12 of the Cheapest Cars You Can Buy With 500 Horsepower
It wasn’t so long ago 500 horsepower seemed unattainable on most budgets. Now, there are many options under $50,000.
A decade ago, 500 horsepower was a power level reserved for top-tier automobiles. I remember being absolutely stunned when Ford announced that the Shelby GT500, upon its re-introduction in 2007, would come with a power rating of 500 horsepower.
Remember, this was a time when the Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, and high-end exotics like the Lamborghini Gallardo were just starting to break the 500 horsepower benchmark.
So the idea that you could have that kind of power from something as accessible as a Mustang (Shelby or no) seemed groundbreaking at the time.
Now, however, in a post Hellcat world, 500 horsepower seems pretty tame, even pedestrian.
Which in many ways is a shame, because it’s turning a whole generation of car enthusiasts who grew up with YouTube into meat heads, who think speed only really happens when a car has over 700 horsepower.
Internet car culture can more or less be summed up with James Pumphrey yelling, “Mo powa bebeh!”
However, in other ways, this is good news. Because a rising tide lifts all boats. As cars like the Hellcat and new GT500 break the 700 mark, it drives down demand for their down-on-power counterparts of yesteryear.
Meaning that cars with 500 horsepower are no longer unattainable halo cars. Almost every single car on this list can be purchased well under $50,000 (some of them under $30,000).
And if you’re reading this right now, scoffing at the notion of 500 horsepower, I have some advice for you.
First, get your driver’s license. Second, actually drive something with 500 horsepower. And tell me with a straight face, it didn’t scare you a little.
I really, truly believe anybody can handle a car with 300 horsepower. Anybody.
400 horsepower is something most people could probably get used to. But 500 horsepower? No. Sorry. It’s not for everybody. It’s not even for most.
500 horsepower crosses a threshold. It’s at that level of power that you begin to feel real weight on your chest when you accelerate — like the steering wheel is trying to break free from your hands. The world around you starts to move faster than you can reasonably react to. You have to know what you’re doing when you start messing around with 500 horsepower.
You might tell me that you need more; that you’re a power-junkie who won’t settle for anything less than 1000 horsepower. Yeah, sure. Whatever. Good for you. Everybody thinks you’re cool.
But for the layman, putting your foot into 500 horsepower is a constantly thrilling and at least slightly scary experience.
Any of the cars on this list have enough power to create that experience. And for the first time ever, you don’t have to sell your house to get one.
(A note: In this article, we’re strictly looking at stock cars. I know your cousin built a ‘turbo LS-swapped whatever’ that makes 500 horsepower, or you’re building a ‘big turbo Civic that’s going to blah blah blah’ 600 horsepower. Save it. Yes it’s possible to build big horsepower for cheap. That’s not what we’re talking about here.)
2007 – 2012 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
500 – 550 horsepower
Hey, we were just talking about this one! The S197 Shelby GT500 really should get more credit for how much it accelerated the horsepower wars. The first iterations brought us a steady increase of 500 to 550 horsepower stemming from a supercharged 5.4-litre V8.
While one of these cars would have set you back over $60,000 new (still a power bargain at the time) the Canadian Black Book now puts the average asking price just under $37,000.
You might hum and haw over getting one of these versus a new 5.0-litre S550 car, and it’s logical discussion. But come on, Cobra badges. What else do you need?
If you can find a 2013 or 2014 GT500 with 662 horsepower for under $50,000, do it. Don’t think. Just do it.
2011 – 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Okay, Dodge’s 6.4-litre Hemi V8 (aka the ‘392’) doesn’t and hasn’t ever made 500 horsepower from the factory. Technically.
But damn it, it’s so close.
And since the Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price just under $35,000 for one of these, you’re still getting a bargain.
Expect to pay at least $40,000 if you’re looking to get your hands on a 2015 or newer with 485 horsepower.
I suspect the reason these cars still haven’t broken the 500 horsepower mark is because they’re actually more fun tuned the way they are. SRT 392 cars are a complete laugh on the street. All the power is right down low, where you can actually use it.
They’re like driving a cartoon character; always squawking the tires and putting smiles on your passengers faces when you poke the throttle even a little.
Trust me, you won’t miss that 30 horsepower. At all. But if the number really matters that much to you—a tune, some headers and exhaust, you’re probably there.
2011 – 2014 Dodge Charger SRT8
Everything you can say of the Challenger is also true of the Charger. Expect you get two extra doors.
And the Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price of a Charger SRT8 just under $32,000, so you’ll most likely save some money over the Challenger (not to mention, you’ll attract much unless unwanted attention from both the police and annoying mid-life crisis-ers at gas stations).
If you’re looking to get into a 2015 or newer with 485 horsepower, expect to pay at least $38,000.
2011 – 2014 Chrysler 300 SRT8
Admit it. You totally forgot about the Chrysler 300 SRT8, didn’t you? One can be forgiven as this trim level for the Chrysler 300 has been discontinued since 2014. However, you still get all the same performance as the Charger and Challenger from the exact same powerplant.
Additionally, the Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price just under $24,000. So you can save a pile of cash should you be able to find one in good condition.
Remember when Walter White drove a black one in the final season of Breaking Bad? Doesn’t that make you want one just a little bit more?
2008 – 2015 Cadillac CTS-V
550 – 556 horsepower
The big news in 2008 when the refreshed Cadillac CTS, and CTS-V by extension, was released, was that the ‘V’ was faster than a Ferrari California. They even drag raced them on the U.S. version of Top Gear (remember the U.S. version of Top Gear?)
The Cadillac kicked the snot out of the Ferrari. And that was just the wagon variant (yes, you can get a wagon variant, and I think you really, really should).
All this exotic-killing performance is thanks to the CTS-V’s supercharged 6.2-litre LSA V8, which is actually based on the LS9 V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1.
Translation; it’s a monster.
Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price right around $38,000
2005 – 2013 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 C6
With so much hype around the upcoming mid-engined C8 Corvette, it’s very easy to forget how much of a bargain older model Corvettes are.
While base model Corvettes from the C5 through C7 generations have fallen starkly in price, and are all great options for going fast on a budget, none quite reach the 500 horsepower mark.
The only ‘Vette to hit 500 horsepower within a (somewhat) reasonable budget is the C6 generation Z06. Just like the newer ‘Vettes, this car put the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the day on notice.
Because it’s a Z06, it’s still holding its value pretty well. Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price right around $48,000 for an older model, around upwards of $60,000 for a newer model.
However, I doubt you’ll have many complaints when you drop your foot into the Z06’s 7.0-litre LS7 V8 and fry the tires off the rear wheels.
2012 – 2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Here’s another one you probably forgot about. The first-gen Camaro Zl1 was king of the hill with its 580 horsepower (thanks to the same 6.2-litre LSA V8 found in the CTS-V) for about a minute before Ford stole their thunder by announcing the new GT500 with its 5.8-litre supercharger V8 and earth-shattering 662 horsepower.
But being a forgotten contender can be good news for the second hand buyer. Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price just under $42,000 for this king of the Camaros.
There’s also lots to love over the GT500, particularly in the area of driver comfort. It could be said that the interior of the ZL1 was an upgrade over the Ford, and magnetic ride suspension lifted right from the CTS-V was a huge differentiator in handling and ride quality.
I’d recommend the ZL1 over the more track-focused Z/28. Not only do you get more power and amenities, but the Z/28 seems to have entered the collectors market and prices are becoming unreasonable.
2005 – 2010 BMW M5
It’s a good day to ride the back of the pegasus through the gates Valhalla—let’s talk about buying a used BMW M car!
Let me take you back to the year 2005, when an M5 didn’t come with any turbos and fuel efficiency was of little to no concern.
It was a time when under the hood of this full-sized sports sedan was a 5.0-litre V10 engine making 500 horsepower at 7,750 rpm and 384 lb⋅ft of torque at 6,100 rpm.
The idea of a V-10 engine feels ancient now. The M5 has since become much more sophisticated since then. But if you don’t mind the inevitable, whopping maintenance bills, you may be able to have some old school, tire roasting fun in this old ‘M’.
Canadian Black Book puts the average asking price just under $30,000. Which is a serious bargain (as long as nothing serious breaks).
A 2011 or newer jumps the power number closer to 600 horsepower, but don’t expect any bargains on price. You’d be hard-pressed to get away under $50,000.
2012 – 2013 Mercedes C63 AMG
457 – 507 horsepower
If buying a used ‘M’ car is riding through the gates of Vahalla, buying a used AMG car is riding a nuclear bomb out of the hangar bay Dr. Strangelove style.
There’s been a lot of variation in the power output of this car, over the years, even over a short period of time. What’s stayed mostly consistent is its shouty, tire-shredding 32-Valve DOHC 6.2-litre V8.
These cars are not what you think a Mercedes is like. They’re loud, tail-happy and the ride is spine-shatteringly harsh.
Which, hey, maybe you’re into that kind of thing. No judgment. If this AMG is your kind of kink, expect to pay around $41,000, according to the Canadian Black Book.
2008 – 2012 Nissan GT-R R35
485 – 535 horsepower
Granted, these are very tricky to find a bargain on. But patience will pay off.
It’s not uncommon to see examples sell for around $50,000 on Bring a Trailer.
It’s been said before, but what the GT-R accomplishes with its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 is absolutely astonishing. Nothing accelerates like a GT-R. I would (and have) described the experience as “face-ripping”.
It’s been reported that this car will do 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds. And that’s basically all you need to know.
Even though the car is now over a decade old, Godzilla is still one of my all-time favourite cars that I’ve ever driven. If given a budget of any size, it’s probably where my money would go.
2003 – 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10
Another car we tend to forget about, probably because it gets discontinued so frequently, is the Viper.
2003 was the first time the Viper cracked 500 horsepower, which is surprising granted its enormous 8.3-litre V10 engine.
While the car seems like an antique, even in the face of more modern Vipers, the SRT-10 can accelerate from 0–60 mph in 3.8 seconds. That’s nothing to sneeze at, even by modern standards.
While it will make your friends and family question your general sanity if you buy one, you’ll also probably get a lot of thumbs up.
A little shopping around eBay and you may be able to find a decent example for around $50,000.