One of the best parts about working at FCP Euro is being surrounded by so many other passionate car enthusiasts. From the people who produce, edit, and post videos and content online, secure parts from suppliers, add them to the catalog, stock the warehouse, pick and ship orders, handle questions and solve problems, to the people that handle the returns and refunds for our Lifetime Replacement Guarantee, FCP Euro is full of enthusiasts, just like our customers. Of course, everyone here has their favorites when it comes to makes and models, which always makes for lively discussions as to which cars are the best. We polled FCP Euro employees from five different departments to see their pick to find the best used cars under $10,000.
First up to bat is Kaitlyn Courtney from FCP Euro's Fulfillment team. If you've ever purchased something from FCP Euro, chances are she had a hand in getting it here, helping to secure the best quality parts at the best prices. Kaitlyn's choice is the 2009 Audi A3 Type 8P. Having owned one herself, she knows more than a thing or two about the hatchback Audi. The 8P A3 is undoubtedly one of the more versatile and understated Audis of recent years, and Kaitlyn notes that the versatile 5-door 'Sportback' design as one of the key features of her "Three C's." Comfort, Cargo, and Camouflage.
Comfort, as the stock A3 suspension offers a responsive, but not overly harsh ride, and can easily be modified for performance thanks to the many available parts that it also shares with the Mk5/6 VW GTI.
Cargo, because with the seats folded down, the A3 can carry a surprising amount of it. It's the perfect make-shift camping vehicle, big enough to fit a full-size air mattress in the back or carry groceries, coolers, hiking gear, whatever you may need for your weekend away. Plus, if it is equipped with the Audi Cold Weather Package, it came with a special ski bag and a pull-down opening in the rear seat so you can slide your skis through and still carry passengers.
Camouflage, because although the A3 looks absolutely incredible slammed on its face with big 18s or 19s, the A3 can also easily fit in with most commuter hatchback "family cars" of that era. Especially when it comes to the 3.2 Quattro version, this car turns into a true sleeper with the right tuning and modifications.
The 2009 Audi A3 is available in 2.0t front-wheel-drive manual, 2.0t Quattro DSG, or 3.2 VR6 Quattro drivetrains, each offering its own advantages to potential drivers. All versions are effortless to tune, and as we mentioned, pretty much any part that works on a Mk5 or Mk6 GTI will likely also fit the A3, meaning there is plenty to choose from, no matter what your flavor or preference when it comes to performance and handling.
As Kaitlyn notes, there are some things to be aware of, particularly on the 2.0t TSI variants. Timing chain tensioner issues are first and foremost, and the 2009 models have the earlier, troublesome tensioner design, so you want to be sure this has been replaced, or put it down as one of the first things to address. The car is only available in a manual in 2.0t front-wheel drive, but as Kaitlyn says, Quattro is worth sacrificing for driving enthusiasts. Lastly, the panoramic sunroofs can leak and rattle, so higher-optioned models that have that may require some extra care to get them back to 100%
Chris Garguilo hails from the FCP Euro Reverse Logistics team. That means he's one of the key people who makes sure that FCP Euro customers are swiftly and accurately refunded when they make a return or submit a part for warranty under our Lifetime Replacement Guarantee. Chris has gone back to one of the greats for his choice, the 1994 BMW 325iS.
Chris notes that the E36 is one of the all-time classics from BMW. It combines great looks, a nimble, balanced, versatile chassis, and near-bulletproof reliability, thanks to the M50 BMW 6-cylinder engine. One of the key reasons for choosing the 325iS, rather than an E36 M3, is you get avoiding the growing 'M3 Tax' that is driving their price well above the $10,000 mark. The pre-1995 325iS is also equipped with a limited-slip differential, something only available on the M3 after 1994.
The E36 is undoubtedly one of the greats when it comes to custom or tuner builds. From show cars to drift, from daily drivers to track builds, the E36 is an almost perfect answer for everyone. That flexibility is one of the key things for Chris, and it's why this is one of his favorites. As he says, with the M-Technic body kit and a few basic upgrades, the 325iS is the perfect poor-mans M3.
In terms of downsides, Chris notes that the factory 5-speed Getrag transmission isn't up to the task of handling big power, something he would know a bit about owning a big-turbo E36 himself. The other major things are related to the rear subframe and suspension mounts, both are known problem areas on the E36 when it comes to more aggressive driving and setups. Lastly, the cars' age means that things like rust and lack of more basic general maintenance and upkeep are things to look out for and may take up more budget than you plan for. All of that said, it's pretty difficult to beat a well-built 325iS, whether it's an OEM+ cruiser or something a bit more rowdy.
If you need proof that age and fatherhood change you, here it is. Digital Content Manager, Ben Marouski, has gone SUV on us. While he may be under the strong influence of some of the Cayenne-related content he's been producing as of late when you start to look at the numbers and his reasoning, it's pretty tough to argue with his choice.
The 955 Porsche Cayenne Turbo sold from 2003 until 2006, and Ben chose 2006 since it's the newest example you can buy. As he says, he's looking at this from the standpoint of a dad who needs a tow vehicle for his race car, that can also make all the right noises, is fun to drive, and can look pretty badass. With its capable four-wheel-drive system, active, adjustable, and self-leveling air suspension, big power from the twin-turbo V8 engine, and a Porsche badge to boot, the 955 Cayenne Turbo is the ultimate extreme family-hauler and tow-vehicle. Add in some overland bits, and you're good to go for any kind of weekend adventure.
If you've been following our Cayenne series, you'll know that there are some crucial items to address on the 4.5 L turbo V8. First and foremost, cooling system problems are common but easily addressed. The turbo engine itself is remarkably reliable, but they do need regular service with the highest quality parts to stay in tip-top condition. The transmission is great provided that it's serviced regularly as well, while the driveshaft support bearing is a known issue that just needs simple replacement if it goes bad.
All-in-all, it's pretty tough to argue with a 444 horsepower Porsche for under $10,000.
FCP Euro Motorsport Engineer, Cory Calvin, knows a thing or two (or three-hundred) about cars of all kinds. With many years in the dealership, performance, and motorsport arenas under his belt, he's worked on everything from high-end Audi R8s to fleets of Spec Miatas and everything in between. For his $10,000, he went with what some would say is an underrated BMW, the 128i.
Living in the shadow of its big brother, the 135i, the 128i doesn't have the easy power of the N54 twin-turbo engine or the flash of the wide-body top-range BMW 1M, but for Cory's money, it's one of the most reliable, fun, and rewarding cars out there. The naturally aspirated N52 engine is as close to bulletproof as you can get. With a few small modifications, you can get enough power to be more than enough fun on the backroads or around a racetrack. Since it's not a turbo, there are far fewer parts to break, and less heat, which means less stress and fatigue on nearly everything else in the engine bay.
The chassis is modern, strong, and very well balanced. Although Cory concedes that there are plenty of other BMWs with a great chassis, such as the E36 and E46, the E82 128i has a much more modern interior, and it will suffer from far-fewer age-related issues. Key things to look out for include water pumps, Valvetronic actuators, oil filter housing leaks, and of course, the plastic coolant housing failure.
All in all, the 128i remains a great buy for enthusiasts looking to get into a superb, surprisingly analog, rear-wheel-drive car for under $10,000. Could the E82 BMW 128i be one of the great future-classics? With ingredients like that, it very well could be.
We're rounding out our selection of the best used cars for under $10,000 with a selection from FCP Euro's Staff Writer and Editor, Evan Madore. Evan's got a BMW E36 M3 that he loves, but ever since he picked up an R53 MINI Cooper S 'as a daily,' that M3 hasn't left the garage. [OUCH - E.M.] Nor has his purchasing of R53 MINIs slowed down, as Evan now owns three of the sporty hatchbacks. When it came time to choose, there was only one car on his list.
The MINI Cooper stormed onto the scene back in 2002 and instantly won the hearts of buyers all over. While some may dismiss it as just another 'cute' car, anyone who has slid behind the wheel of one of these surprisingly capable cars can tell you otherwise. Indeed, Evan's track-spec R53 Cooper S is a force to be reckoned with, being far more capable than many other high-dollar sports cars, and more fun to boot. The supercharged 1.6 L engine, excellent chassis, and nimble suspension combined with the small size and relatively lightweight are all major components of the fun factor.
Evan recommends a face-lifted 2005-2006 MINI Cooper S, as they have a few key features over earlier examples. These include updated electrics, Teflon-coated supercharger blades for better reliability and durability, as well as shorter gearing for more fun on the back roads. The engine itself is known for its reliability, and with the supercharger, it makes all the right noises, and decent power as well. Despite the small size, the R53 MINI Cooper S is surprisingly roomy, and thanks to the glass greenhouse, it feels open and has great visibility. Yes, the suspension is taut and sporty, but you'll be having so much fun it's unlikely a few bumps along the road will be a bother.
Since everything is packed into such small spaces, there are a few things to consider when it comes to R53 ownership. First up, the clutch is known for a short lifespan, and it's not exactly easy to replace. The car has to be put into "front end service mode" to access the necessary components, and the engine itself must be pushed forward to remove the transmission. You also need to be sure to use the correct MINI-approved transmission gear oil, as that has to be drained to remove the transmission. The superchargers require service, and little things like interior rattles and rust on the rear hatch are common.
If you are on the hunt for one of these great cars, Evan recommends a low-mileage example with a full service history and recently replaced clutch, for close to that $10,000 limit. If you can find one, the more exclusive JCW-tuned MINI Cooper S is the fastest of them all. Featuring upgraded suspension, intake, exhaust, cylinder head, and a modified supercharger, all of which is good for just shy of 200 horsepower.
As you can tell, daily conversations around FCP Euro are always fun and full of plenty of passion and opinions. As true European car enthusiasts, we're also more than happy to help point fellow enthusiasts in the right direction, whether for the best parts to buy or the next used car to buy.
If you have questions about any of the cars listed above, leave them in the comments section below.
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55