July 25, 2024

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10 Cheapest European Sports Cars To Maintain

When it comes to sports cars with low running costs, it’s easy to dismiss European models altogether. After all, the Japanese are famous for their reliable performance cars that can go for tens of thousands of miles without needing much work, and even American manufacturers make plenty of muscle cars that are cheap as chips to run. So, why would any enthusiast on a budget pick a Euro sports car?

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Well, the truth is that there are plenty of different models out there that don’t cost any more to run than their Japanese or American counterparts. In most cases, these cars tend to have simpler constructions, less technology, and less demanding regular maintenance schedules. So, not only are they affordable to maintain, they’re all great driver’s cars too! Let’s take a look at ten of the cheapest European sports cars to maintain from across the performance spectrum.

10 Abarth 124 Spider


Abarth 124 Spider
Via Stellantis Media

The Abarth 124 Spider is an Italian twist on a Japanese favorite, as underneath, it’s mostly a Mazda Miata. Mechanically, the two cars are almost identical, which is great news for 124 Spider owners, as it means their cars won’t suffer from the usual host of Italian reliability gremlins.


Abarth 124 Spider
Via Stellantis Media

Not only are Miata components reliable, but they’re also cheap to source if they do need replacing. The Italian Abarth version can take full advantage of that plentiful supply of parts, but it comes with an extra helping of European style and flair.

9 Lotus Elise


Lotus Elise
Via Bring a Trailer

The formula for the Lotus Elise remained largely unchanged for the twenty-plus years it was on sale, and that helped its reliability immensely. It’s one of the least troublesome British sports cars on the market, in part thanks to its bulletproof Toyota engine.


Lotus Elise
Via Bring a Trailer

Earlier Elise models came with a Rover engine, and they’re not quite as reliable, although they also tend to be the cheapest examples to buy. Whichever option buyers pick, the back-to-basics nature of the Elise means it should be fairly hassle-free to fix any problems that do crop up, although most owners can run their cars for tens of thousands of miles without major issues.


8 BMW 230i


BMW 230i 2022
Via BMW

Anyone looking for something a bit newer might want to consider a 2022 model year BMW 230i, the base-spec 2 Series in the US market. It comes with all the classic hallmarks of a good driver’s car, as it features a 255 hp turbo four-cylinder engine, RWD only, and plenty of options for performance upgrades.


BMW 230i 2022
Via BMW

It is auto-only, but it’s still reportedly just as sharp to drive as the previous generation of the 2 Series. In terms of maintenance costs, the previous-gen 2 Series proved itself to be surprisingly reliable and is consistently ranked as one of the cheapest modern BMWs to run. It’s expected that the new generation car will be no different.


7 VW Golf R


2016 Volkswagen Golf R 2 Cropped
Via Ambassador Automobiles

The new Golf R is set to return in 2022, but it’s quite costly, with a starting price of over $43,000. A better value option is to buy a good condition example of the previous generation Golf R, as it’s still an excellent car and should be just as reliable as buying new.


2016 Volkswagen Golf R Cropped
Via Ambassador Automobiles

Golfs in general are quite economical to run and maintain, and the R is no different. The Mk7 R comes with either 296 hp or 306 hp depending on the model year purchased, and its handling is just as engaging as its less powerful sibling, the Golf GTI.

6 Porsche 944


Porsche 944
Via Coys

Usually, Porsches are seen as very costly to run, but the 944 is a bit of an exception to the rule. It’s generally a reliable car and assuming buyers can find one in good condition, it’s quite cheap to maintain too. Not only that, but at the moment, 944s are among the cheapest Porsches on the market to buy.

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Porsche 944
Via Coys

The car’s bargain pricing is unlikely to last forever, and as more enthusiasts cotton on to the fact that 944s offer some of the best value of any German classic, pristine examples will become a lot harder to find. So, anyone who wants one had better act fast.

5 BMW Z4


BMW Z4
Via NetCarShow

It’s not the most hardcore of sports cars, but the BMW Z4 makes for an excellent weekend cruiser and also doubles up as a daily driver. It’s perfect for drivers who prefer road trips to track days, and it’s available in a variety of trims from mildly hot to genuinely fast.


BMW Z4
Via NetCarShow

Buying a ten or fifteen-year-old example with low mileage is a great option, as most of the car’s depreciation will have already been accounted for, but it shouldn’t be old enough yet to require major work. There are plenty of examples out there on the used market, meaning they’re cheap to buy as well as being affordable to maintain.


4 MG MGB


MG MGB
Via Bring a Trailer

A classic British roadster, the MGB offers a quirky way to own a Euro sports car without breaking the bank. They can be commonly found on Craigslist for just a few thousand dollars, and even some of the more pristine examples on Bring a Trailer don’t sell for more than $10,000.


MG MGB
Via Bring a Trailer

It’s worth noting that old MGs aren’t exactly the most reliable of cars, so owners will have to put a fair amount of work in to keep one on the road. But, parts are cheap, so for anyone who prefers to wrench on their own vehicles, the MGB is a great affordable option.

3 Caterham Seven


Caterham Seven 170
Via Caterham

On the subject of quirky sports cars, it doesn’t get much more quirky than a Caterham. Coming as standard without doors, windows, or a roof, a Caterham Seven offers a driving experience unlike any other. They’re not cheap to buy, but they do hold their value very well over time.


Caterham Seven 170
Via Caterham

As for maintenance, since this is a kit car it comes apart very easily, so replacing worn parts shouldn’t be a hassle. Caterham uses a variety of powerplants from different manufacturers, but they’re all easy to source parts for, so even major repairs shouldn’t mean breaking the bank.

2 VW Scirocco


The front of the Scirocco R
Via FavCars

The third-gen Scirocco was axed in 2017 after years of low sales, but there are still plenty of used examples on the market. The car was based on the Golf platform and shared most of its components, so running costs are almost the same as a regular Golf.

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Rear 3/4 view of the Scirocco R
Via FavCars

Maintenance is similarly straightforward, and it shares a Golf-like handling profile, but that’s a good thing in this case. The third-gen car wasn’t sold in North America, but Americans can still import second and first-gen Sciroccos as they’re old enough to fall under the 25-year rule.

1 Lotus Exige


Lotus Exige Cup 430
Via Lotus

The Exige is essentially a Lotus Elise but faster, more hardcore, and usually more expensive. Still, for anyone with the budget, it’s a great upgrade from a standard Elise and will make track days even more exciting.


Lotus Exige Cup 430
Via Lotus

Despite its extra power and aero bits, the Exige doesn’t cost much more to run than a standard Elise, thanks to a similar mix of factory-built and third-party components. All Series 2 and 3 cars come with either a Toyota inline 4 or V6, meaning their reliability is exemplary for such a fast car.


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