The mid-life crisis is not what it used to be. The stereotype of the 40-something man driving around in a convertible Porsche has done the rounds thousands of times, but today’s reality is somewhat different. Both new and second-hand Porsche have become rather expensive and most people have mortgages to pay off and kids to put through school.
This means that attempting to recapture some of your lost youth is getting harder than ever. Not to worry though, while the prices of certain sporty cars may well be beyond the practical reach of most balding mortals, there are plenty of affordable alternatives out there that will have your toupee blowing in the wind in no time. In aid of this, we have scoured the used car scene to find the best sub-£10,000 mid-life crisis mobiles out there.
We found some convertibles and coupes that offer the kind of driving fun that the hardworking man (or woman) would love to enjoy. Some even have space for the kids in the back if you are feeling particularly generous.
Mazda MX-5 2007
The third-generation Mazda MX-5 may have faded under the glow of the newer and sharper fourth-generation models but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the older car. The 2.0-litre 158-bhp motor is a peach and works best with the 6-speed manual transmission.
Look for the Sport models as they have better looking alloys and a limited-slip differential if you are interested in doing slidey things around corners.
BMW Z4 2007
The second-generation Z4 was a big step up from the earlier Z3 and in 265-bhp 3.0-litre form is a properly quick sports car too. You can find them in roadster or coupe body styles and while the ride is a bit hard over rough road surfaces the handling is superb. That straight-six motor is a smooth and great sounding engine too.
Audi TT 2007
Audi’s TT has been a strong seller since it first arrived on the market back in 1998. The latest models start at £30k before options but for a third of that you can find a great condition 197-bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged second-generation model. Easier on the wallet and far easier to justify as a weekend purchase.
Nissan 350 Z 2006
The 370Z has been in production for so long it’s as if Nissan has decided to keep building them forever. They still keep selling though and the appeal of a big naturally aspirated engine and rear-wheel-drive are clearly timeless.
The 350Z was much of the same really, and you can find some great examples for our budget. Look for the post-2006 models as these had a bit more power. Convertibles are great fun and tend to be priced similarly to coupes.
Porsche Boxster 987 2005
For those traditionalists who must have a Porsche to satisfy their mid-life crisis itch, the second-generation Boxster is their best bet.
The 240-bhp 2.7-litre flat six offers decent performance and while your neighbour may point out that it isn’t a 911, you can tell them that you bought it for the superior handling that the mid-engined layout offers.
Audi A5 2010
Let’s assume you need to justify your mid-life automotive crisis purchase to your better half. Two-seater sports cars are a tough sell, especially when you have a household with more than two members.
Enter the Audi A5, a four-seater coupe (or convertible) that will easily fit up to four people and still offer a sporty driving experience. A 2010 208-bhp 2.0 TFSI convertible is well within our budget and thanks to Audi’s evolutionary styling language, still looks quite modern.
BMW 3-Series 2009
If you prefer the same sort of thing but with a BMW badge on the front then a similarly aged 325i convertible can also be had for under the £10,000 mark. Despite the badging, the 325i actually has a slightly detuned 215-bhp 3.0-litre inline-six under its bonnet.
The metal folding roof also offers a bit more appeal when the weather turns nasty. You can always get the coupe variant too, they are a bit cheaper which means a more powerful 330i or even high-mileage 335i can be found.
BMW M3 E46 2003
One of the few affordable future classics left out there is the E46 M3. There are plenty available for under £10,000 so take your time as an abused one will cost you plenty more in the long run.
The 343-bhp 3.2-litre inline-six is still a characterful powerplant and offers plenty of performance. Avoid the SMG semi-automated manuals as they are nowhere near as smooth or capable as the modern dual-clutch units.
BMW 840Ci 1997
Now the 8-series is already an appreciating classic, a few years back you could pick a decent car up for £5,000 but that is definitely not the case anymore. Still, the very useable and desirable 840Ci, equipped with either a 4 or 4.4-litre V8 can still be found for around £10,000.
Mileages may be high but as long as the service history is all there it shouldn’t be an issue. The rear seats are pretty tight but the selling point here is that the car’s value may even go up in time, making this more of an investment than a rash purchase. Hopefully.
Jaguar XKR 4.0 1998
Classy GT cars are not just the preserve of the Germans though, Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar are also quite adept in the field. Of the three it is Jaguar that offers the most for our money though.
The beautiful XKR from the late ‘90s offered up to 370-bhp from its supercharged V8. The XKR was in production from 1997 to 2006 and updated models offer a smoother 6-speed automatic transmission and torquier 4.2-litre V8.
Saab 9-3 2.0T SE Convertible 2002
If you have been scanning through these £10k options thinking that if only there was something else out there for less, much less, then our next few choices are going to be of interest.
The Saab 9-3 is still a common sight on our roads in certain areas, its quirky styling and decent build quality makes it appealing to many budget conscious motorists.
The 150bhp 2.0 turbo convertible is a fun little car, with space for four and at £2,000 it seems like a great deal. Do keep a few pounds aside for the inevitable niggles that a 15-year-old car will throw up from time to time.
Peugeot 407 3.0 V6 SE 2006
The Peugeot 407 is an often-overlooked sports car, we are not really sure why as its appealing styling and decent performance make it a great used buy.
Look for one of the rare 211-bhp 3.0-litre V6 models, at a starting price of under £2,000 it is even better value than the Saab. No convertible models were made and they are all automatics but if you just want a relaxing cruiser then the 407 is worth a look.
Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 2004
You are not only limited to obscure old cars if your budget only stretches to a few thousand pounds, no, you can find yourself behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLK for a mere £2,000.
Both convertible and coupe models are on offer, the most common at this level are the CLK320 models, offering a decent 215-bhp from a smooth 3.2-litre V6. While some may have a few minor issues at this price, spending a little more can open up the doors to some very nice examples.
Mid-Life Crisis Resolved
There you have it, even if you budget does not stretch to allow you to indulge in a brand-new 911, there are a wealth of great used choices out there.
The two-seater convertible may be more in line with what is expected to be bought by a paunchy middle-aged man desperately hanging on to his last remaining strands of hair, but if that stereotype is a bit unpalatable then one of our four-seater coupes or super-budget offerings should do the trick.