JDM - General

These Are The 10 Best JDM Cars Under 5K

Despite what most think, finding a great JDM car for under 5k is still possible in 2022 despite the soaring used car prices. You just have to expand your horizons, so let’s forget about Supra’s and GT-R’s and look at some more realistic cars which can be had for less than $5,000.

Even finding a remotely fun and sporty JDM car nowadays for under $5,000 seems to almost be an impossible task. But there are still a few gems out there that can be had for less than 5 grand, although be it that some may not be in their most pristine condition.

Some of the best experiences most of us have had are inside of beater cars just because you can thrash it without a care in the world. Not something you would likely do in a pristine $50,000 R32 GT-R. All of these models have been found available for less than $5,000 listing price on AutoTrader.Com as of the release of this article.

Mazda RX-8

The RX-8 might not have been received as positively as its predecessor, the RX-7. And it may not be as elegant looking, or as powerful, but it still uses a rotary Wankel engine, and at a fraction of the price of an RX-7.

The RX-8 was Mazda’s last production rotary-powered vehicle and is powered by a high-revving 1.3L Wankel engine which produces between 190 hp to 240 hp depending on the year of the model. And the engine is perhaps the biggest selling point of the RX-8. In the handling department it’s not nearly as refined and (sports car-like) as the Mazda Miata.

The RX-8 is cheap to purchase, but it can very quickly turn into an expensive purchase as maintenance costs are high, and if the rotary engine needs repair it can be costly.  

Toyota MR-2

If lucky can found a third-generation Toyota MR-2 (W30; 1999-2007) with the 1.8L 1ZZ-FED I4 engine pushing about 140 hp. This is for the JDM enthusiast who wants a supercar feel but in a smaller package and at a significantly lower price tag.

The MR-2 (W30) is a mid-engine convertible weighing in right below 1,000 kg (2,195 lbs). It was available with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 6-speed manual in Europe. There was also a 5-speed automated manual transmission and later on a 6-speed automated manual transmission.

Can be found for about $5,000 in drivable condition.

Mazda Miata NA

Often considered the ultimate sports car, the Mazda Miata is a lightweight two-passenger roadster that as of today is the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history.

The Miata comes with a very modest 1.6L-1.8L I4 with power ranging from 89 hp to 133 hp. But it makes up for that with its light chassis weighing in at just around 960 kg (2,120 lbs). The Miata is unprecedented when it comes to the chassis, suspension, and handling department. Mazda managed to capture the perfect balance and has kept improving the Miata over the years.

The Miata is the perfect JDM car, and aftermarket parts and modifications are endless. These can still be found for around $5,000.

Toyota Celica 6th Generation

The Toyota Celica is a front-engine 2-door Japanese sports car available in 4WD or FWD (for the 6th generation).

The Celica is a bit of a JDM legend, being the first Japanese car to have ever won a World Rally Championship.

The Celica is known for great handling and provides a great sports car feel for just a few grand. Unfortunately for the U.S. they did not receive the race-bred 2.0L 3S engine (used in the rally car), they received a more modest non-turbo 2.2L I4 (5S-FE) pushing about 135hp.

Not the fastest in a straight line, but can certainly hang on to most cars on some twisty roads.

Lexus LS400

This is not a performance car per se, in fact, it is more or less the opposite of a performance car. But that does not matter, because in our eyes this may just be the pinnacle of Lexus.

The LS400 was produced between 1990-1994 and was powered by a 4.0L V8 pushing 250hp through a 4-speed automatic.

The LS400 took the luxury market by storm and quickly became the top dog over its rivals, the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series.

The air suspension is often described as floating on a cloud and was even on par with the likes of Rolls Royce at the time.

This car is just bullet-proof from the inside out. The engine, gearbox, and suspension will hold up as long as regular maintenance is carried out. A great buy which can be found for even less than $5,000.

Lexus GS300

The GS300 is kind of the awkward middle kid, it’s not a pure luxury car such as the LS, and it is not really a sports car like the IS, it’s a little bit of both.

However, out of all of them, the GS300 had the most exciting engine options. Not only was it available with the same 4.0L V8 as the LS400, it was also available with a larger 4.3L V8 putting out 300hp.

But the best of all was that it came available with the turbocharged Supra engine, the 2JZ-GTE. However, for $5,000 you’ll likely have to settle for the non-turbo 2JZ-GE engine pushing out about 225 hp.

Lexus IS300

The Lexus IS300 is not only a great-looking car, it’s also a great driver’s car. The IS300 is powered by a 3.0L non-turbo 2JZ engine pushing about 225 hp through a 5-speed manual, or 5-speed automatic transmission. There was also a wagon known as the IS300 SportCross but only available with the automatic transmission.

These have become surprisingly cheap and can be found for as low as a few grand. These tend to be quite reliable as well and would serve as a great first JDM car.

Mitsubishi 3000GT (Non-Turbo)

The Mitsubishi 3000GT was Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive car to compete with the JDM legends such as the Skyline GT-R and Toyota Supra. To do so, it was fitted with a 3.0L DOHC 24-valve V6 engine pushing between 225hp-300hp.

For five grand you won’t be able to find the top-trim twin-turbo V6 version, but you might find the 3.0L non-turbo version pushing about 225 hp.

Nissan 350Z

Even after the crazy price increases on the used-car market, it is still possible to pick up a 350Z for around $5,000. And for that price, you get yourself a purpose-built sports car with a 3.5L V6 pushing over 300 hp. There is an abundance of aftermarket parts available for the 350Z so whether you want to have it as a street car, drift car, or stance car you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for without a problem.

These are likely to increase in value in the upcoming years with the electrification of the automobile market, the 350Z is also available with a manual transmission which nowadays seems rarer and rarer.

Honda Del Sol

The Del Sol is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2-seater that was only produced for one generation.

Often forgotten about, the Del Sol can almost be described as the FWD-version of a Mazda Miata. It featured a variety of I4 engines ranging from 1.5L to 1.6L including a VTEC engine.

The range-topping 1.6L DOHC VTEC engine (B16A3) produced about 160 hp and had an impressive 8,200 RPM redline. That means that this engine produces an incredible 100 horsepower per liter, something which even at today’s standard is considered quite good.

If you don’t like rear-wheel-drive cars but like the idea of a cheap and lightweight sports car then perhaps the Del Sol is just what you’ve been searching for.

At a $10,000 budget, a lot more great JDM cars are available such as Nissan S13/S14, RX-7’s, Supra’s, and a large variety of Japanese Kei cars.

E. Lindgren

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