What’s the Perfect Used Summer Roadster?

Toyota MR2

I have a new mission in life:

Find a roadster.

Summer’s here, and fun, fast open-top driving should arrive with it. I have some summer road trips coming up, and they would be infinitely more enjoyable behind the wheel of a rear-wheel-drive thrill machine.

I’m thinking something small, light and quick, but still masculine and powerful. So the Miata is out.

Something new is out, too, as finances currently dictate that I fill the garage with a pre-loved used model. Well, truthfully, finances also dictate that I wait until I have a garage, but that’s just a matter of logistics.

I started thinking about this after reading more about the upcoming Toyota/BMW co-developed sports car, which could either become a next-generation Toyota Supra or even a BMW M8 supercar. Regardless of what incredible machine is born as a result of the Toyota/BMW partnership, odds are I won’t be able to write a check for it. That’s true whether it costs $30,000 or $330,000.

However, thinking about the Supra made me think about the MR2 Spyder. If the Porsche Boxster is a poor man’s 911, then the MR2 Spyder is the poor man’s Boxster.

The MR2 Spyder’s last model year in the United States was 2005. The car uses a mid-mounted 1.8-liter, 138-hp 4-cylinder engine. It’s RWD and has a 5-speed manual transmission. Plus, it has looks that turn heads and have caused plenty of regular folk (not car enthusiasts) to mistake it for a Porsche.

Then again, a used Boxster would be a good candidate for a poor man’s Boxster as well. They cost more than the MR2 Spyder, but are more plentiful.

Maybe an older Audi TT Quattro Roadster would be a good choice, though the costs of repairs and maintenance on either of the German options might not be affordable.

Let me ask you:

What used roadster would you buy on a budget?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Mazda Miata
Used Toyota Supra
Used Toyota MR2 Spyder
Used Porsche Boxster
Used Porsche 911


  1. Drove all the contenders lusted. Bought and loved the MR-2S for the five years I owned it. Phenomenal handling, brakes, mileage and reliability. Boxster S is great if you have the $$. S2000 has no low end torque and the handling is wack except for the Club model, Miata is too cramped, 350Z looks way better as a coupe and is too coarse, audi tt quattro is my wife’s pick but is scary from a maintenance viewpoint and still won’t handle as well as the Boxster or Spyder. Just my two cents.

  2. Since I went through this process last year and found an MR2 Spyder, here’s what I found:
    Common but overpriced: Mazda Miata. I don’t know why owners seem to want so much for a car that’s a fairly unremarkable front engine-rear drivecar. Under 10K tend to be high mileage.

    Porsche boxster: Much more expensive as you would expect. Also tend to be expensive to insure and maintain. Couldn’t find anything near the cost of the MR2 that wasn’t a salvage vehicle and nothing under 10K.
    Honda S2000: Rarer than than the MR2 and more expensive than the boxster. I also found the car to have some poor handling characteristics. Definitely won’t find under 10K.

    Jaguar XKS convertible V12: Older, kind of large, and a look under the hhood will frighten the toughest mechanic. But it looks and sounds great. Easy to find under 10K.

    Cadillac Allante: Plentiful around here and fairly cheap for what was GM’s most expesive car. Big and posh gas hog with very daed styling and interior.

    Nissan Z car roadster: Kind of cool, expensive, very sophisticated mechanically.

    Old MG, MG Midget, Triumph 2-seater. Can be had cheap but can be a problem for repairs.

    Fiat Spider: Wow, cheap but really awful quality. Will look nice in your driveway or being pulled by a wrecker.

    MR2 spyder: Looks a bit like a Ferrari or Boxster in the back, but Toyota’s rather thick and clumsy front end. Excellent handling car, and remarkably fast for a 1.8 liter engine. Five speed model really needs a 6th gear for freeway driving. I bought a very clean, one owner 5 speed 2000 model year with less than 50K miles for seven grand, a bargain IMO. I tested one with the paddle shift tranmission, but don’t really care for them.

  3. What about the Honda S2000? Its more powerful than the MR2, and better looking IMO.

  4. S2000 is the best roadster out there. Its gonna cost you a bit more than the others (besides luxury brands) but its gonna be the best for power, handling, maintenance cost, and (IMO) looks. It has the F20/F20C engine which is the most powerful productive Inline-4 engine ever produced and provides endless amounts of fun, while sending it growling up to its 9000/8300 redline. Vtec baby!

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