Why not have some fun?
According to ALG, the average transaction price for a brand-new car in 2019 was $35,932. If you ask Kelley Blue Book, the figure was even higher at $38,948 (KBB apparently doesn’t include applied consumer incentives). That’s a lot of money. You could go out and buy something fresh off a dealer lot — and, if you ask at least one of our editors, you’d probably be making a sound decision that your future self and sanity would thank you for — or you could have a little fun.
We scoured eBay and found a handful of cool cars that can be bought for the average cost of a new car in America. As you’d probably expect, not all of our choices are practical. In fact, most of ’em aren’t. But they are all most definitely interesting and unique. Click on the image up above to get started.
1973 Ford Bronco
There’s a lot to like about this first-gen Bronco, even setting aside the buzz over the nameplate’s upcoming revival. These old 4x4s are as charming and attractive as ever (Remember when Keanu Reeves drove one in “Speed“?) and as you can see from this example, selling prices for clean ones are through the roof compared to where they were even a decade ago.
My grandmother had a ’77 Ranger that our family sold when she was unable to drive herself anymore. That old 302 wasn’t fast, but it would light up the dry-rotted tires that we suspected were just as original as everything else on it, which wasn’t too unusual for west Texas. It went to a great home, but I’d do anything to go back in time and try to keep it in the family. — Associate Editor Byron Hurd
Ford Bronco Information
1979 Pontiac Trans Am
I’m not actually suggesting that any sane person would choose to buy and drive a pristine 1979 Pontiac Trans Am as a daily driver instead of a more rational family sedan or crossover. But you’d be the coolest kid on the block if you did. This specimen is basically perfect, and the seller says it’s a matching numbers original. And it’s got the right powertrain, too.
Way back in 1979, performance was, for most automakers at least, a distant memory as concerns over emissions and fuel prices conspired to limit horsepower and driving enjoyment. But Pontiac wasn’t quite ready to let all the fun slip away, sending its much-loved 400 cubic inch V8 engine out for one last hurrah before succumbing to the pressure to downsize. Mated to a four-speed manual transmission, an argument could be made that the ’79 Trans Am was the last of the classic muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s.
Speaking of downsizing, the 1980 and 1981 Trans Ams were offered with a 301 cubic inch V8 that Pontiac boosted with one of the first factory turbochargers. Like this one right here, which also falls neatly into our self-imposed pricing constraints. — Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski
Pontiac Trans Am Information
2000 BMW M5
A price range of $35,000 to $38,000 is almost too much for a really cool used car. You don’t need anywhere near that. Then again, if I did have that much, I’d have a much easier time finding a good E39 BMW M5. This one has low miles and is painted the classic Royal Red (although, really, any color that isn’t black or silver would do).
This is a true modern classic, and even if this particular one could be bested for the money (this similar one went for less on BaT), it would definitely do quite nicely. — West Coast Editor James Riswick
BMW M5 Information
Toyota Land Cruiser BJ40
Vintage Toyota Land Cruisers are still hot, and with the number of high-dollar restorations out there it’s a little hard for anything to really stand out. But something about this BJ40 – the “B” indicates a diesel engine, if the grille badge wasn’t a clue – just ticks all the boxes. The creamy color, the roll-up side windows, the grey-painted steelies wearing deliciously vintage skinny all-terrains.
Don’t expect a modern turbodiesel under the hood. The B-Type inline-six is going to be pokey and clattery, but that just adds to the charm. We can’t say if this one is fairly valued – find an expert to assess its condition and value – but it sure presents nicely. And wouldn’t you rather have this than a Highlander? — Senior Editor Alex Kierstein
1973 Alfa Romeo GT Veloce
I’ve always dreamed of owning an Alfa Romeo one day, and this yellow 1973 Alfa Romeo GTV hits the spot. It has the DOHC 2.0-liter and Weber carbs replacing the fuel injection system — I’m more than OK with that. As most petrolheads probably do, I find the GTV to be an utterly gorgeous car.
I haven’t been lucky enough to get behind the wheel of one before, but all I’ve heard from others is that the steering is as good as it gets in the world of automobiles. My biggest complaint about this particular GTV is the modern Alpine head unit in the dash. It looks out of place, and I’d want to be listening to that sweet Alfa song. — Assistant Editor Zac Palmer
Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
I was originally perusing eBay under these parameters, and considered picking a used Model S, or one of the numerous Fisker Karmas available. Then I thought better of it. I’ve got enough excitement in my life. I’d like something I could do a road trip in with my family and be comfortable and still efficient in daily driving duties.
Call me crazy, but I’m going with a new Honda Clarity PHEV Touring. I could save a few bucks if I really wanted to by going with a lightly used model like this one. It’s mature but not without its charming quirks. It’s comfy and smooth, has an excellent interior and it’ll fit family no problem. You don’t see a lot of them, and at $35,555 before incentives, it comes well loaded with standard equipment. Am I getting boring as I get older? — Senior Green Editor John Snyder