May 29, 2024

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10 Cheapest Japanese Coupes Americans Can Buy Used

Take a look at the headlines about $100,000 MkIV Supras and R34s Skylines that cost as much as a house, and it’s easy to think that the world of JDM cars is now out of reach for the average buyer. Well, that’s not true, as there are still plenty of models out there that can be found on a budget, although admittedly not as many as there once was. Still, buying a classic Japanese sporty coupe isn’t quite the bank-breaking endeavor that many people might assume it is.

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In fact, the majority of the cars on this list can be bought for less than $10,000, which considering the average new car price is now over $45,000, seems like a proper bargain. Many of them are lesser-known models or forgotten gems that provide all the fun of owning a JDM coupe but without the price tag that comes with the more well-known Japanese classics. It might not stay this way forever, as prices for several of these cars are already rising fast—so it’s best to be quick and snap up a bargain while you still can.

10 Mitsubishi 3000GT


A 3000GT on the dirt
Via Mitsubishi

Despite making several excellent models throughout the ’90s and early ’00s, Mitsubishis don’t tend to get the same recognition as their rivals from the era like Nissan and Mazda do. The 3000GT, called the GTO in some markets, is one of several Mitsubishi coupes that feature in this list.


1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4
Via Bring a Trailer

The 3000GT was sold between 1991 and 1999 and was also badge-engineered to be sold as a Dodge Stealth. With a 3.0L V6 and FWD, the car embodied the softly-sporty image that was popular among many Japanese manufacturers at the time. The much rarer Japan-only MR version is a serious performance machine, however, even beating the Skyline R32 GTR in a straight line acceleration test. Examples for the standard 3000GT start at about $6,000.

9 Toyota Sera


Toyota Sera
Via Wikimedia Commons

The Toyota Sera’s 104 hp engine won’t give owners many bragging rights when it comes to performance, but the car does come with one very unique feature: butterfly doors. The doors also left no space for a traditional rolling window, hence the Sera has a window-within-a-window on both sides.


Toyota Sera
Via Wikimedia Commons

Seras was originally sold only in the Japanese market and a select few import markets, but plenty of examples have made their way to the US since then. Several examples have recently gone under auction in the States with an average selling price of around $8-10k for higher-mileage examples.

8 Mazda MX-3


Mazda MX-3
Via Mazda

Everyone knows of the Mazda MX-5, or Miata as it’s commonly known in the US, but fewer people will remember the MX-3. The little sports coupe was one of Mazda’s many experimental vehicles made during the ’90s, and it was a commercial success, being on sale in North America between 1991 and 1996.

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Mazda MX-3
Via Automoto

Today, there aren’t too many examples left on the roads, but the ones that are still around are dirt cheap. Prices start at around $3,000 for the most beaten-up cars and even better looked after examples are only a few thousand dollars more.

7 Subaru BRZ


Subaru BRZ
Via Bring a Trailer

The newest car on this list is also unsurprisingly the most expensive, but despite the fact that it’s less than ten years old, the Subaru BRZ is still one of the cheapest Japanese coupes on the market.


Subaru BRZ
Via Bring a Trailer

That’s mostly because so many were sold to begin with, which has helped keep used inventory high and prices low. As well as being affordable, BRZs have built up a reputation for being very reliable, so buying a higher-mileage model shouldn’t need to be a cause for concern.


6 Mitsubishi FTO


Mitsubishi FTO
Via Mitsubishi

The second of the three Mitsubishis on this list is the FTO, a FWD-only coupe that came with either an inline-4 or a 2.0L V6 engine. They were originally intended as a Japanese-market only product, but demand around the world has seen examples imported as far as the UK and Australia.


Mitsubishi FTO
Via Mitsubishi

There aren’t many examples in the US, but for anyone willing to import from Japan, the FTO is a surprisingly affordable option. Listings from two major importers currently price the car as costing $10,000 including shipping to a US port, so even after taxes, it should remain one of the cheapest coupes out there. Plus, there’s the fact that its rarity means it’s guaranteed to turn heads at car shows.


5 Nissan 350Z


The front of the updated 350Z
Via Nissan News

Currently, the cheapest car from Nissan’s revered line of Z cars is the 350Z, as it’s just approaching being twenty years old. A lot of cars tend to sit at the lowest point of their depreciation at that age, so its value will likely increase in the future.


The rear of the updated 350Z
Via Nissan News

Examples of the hard-top coupe version tend to start at around $8k, but anyone willing to compromise and get a soft-top roadster version could snag a bargain for $5k or less. Their trusty V6 engines and 306 hp in stock form means they’ll be all the sports cars that most enthusiasts will ever need.

4 Subaru SVX


The front of the SVX
Via Hagerty

One of Subaru’s strangest ever creations, the SVX was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and looks unlike anything else the brand has put out before or since. Unusual looks aside, the car is a competent mildly-sporty coupe that can’t compete with the big guns on performance but should still be enough to excite when it’s driven hard.


The rear of the SVX
Via Hagerty

The car was sold globally, including in the North American market for a few years. Prices start from around $6,000 for the cheapest examples, but even more, pristine SVXs shouldn’t break the bank.

3 Toyota MR2


Toyota MR2
Via Bring a Trailer

Toyota’s MR2 is very much a hidden gem in the company’s back catalog. It’s a mid-engined, solidly built sports car that’s ripe for upgrades and won’t cost much to buy used. First and second-gen cars can be found with coupe styling, but the later third generation was only available as a convertible.


Toyota MR2
Via Bring a Trailer

Prices for late ’80s examples like the car pictured start at around $5k, with this particular example selling for $7,600 in 2019. MR2s have seen a general increase in price since 2020, with some now selling for over $20k. So, it’ll be more difficult to find a cheap example today, but there are a few still out there, at least for now.


2 Mitsubishi Eclipse


Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
Via Cars and Bids

The third and final Mitsubishi on this list is also the most recent of them all. The Eclipse coupe was only axed in 2012, and it’s already largely been forgotten about, especially since Mitsubishi has already brought back the nameplate as a rather uninspiring crossover, the Eclipse Cross.


Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
Via Cars and Bids

Third and fourth-generation Eclipses can be found used for peanuts, and they’re the last of their kind, as Mitsubishi gave up on sports cars altogether after Eclipse production was stopped. The cheapest running examples start from around $4,000.

1 Nissan 300ZX


Front 3/4 view of a red 300ZX
Via Nissan

The less-loved sibling of cars like the Silvia and Skyline was the Z32 300ZX, Nissan’s Z car for much of the Nineties. Its popularity was limited by the fact that it was considerably more expensive than most of its rivals, and thanks to its complex construction, it developed a reputation for being costly to maintain too.

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The rear of a red 300ZX
Via Nissan

Nowadays, the 300ZX has become one of the cheapest ways to own a ’90s JDM classic, as examples start from around $8,000. They’ve been a favorite among project car owners for a while now, so finding one without mods will cost significantly more. But, on the flip side, it’s possible to find cars with significantly upgraded performance for less than $10,000, making them one of the fastest as well as one of the cheapest ways to get into Japanese coupe ownership.


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