Most Fun Used Cars Under $20k

most fun used cars under $20k

Most Fun Used Cars Under $20k


If you’re like me, you don’t have the Porsche budget (and if you do, I’d like to be friends). My battle has always been finding the car that isn’t the high-dollar performance car, but isn’t some boring economy box either. So how do you find a car that doesn’t break the bank, but is still a genuinely fun place to be? Well, I’ve done some digging and came up with a few ideas for the most fun used cars under $20k that I believe you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

#1: Volkswagen Mk7 (2015-2021) GTI

  • 220 horsepower (just enough, in my opinion)
  • Great headroom
  • A pleasant space to sit in

At the time of this blog post in 2024, I’m looking at GTIs for $16k and $18k in fantastic condition with less than 60k miles. These cars are a genuine riot to drive and they’re a fantastic place to be in. When you need to go fast, it can go fast. When you want to cruise around, it’ll do that too (and in style, cause these things are classy). As far as value goes, they punch well above their weight class. When I bought my 2015 GTI back  in 2020 for $12k, I felt like I was sitting in a way nicer vehicle than what I paid for. 

Granted, the maintenance and reliability issues can be an issue if you find one that’s been abused, so buyer beware. Still, they’re well worth digging for a clean specimen and handing over $18k or $19k for a great one. They’re also great for small families and tall people (such as myself, sitting at 6 feet). With that, they hold the #1 spot on our list for the most fun used cars under $20k. We’ve only just begun, though.

most fun used cars under $20k

#2: Scion FR-S/Toyota 86 (1st Gen)

  • The common folk’s sports car
  • Toyota reliability
  • Cheap to repair

I was on my way home from a job interview one day when I passed a lot with a Toyota coupe sitting in a car lot. It caught my eye and I thought, “surely this is way out of my league in terms of price.” I stopped anyway and let me tell you, I was very wrong! It was priced around $17,000 (granted, it had some miles on it, but it’s a Toyota) and I was genuinely shocked. The car drove so well and felt bigger on the inside than I would have thought. I felt like I had found the cool sports car that I could get my hands on as the lowly manager of a coffee shop. With that, what’s great about these is that while most sports cars come with reliability issues and high-cost maintenance, this one was a Toyota. Maintenance on this is much akin to maintenance on something common like a Camry or a Corolla. 

Sadly, I did not walk away with one, but if you’d like to get your hands on a reliable, sporty car, this could be it!

scion frs

#3: Ford Focus ST

  • Well-bolstered seats
  • Fantastic Sony sound system 
  • Hatchback, so super useable

You may be like me and you know you want fun, but you also need practicality. This car does both so well. Back seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of room in the hatch, and it’s a zippy turbocharged engine that absolutely pulls you around. Ford made an even more aggressive version of this called the Focus RS, but it is much more expensive and from what I know, it’s a super rough ride. The Focus ST hits the sweet spot for you and me, I think. It gives you fun, practicality, a cozy place to sit, and solid creative comforts (like dual zone climate control and a lovely Sony audio system).

Overall, this car is fantastic. One caveat is that it only came in manual for the years it was made, so if you don’t drive stick (or don’t want to learn), then this isn’t for you.

ford focus st


When you’re looking for fun that doesn’t break the bank, you’ve got options. These are some solid, fun used cars under $20k that you can genuinely have a blast in. Keep in mind that the market adjusts all the time and by the time you’re reading this, it may have again (hopefully under, not over). If these don’t suit your needs, there are lots more options out there. Feel free to reach out to us at for any questions related to this!

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