Most people are eyeing Skyline GT-R’s and MKIV Toyota Supra’s and then go on to claim that JDM cars have gotten extremely expensive. But that is not the case for all JDM cars. In fact, for $20K, there is a large variety of cool and fast JDM cars, albeit not a Skyline GT-R or Toyota Supra.
The used car-market prices are increasing all over the world, and the same goes for JDM cars. A decade ago, you could very easily find yourself a clean Nissan S-chassis for just a few grand, for that money nowadays you would barely even get a naked chassis.
However, if you increase your budget slightly there are still great JDM cars available. And most will just keep appreciating in value so you’re not likely to lose out if you decide to sell it.
Buying a JDM car for under $5K is possible, but if you truly want to be able to choose between a large assortment of different cars, with different specifications to choose from, then arguably $20,000 is the sweet spot.
And the fact remains, why spend $50,000 on a Skyline GT-R or Toyota Supra when you can have equal performance in an equally cool JDM car for $20,000?
Nissan S14 chassis has become extremely desirable, but unlike the S15 which has got extremely expensive, the S14 can still be had for a reasonable amount of money.
The S14 180SX was available with the famous 2.0L turbocharged SR20DET engine which produced a respectable 217 hp. Unfortunately, the U.S. received a non-turbo version 2.4L KA24DE engine. But don’t worry, there are plenty of European/JDM S14 imported, so you should still be able to find an SR20DET 240SX without any issues.
Perhaps the most desirable thing about the S14 is its customizability. There is a ton of different aftermarket parts along with tuning capabilities that can completely transform the way the S14 looks and drives.
You can find an S14 for a lot lower than $20,000 and that would leave you with a couple of grand that could be spent on aftermarket parts or wheels.
The Stagea RS4 was the top-trim level of the first series Nissan Stagea. It was powered by a 2.5L turbocharged I6 (231 hp) and put the power down through a 4-speed automatic together with the Nissan Skyline GT-R’s ATTESA AWD-system.
The series 1 is quite rare, and most people misconceive it as a random Japanese family wagon. But low and behold, this family wagon features a turbocharged RB25 engine and constant AWD that does 0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds.
Despite having a performance engine, the Stagea RS4 is still a fantastic daily driver. If you can keep your right foot under control the RB25 is quite commuter friendly. And considering this is a wagon, you got a ton of trunk space.
These can very easily be found for around the $20,000 mark, but are slowly but surely increasing in price.
The 300ZX was for a long time quite undesirable to own, more often than not you’d purchase a Skyline or Silvia if you were looking for a sports car from Nissan. However, the 300ZX has for the past few years increased in popularity and prices are slowly but surely increasing.
The 300ZX was first and foremost developed to be a grand tourer, the Skyline was co-developed at the same time and had the purpose of acting as their ‘sports car’.
The 300ZX received a 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 but was also packed with the latest technology and comfort features. And by looking at the 300ZX objectively, it is hard to not see the amounts of value you’ll get for $20,000, especially when so many other JDM cars have appreciated beyond affordability.
The 300ZX looks fantastic, and sounds great too!
For 20 grand you could very easily find yourself a Nissan Skyline, but not a GT-R. But for $20K you could get yourself a GTS25T which more or less is Skyline’s mini-GT-R.
The GTS25T was only available for the R33 Skyline and was powered by a turbocharged 2.5L I6 (RB25DET) that produced 250 hp, around 30 hp less than in the GT-R. And while you don’t get all the fancy styling cues, or big Brembo brake-kit of the GT-R the GTS25T still weighs in around 300 lbs. less.
And if you compare the GTS25T to the full-on R33 Skyline GT-R you’ll find the GTS25T provides a lot more value for money considering you almost get the same performance for half the price.
Out of all Japanese cars and brands, the Celica GT-Four is perhaps the most important one all when it comes to Rally heritage. The Celica GT-Four is the first Japanese car to enter the WRC with a turbocharged AWD car and win a WRC title. Something no other Japanese brand had done before.
And how awesome is it that you can own the road-going version of this rally legend for less than $20,000?
The GT-Four came in three generations, the ST165, ST185, and ST205 all featuring a 2.0L turbocharged I4 (3S-GTE) producing between 182-252 hp and all featured a 5-speed manual transmission and AWD.
The GT-Four is not only good on gravel but also handles fantastically on the tarmac.
It is also quite distinguished from your regular Nissan 180SX, Skyline, or Toyota Supra which in our opinion makes it more desirable to own.
In short, a steal for $20,000.
$20,000 is the perfect amount of money to get yourself the perfect STi. There are a lot of WRX STi’s available at this price point, and if you find yourself looking to import a car you could get the Forester STi which was only sold in Japan.
Both the WRX STi and Forester STi are great everyday cars. You can use them for pretty much anything and use them anywhere. They are safe, and their AWD/4WD system is great for winter driving.
At the same time, you’ve got a lot of performance under the hood with their turbocharged boxer engine. The Forester STi is a large SUV but still does 0 to 60 mph in around 5.2 seconds, which is really impressive considering it’s over 15 years old.
If I could choose any car on this list, I’d probably pick the Forester STi. It’s unique, looks great, and packs a punch when you need it to go.
The Mitsubishi Evolution Lancer is a badass car. Not only has it been world-known for its incredible rally performance, it’s also surprisingly cheap to purchase. For a car with equal performance to the R32 GT-R, the Evo V and VI can be had for about half the price of the GT-R.
I’m not going to give you false hope, finding an Evo V or VI for $20,000 is not super easy. Most will be found for around the $25,000 mark, but there are several high-mileage examples that have been listed for below $20,000. However, unless the world economy falls into a dark pit their prices will surely not remain below $20,000 for that much longer, so act quick if you find a nice example.
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