10 cheapest European sports cars to maintain

When it comes to low running cost sports cars, it’s easy to dismiss European models altogether. After all, the Japanese are famous for their reliable performance cars that can go tens of thousands of miles without requiring a lot of work, and even American manufacturers make plenty of muscle cars that are as cheap as a chip to run. So why would a budget enthusiast choose a European sports car?

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Well, the truth is that there are many different models that cost no more to run than their Japanese or American counterparts. In most cases, these cars tend to have simpler builds, less technology, and less demanding regular maintenance schedules. So not only are they affordable to maintain, but they are also great driving cars! Let’s take a look at ten of the cheapest in Europe sports cars to be maintained across the entire performance spectrum.

ten Abarth 124 Spider


Abarth 124 Spider
Via Stellantis Media

The Abarth 124 Spider is an Italian take on a Japanese favorite, because underneath it’s mostly a Mazda Miata. Mechanically, the two cars are nearly identical, which is great news for 124 Spider owners, as it means their cars won’t suffer from the usual host of Italian reliability gremlins.


Abarth 124 Spider
Via Stellantis Media

Not only are Miata components reliable, they are also inexpensive to find if they need to be replaced. The Italian Abarth version can take full advantage of this plentiful supply of parts, but it comes with an extra dash of European style and flair.

9 Lotus Elise


Lotus Elise
Via bring a trailer

The Lotus Elise’s formula has remained largely unchanged for the more than twenty years it has been on the market, which has contributed enormously to its reliability. It’s one of the least obtrusive British sports cars on the market, thanks in part to its bulletproof Toyota engine.


Lotus Elise
Via bring a trailer

Earlier Elise models were fitted with a Rover engine, and they are not as reliable, although they also tend to be the cheapest examples to buy. Whichever option buyers choose, the back-to-basics nature of the Elise means that it should be fairly easy to fix any issues that arise, although most owners can run their car on tens of thousands of kilometers without major problems.


8 BMW 230i


BMW 230i 2022
Through BMW

Anyone looking for something a little newer might consider a 2022 model year BMW 230i, the base 2-Series in the US market. It comes with all the classic features of a good driver’s car, as it has a 255hp four-cylinder turbo engine, RWD only, and plenty of performance-enhancing options.


BMW 230i 2022
Through BMW

It’s automatic only, but it’s still as precise to drive as the previous generation 2 Series. cheapest to use. The next-gen car is expected to be no different.


7 VW Golf R


Volkswagen Golf R 2 2016 cropped
Via Ambassador Automobiles

The new Golf R is slated to return in 2022, but it’s quite pricey, with a starting price of over $43,000. A better value option is to buy a mint example of the previous generation Golf R, as it’s still a great car and should be just as reliable as buying a new one.


Volkswagen Golf R 2016
Via Ambassador Automobiles

Golf courses in general are quite economical to operate and maintain, and the R is no different. The Mk7 R comes with either 296hp or 306hp depending on the model year purchased, and its handling is just as engaging as its less powerful sibling, the Golf GTI.

6 Porsche 944


Porsche 944
ViaCoys

Usually, Porsches are considered very expensive to run, but the 944 is a bit of an exception to the rule. It’s generally a reliable car and assuming buyers can find one in good condition, it’s also quite cheap to maintain. Not only that, but right now the 944s are some of the cheapest Porsches on the market to buy.

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Porsche 944
ViaCoys

The car’s bargain price is unlikely to last forever, and as more and more enthusiasts realize that the 944s offer one of the best value for money of any German classic, pristine examples will become much harder to find. So anyone who wants one should act fast.

5 BMW Z4


BMW Z4
Via NetCarShow

It’s not the most hardcore of sports cars, but the BMW Z4 makes a great weekend car and doubles as a daily driver. It’s perfect for drivers who prefer road trips to track days, and it comes in a variety of builds from mildly hot to really fast.


BMW Z4
Via NetCarShow

Buying a ten or fifteen year old example with low mileage is a great option, as most of the car’s depreciation will have already been accounted for, but it shouldn’t yet be old enough to need major work. There are plenty of examples on the used market which means they are cheap to buy and affordable to maintain.


4 MG MGB


MG MGB
Via bring a trailer

A classic British roadster, the MGB offers an original way to own a European sports car without breaking the bank. They can commonly be found on Craigslist for just a few thousand dollars, and even some of the most pristine examples on Bring a Trailer don’t sell for more than $10,000.


MG MGB
Via bring a trailer

It’s worth noting that older MGs aren’t exactly the most reliable cars out there, so owners will have to put in a fair amount of work to keep one on the road. But, parts are cheap, so for anyone who prefers to run their own vehicles, the MGB is a great affordable option.

3 caterham seven


Caterham Seven 170
Via Caterham

When it comes to quirky sports cars, it doesn’t get much more quirky than a Caterham. Delivered as standard without doors, windows or a roof, a Caterham Seven offers an unparalleled driving experience. They are not cheap to buy, but they hold their value very well over time.


Caterham Seven 170
Via Caterham

As for maintenance, since this is a kit car, it comes apart very easily, so replacing worn parts shouldn’t be a problem. Caterham uses a variety of powertrains from different manufacturers, but they’re all easy to find in spare parts, so even major repairs shouldn’t mean breaking the bank.

2 VW Scirocco


The front of the Scirocco R
Via FavCars

The third-generation Scirocco was phased out in 2017 after years of poor sales, but there are still plenty of used examples on the market. The car was based on the Golf platform and shared most of its components, so running costs are almost the same as a regular Golf.

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Scirocco R rear 3/4 view
Via FavCars

Maintenance is just as easy and it shares a Golf-like handling profile, but that’s a good thing in this case. The third generation car was not sold in North America, but Americans can still import second and first generation Sciroccos as they are old enough to fall under the 25 year rule.

1 Lotus Exige


Lotus Exige 430 Coupe
Via Lotus

The Exige is essentially a Lotus Elise but faster, more hardcore and generally more expensive. Still, for anyone with the budget, it’s a great upgrade over a standard Elise and will make track days even more exciting.


Lotus Exige 430 Coupe
Via Lotus

Despite its extra power and aerodynamic bits, the Exige doesn’t cost much more to run than a standard Elise, thanks to a similar mix of factory-built and third-party components. All Series 2 and 3 cars come with a Toyota inline-4 or V6, meaning their reliability is exemplary for such a fast car.


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About the Author

Lee J. Murillo