Best Tuners Under $5,000

by Gabrielle DeSantis

DIY and racing enthusiasts will tell you, buying your first project car is a dream come true. Bargain shoppers have a lot of solid options that provide a painless entry point to DIY modification. These cars are legends in the tuning community with good reason. There are plenty of great first-time tuners under $5,000.

Lexus IS300 | Keven St-Pierre / BM Cars via Getty Images

The Lexus IS300

When discretion is a plus, look no further than the Lexus IS300. This unassuming sedan looks like a basic daily driver, but appearances can be deceiving. For less than $5,000, buyers can own a subtle sedan with a variation of the same engine installed in the MK4 Supra.

The right modifications can take this sleepy car from 300 hp to 2,000 hp. This car is only limited by budget and vision. Its low purchase price and expansive potential make this a perfect choice for anyone interested in building something truly spectacular without going broke.

As owners’ skills increase, the IS300 can be gradually bumped up the speed and power ladder. It’s a tuner that can truly grow with its owner. Low start-up costs, infinite possibilities, and instant recognition are all beneficial to a first-time buyer.

The Volkswagen Golf is a classic tuner that easily comes in under $5,000

VW Golf 1.6. | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

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The Golf GTI is a popular choice for tuners of all skill levels, but it’s especially suited to beginners. It makes a safe and reliable daily driver but can easily be modified for the track. The Golf serves 180 hp from the factory. This number is easily boosted to over 300 without a massive investment.

The Golf is one of the best-selling cars of all time. This three-door hot hatch is easy to find on the used market. High supply means great prices. This is a great tuner with plenty of options under $5,000. Its popularity means aftermarket parts are also plentiful.

Subaru WRX | Antony Dickson/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

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The Subaru WRX is a racing legend and beloved tuner. One look at its 2.5L boxer turbo engine explains why. This is a powerful machine that can withstand being put through its paces. There’s something to be said for popularity in the tuning world. The selection of aftermarket parts for the WRX is nearly limitless. As such, Road and Track ranked it third on its list of best cars for first-time modifiers.

It’s a popular choice for tuning as it’s easily modified and doesn’t cost a fortune to optimize. Just a few thousand dollars can turn out a roaring rally beast ready to take on any course. This light, fast, and agile car rolls off the production line with impressive specs before a single modification is ever made. The Subaru WRX offers up to 320 horsepower off the showroom floor.

As with other popular models among tuners, the WRX comes with another great resource: its community. The huge web of WRX enthusiasts across the globe is a community known for being close-knit. They offer more than the Subaru wave. They offer a wealth of knowledge and experience.

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