and from your commute. 

The 5.7 liter V8 makes 345hp and as much as 405hp in the ZO6 models. It was paired with a standard 6-speed manual or an optional 4 speed automatic.

0-60 mph was 4.5 seconds and 4 seconds flat for the ZO6 models. Top speed is 175mph (281 km/h). Surprisingly this car averages 26 mpg, this is mainly due to how efficient the car is at highway speeds. Insurance on this one seems to be pretty good and around $1,000 per year. This is mainly because it’s an older vehicle and very reliable.

As for reliability, these Vettes are bulletproof, lasting thousands of miles with just routine maintenance. Affordable, reliable, and quite the luggage space due to the hatch. It surprises and delivers on every promise and more for a sports car of its caliber. The C6 corvette could also be part of the purchase if you’re almost into the $20,000 mark.

Also read: Are Chevrolets Good Cars? 17 Things You Should Know

7. Pontiac G8 GT

The rarest car on this list as it was only made for 2 years and is now being sorted after. The Pontiac G8 is a rebadged version of the Australian Holden Commodore. But The G8 GT is a bit rarer because of the V8.

This full-size sedan has good styling, ample power to back it up. It has a base V6 but the GT comes with a 6.0 naturally aspirated V8 making 360hp paired with a 6 speed automatic only. Power is sent to the rear wheels only with a 60 time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 140mph (226 km/h).

Insurance is not really defined on these and would vary greatly as there aren’t so many on the road. Since the engine is mainly from the C5 corvette is also reliable as well but being a bigger car it does 21mpg.

8. Mercedes E55 AMG

This is the most powerful and most comfortable car on this list. The W211 E55 AMG was at the time the fastest sedan in the world, with a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 180mph with the limiter removed. The Mercedes E55 AMG has a hand-built 5.4-liter supercharged V8 making 469hp and 516 (699Nm) lb-ft of torque.

All this power made it to the rear wheels via a 5 speed automatic. With a few mods, this car will see 600hp which is mind-blowing for a car like this. A large engine with a supercharger and lots of power means you get 15 mpg with this car. Well, you do have to sacrifice some fuel for that power. 

Now being an old Mercedes may bring up reliability issues, but the E class from this generation has been fairly reliable. But it is a Mercedes and when things do break they can be expensive, maintenance is also a bit high. Watch out for radiator leaks and occasional leaky suspension. Aftermarket dealers are best to source parts and get discounts on prices.

These cars at this time have just managed to stay under the $20,000 mark and as they get rarer prices will continue to climb.

Also read: Which Mercedes Class is the Best? (Comparison)

9. BMW M3

The M3 has developed a cult-like status in the automotive scene, almost as loyal as the Porsche 911. The ultimate driving machine as BMW calls their vehicles does not disappoint in its 3rd generation.

Powered by a 3.2 liter inline 6 making 338hp and 269 lb-ft (365Nm) of torque, powering the rear wheels. The 6-speed manual is the better transmission, but they’re a bit more expensive but can be obtained with the less pricey convertible. A 6 speed SMG automatic is also available, but it’s problematic.

0-60 mph is done in 5.1 seconds for both the manual and automatic, with an electronically top speed of 150mph (250 km/h). Gas mileage is slightly better than the Merc’s averaging 18mpg.      

The Mercedes seems to be more reliable than the beamer. Now, if you maintain this car it will work great, but a BMW isn’t cheap to maintain. You do have to be wary of the sub-frame which could crack, rod bearings, the SMG automatic, and VANOS (the variable valve timing). Making sure these are sorted before you buy will ensure a long-lasting car.

Bearing all these in mind, most insurance companies quote around $2,000 or more for this car which is quite high.

10. Porsche Boxster

Porsche is the best sports car automaker in my opinion, and the Boxster/Cayman allows people to get into a Porsche without spending crazy money. This one is special since it’s the only mid-engine car on this list.

Engine choices are between the 2.7 and 3.2 liter flat 6. They produce around 220hp and 250hp respectively. They were paired with either a 5 or 6-speed manual, a 5 speed automatic.

Performance is quite good:

2.7 liter: Manual 6.5 seconds, Top speed 155 mph (250 km/h).

             Auto 7.2 seconds, Top speed 152 mph (245 km/h).

3.2 liter: Manual 5.6 seconds, Top speed 162 mph (260 km/h).

             Auto 6.2 seconds, Top speed 158 mph (255 km/h).

The average fuel economy is 22mpg across both engines. Insurance is around $1,200 per year for these, which is not bad being a premium brand like Porsche. Reliability is high for this vehicle, meaning they’ll run better and reliably than most German competitors. But parts and maintenance can be a bit pricey, but you won’t have your car breaking down on you.