Rear-wheel-drive is a term that pertains to a powertrain distribution system that puts rotational propulsion exclusively on the rear wheels of a vehicle. Until the 20th century’s end, this was considered the most typical driving configuration. Fast forward to today, most modern vehicles feature front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive. However, purists still consider RWD as the top option and have considered rear-wheel-drive as the premier powertrain layout when it comes to handling.
If you are looking to purchase one but have no idea which is the most affordable option, we came up with a list of the best cheap RWD cars available today. If you want to work on a budget, this list will definitely help you out. You’ll also find additional information about rear-wheel-drive cars after the list, so make sure you keep on reading and adding more info to your knowledge bank.
#10 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda Miata is one RWD car popular for its simple, well-balanced, reliable, and fun-to-drive features. This vehicle takes advantage of all that an RWD has to offer. It has been in production for around a quarter of a century, so you won’t have difficulty finding a Mazda Miata that would fit your budget. The range is between $1,500 to $20,000. The highest price point is usually the late-model third-gen vehicles.
#9 Nissan Z
Nissan’s Z family offers a variety of models, and you have the luxury of choosing from the classic 240Z to the contemporary 370Z. However, if you desire a bang for your buck model, we highly recommend the 350Z. This may not be the most stylish among the Z lineup, but it features a lot of power. You can find plenty of these cars, both convertibles and coupes. The price ranges from $3,000 to $20,000.
#8 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Hyundai has not been getting enough credit for manufacturing a rear-wheel-drive sports car. The Hyundai Genesis is a well-balanced vehicle that provides plenty of rear-drive action. If this car is properly used, it can even give the Nissan Z a good fight on the track. During our thorough research, we learned that there are plenty of low-mileage, late-model Genesis Coupes available for sale with a price range of $10,000 to $20,000.
#7 Lexus IS
The Lexus IS arrived initially in the U.S. back in the early 2000s. This compact yet luxury sedan featured rear-wheel-drive plus a pair of inline-six engines. Since then, the Lexus IS has already featured three generations with different transmission and engine combinations. Up to this day, it remains among the better-used luxury deals.
#6 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic cars in the world. This popular vehicle also has had its good and bad years. There have been so many Mustangs manufactured through the years that’s why buyers will have the luxury to choose from. If you’re in search of a Ford Mustang that is cheap, don’t be surprised at how affordable the options are. The first-generation Mustangs that still decently run are sold for $5,000 or less. We are not kidding. Try to do a thorough search, and you’ll be amazed about the prices.
#5 Mazda RX-8
When the Mazda RX-8 was released in 2004, it was as unconventional as a car could get. It featured double rear half doors, a high-revving rotary engine, and show car styling. Reliability issues tarnished the model’s resale value. However, Mazda came up with solutions and fixed problems. The company even backed the vehicle with a great warranty. Mazda RX-8s that are in good condition can still be had for an affordable price today.
#4 Chevrolet Camaro
The Camaro, just like the Mustang, has always been rear-wheel drive. There were times that this was the most endearing factor about this vehicle. The Chevrolet Camaro can sell up to $75,000 for the most collectible versions. If you are looking to buy, you don’t have to worry about that big of an amount because you can find many second and third-generation Camaros for around $7,000. If lucky, you can even find first-generation fixer-uppers. Imagine owning a classic V8-powered Chevrolet Camaro for such an affordable price. You just have to do a thorough search.
#3 Dodge Charger
You can find plenty of Dodge Chargers, including ex-cop vehicles, that range from $2,000 to $20,000. Fully restored Chargers can go up to $25,000. However, there are serviceable classic ones that range from $10,000 to $15,000. Some projects can even be found for $5,000 or less. This rear-wheel drive sedan is a reliable and impressive vehicle. If you badly want one, don’t hesitate to compare different deals. You’ll definitely find one suited for your budget.
#2 BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series is an ideal vehicle that offers great handling plus rear-wheel drive advantages. You can find a lot of these cars available in different conditions and at varying prices. We’ve checked out some that even sell for under a grand. We only recommend this for car buyers who are only ready to throw wrenches around. The ideal ones are those from $6,500 and up. These are the ones in much better condition. The BMW 3 Series is one of the best cars on this list.
#1 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
These pair of cars emphasize the main advantage of rear-wheel drive, which is balance. The Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S feature a modest engine. However, if you are a skilled driver, you can utilize its well-balanced chassis for drifting like a pro, while an unskilled driver can build skills by spending multiple autocrossing practices. These vehicles are fairly new, so you can’t expect these to be available for sale in droves. However, you can find used ones for under $20,000.
Essential Information about Rear Wheel Drive Cars
There are plenty of 19th-century automobiles that feature a rear-wheel-drive configuration as the engine is mounted at the car’s front part. In 1895, the very first car that was built like this was the Systeme Panhard. This provided automakers the ability to balance the transmission weight under the vehicle by aligning this with the engine’s output shaft.
When an engine is mounted over the rear wheels, the car no longer requires a driveshaft but may serve as too heavy in the rear portion. However, automakers fixed this problem by dividing the transmission into the gearbox and final drive. Spinning the shaft quicker helped reduce the weight and torque of the vehicle.
When fuel became more expensive after the 1979 fuel crisis, front-wheel drive cars that had the engine in front overtook the rear-wheel drive vehicles in popularity. By the 1990s, most US automakers had removed rear-wheel drives from their lineups. General Motors, however, continued to offer the Firebird, Corvette sports, and Camaro in RWD. Ford also did it with their Mustang sports cars and other models built on their Panther platform. The Panther Platform was only discontinued in 2011 and transitioned to a front-wheel-drive layout.
Advantages of RWD Cars
A rear-wheel-drive or RWD car provides better balance due to its more even weight distribution. This also assists prevent uneven wear of the tires, which can cause blowouts or poor efficiency. An RWD car also features a center of gravity lined up with the driver’s seat. This helps in providing an enhanced control sensation that helps improve operational prowess.
At times you may notice an FWD vehicle does not move straight ahead upon acceleration and sometimes pulls either to the left or right instead. This phenomenon is called torque steer, which requires the driver to adjust steering accordingly. This is rare in rear-wheel-drive cars. When you start to accelerate in a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the weight automatically shifts to the rear wheels. This limits traction. However, in an RWD vehicle, it actually offers added traction, especially when it’s really needed.
Another typical issue that FWD cars face is understeering. This type of powertrain makes the tires in the front transfer power from the engine to the road. This makes the front tires experience added wear and tear. When the front tires can’t maintain effective traction levels, understeering happens.
With a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, the opposite happens because the tires that wear out more quickly are the rear ones. This can be corrected by stepping on the gas if you feel the car is starting to skid. You will immediately notice improved cornering traction plus power, which helps keep the vehicle in line. It also helps in lessening the risk of losing steering control.
Whether you want a classic Camaro, Mustang, Charger, or other RWD cars on this list, ensure that you check all of the boxes before making a purchase. Don’t be blinded by the price. Instead, be more investigative or curious why that RWD vehicle is priced like that. Keep in mind that if you are buying an RWD car that is quite old, you may want to include an additional budget for your trips to a car technician. However, if you are willing to spend higher, we highly recommend getting ones that are in much better condition.