Drifting On A Budget: Best Cheap Drift Cars For Beginners

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If you like cars, it’s safe to say that few things can make you happier than drifting around a track or doing donuts and burning rubber in an old parking lot. However, many people try to avoid overdoing it because let’s face it; drifting can be hard on a car.

When making high speed turns, slides, and maneuvers you’re pushing your car’s suspension to the max, and most drifters must keep their car under constant repair. This can turn a lot of people away from the sport.

best cheap drift cars for beginners

The good news is that drifting doesn’t have to be expensive! There are a lot of great older model cars that you can scoop up without breaking the bank, and in the long run will cost far less to maintain than a brand new model. Below we’ve put together a list of some timeless drifting favorites that are guaranteed to give you a good time.

Nissan 350z

nissan 350z

Hated by few and loved by most, the 350z is a great example of Japanese quality and engineering. Hitting the market in 2003, it harks back to the original 300zx in its design, which was a cult classic among car enthusiasts. It gained widespread popularity after it was featured in the Fast and Furious franchise’s Tokyo Drift.

Sporting a large 3.5 Liter V6 engine, powerful rear-wheel-drive, tight suspension, and an aggressive facade, the 350z was the dream car of every kid on the block back in the day. Now it has been since replaced with newer models, and you can pick a used model up for less than ten grand.

Taking this beast onto the track, you’ll find yourself eating corners, being thrown back into your seat, and pushing up the revs. It is a blast to drive.

The engine is loud and angry, spitting like some strange beast, and the wide rear-end loves nothing more than being thrown in a circle and it effortlessly slides through bends and curves.

The 350z is also incredibly reliable. Japanese engineers have a history of making cars that can last over 300,000 miles, and this car is no exception. With regular oil changes and a yearly tune-up, this engine will keep on going, meaning you’ll spend less time in the garage, and more time on the track.

Mazda MX-5

mazda mx5

More often known by its nickname, the Miata is one of the most successful sports cars of all time. It was originally modeled after Britain’s Lotus Elan to provide drivers with a cheaper alternative. It eventually completely trumped the Elan because not only was it cheaper, but it was built far better.

The MX-5 is a small convertible with a 1.8 Liter inline four-cylinder style engine (although they came out with an optional 2.0 Liter model after 2005) and weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds. It seats two people and has a very small trunk, so make sure you pack light.

For under five grand, the Miata truly is the perfect summer sportscar. Driving down a winding road with the top down and warm wind in your face is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, and on the track, it’s light curb weight, and low profile allow the Miata to absolutely rip around corners.

The best thing about the Miata is its durability. These little cars can last you well over 200,000 miles and still run as strong as day one. Parts are dirt cheap, and there is a huge aftermarket community, which means you can modify your car very easily.

BMW E46 M3

Many people have argued that the BMW E46 was one of the greatest cars of its generation, and it’s M3 track model is an absolute beast. This car was created to showcase the German engineers’ ability to utterly dominate the track and has gone head to head with some of the greatest.

bmw e46 m3
Credit: motapics.com

The E46 model was engineered from 1999-2005 and provides a luxurious leather interior, and a monstrous 3.2 Liter inline six-cylinder engine. It sits low, has a wide wheel base, and a top speed of 155 miles per hour.

Today, you can get a used M3 for under 10 grand, and it is worth every penny you spend. Around the track, the engine screams and there are few cars that so effortlessly glide around a track like this one. These engines have also been reported to last well over 300,000 miles with proper maintenance, which makes it a great choice for the sake of longevity.

Nissan Skyline R33

nissan skyline r33 gtr

The Nissan Skyline has unfortunately had a troubled history with the US Department of Transportation, but the R33 was one of the few models that was allowed into the country. It is a legend among drifters and street racers, and if you can find one for sale you’re guaranteed to have ride of your life.

Produced 1993-1998, the Skyline R33 comes stock with a 2.5 Liter inline six-cylinder engine, and is traditionally a rear-wheel-drive format (although some models were all-wheel-drive). It’s light curb, weight and powerful engine allows it to drift around even the tightest corners with speed and precision.

Because of their scarcity, their value still remains relatively high, but you can get stock models for as cheap as 12 grand. Oftentimes these engines have been completely rebuilt by their owners, so you might even get a brand new engine.

Read more: Our Nissan Skyline R33 GTR Review

As you can see, drifting doesn’t have to be an expensive sport. These were some of the best cheap drift cars of their age and are still widely respected. You can get any of these cars for less than half the cost of newer models, and they are guaranteed to give you just as much fun. Happy Drifting!

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