Summer Car Recommendations for Every Budget – 2019 Edition

For us, the end of ski season this weekend marks the beginning of the driving season.  Hence it’s time to update our summer recommendations for 2019.  For this year I have changed the criteria a bit. The new cut off for consideration is 1990 (vs. 1970 in 2018).  The budgets are all in US $ and I have given a few more American and Japanese cars consideration alongside the usual European suspects. This year’s list also includes a few less conventional recommendations.

The 2019 list, starting with the most affordable, is:

$15k-25k range: Last year I recommended a Porsche 911 (996) & a Maserati GranSport, this year we are going to change it up a bit and go with a Porsche Cayman S but stay with the Maserati GranSport.  It’s hard to go wrong recommending a Porsche.  In terms of bargains these days, the Cayman S offers tremendous performance, beautifully balanced handling and solid, fairly depreciation free, value.  The Caymans, 911 (996s) and early Boxters all sit at the bottom of the Porsche price ladder currently but that doesn’t mean they all aren’t still terrific driver’s cars. The Cayman is the best balance of value, age, and performance of the lot right now.  The Maserati GranSport is a car that had a spot in our garage about a decade ago.  In sport mode, the GranSport comes alive and responds well to being pushed. The Ferrari supplied V8 that sits in the nose is wonderful to hear sing and provides plenty of grunt.  It’s pretty hard to argue against a $25k car that has basically the same engine as a F430 sitting in its nose.  Of the early 21stcentury Maseratis, the GranSport is the best of the breed.

$25-50k range: last year it was the Jaguar F-Type along with the Dodge Viper but this year we are switching it up a going a bit more left field with a TVR Griffith and a Maserati GranTurismo.  It doesn’t get much madder than a Griffith.  The TVR is hugely fun to drive, can be pushed hard, and has character in abundance.  In fact, sometimes a bit too much character. The Griffith is one car where having some basic mechanical skills will definitely pay off during your ownership. TVRs were made in Blackpool and build quality on many is more early industrial revolution than Japanese six sigma. Most Griffiths are now 25 years old so are eligible for US import and you should be able to land a decent example on US shores for $35-40k.  If you’re looking for an adrenaline kick, a Griffith on a windy country road is hard to beat.  The GranTurismo is another Ferrari powered Maserati. In Sport Mode, the GranTurismo has to be one of the best sounding cars on the road.  When dropped into manual mode and driven using the paddles, the GranTurismo will engage and reward.  Leave it in auto and you can cruise effortlessly for hours.  The GranTurismo is a proper Italian GT and hard to beat for value today.

$50-75k range: Last year I went with the Aston Martin DB9 Volante and Ferrari 308 GTB.  Based on age the Ferrari 308 GTB is out this year and we are replacing the DB9 with the Porsche 911 (997.2) Turbo Cabriolet. The Ferrari 308 is being replaced by the F355 GTB.  As referenced in the recent article on the Car Market ( Car Market Q2 Update)  with prices now around $50k, the F355 is affordable (by Ferrari standards) and its modern enough so the learning curve is short.  The F355 is an infinitely usable car with enough luggage room for a multiday trip which certainly aids in its appeal.  It doesn’t hurt that the F355 is one of the prettiest Ferraris to ever emerge from Pininfarina’s pen.  Moving to the Porsche, it hard to argue against an open top 911 Turbo and the 997.2s are my favorite of the post 2000 911 models.  Personal preference would be for one with a manual 6 speed gearbox.  Hunt hard and you should be able to find one at the very upper end of the price bracket here.  

$75-100k range: In 2018 it was the Maserati Grantursimo Cabriolet and Audi R8 V10. As we have a couple of Maseratis already on the list, I’m going to go with an Aston Martin DBS and replace the Audi R8 with its more exotic VW Group sibling, the Lamborghini Gallardo.  The Aston Martin DBS is one of the most elegant cars Aston has produced and with a V12 in the nose connected to a 6-speed manual gearbox, hard not to get all “weak in the knees” about.  If I was to ever again buy a pure GT, the DBS would be on the very short list.   In this price range you should be able to find your choice of Gallardos.  Unlike earlier Lamborghinis, the Gallardo is comfortable, impressively quick, and even a bit forgiving. The V10 behind the driver’s seat has soul and likely one of the last great naturally aspirated engines.  

$100-125k range: Last year I recommended the Ferrari 550 Maranello, and the McLaren 12C Spider, for 2019 I’m only making one change in this range, replacing the Ferrari 550 Maranello with the Ferrari 599 GTB.  Thanks to the miracle of depreciation, 599s are now falling under $125k for the first time.  With an V12 lifted out of a Ferrari Enzo, the 599 GTB has enormous grunt, character, and continent crushing capabilities.  The 599 GTB has ample luggage space for a multiweek road trip, wonderfully supportive seats, and a gearbox that is a huge improvement over the earlier single clutch F1 boxes.  The 12C Spider was McLaren’s first attempt at a “mass” produced road car.  The combination of carbon fibre tub, twin turbo V8 producing 616 bhp, and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combined to form a package that is still near top in class.  Build quality on the 12C improved during the production run with a 2014 being the best of the breed ( Our 1st McLaren 12C Spider).  In terms of performance vs. cost, the 12C has to be the best bargain on the market right now.  

$125k-150k range: This is a new range for 2019 and one I have always found tough to make a call in. as you are spoiled for choice.  Looking at the market today, the two that would be the most tempting are the Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster and the Porsche 911 (997 or a 991) GT3.  Finding a nice GT3 for sale these days is easy as there are plenty for sale, especially 991 GT3s.  In terms of a pure driver’s car, any of the 911 GT3s are among the best. The Murcielago is Lamborghini at its best, large, loud, with tons of presence.  Unlike some of the earlier Lambos, the Murci drives brilliantly and does not require physical therapy after more than 10 minutes behind the wheel.

$150-200k range: In 2018, my recommendations were the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and a McLaren 650S Spider.  For 2019 I’m keeping the 430 Scuderia (see: Garage Goals) but switching to a second Aston Martin V12, the Vanquish Volante.  I’m having a bit of V12 withdrawal as it now been over a year since we had a V12 in the garage. As open top Astons go, this is one of the most elegant.  With 568 bhp, an 8-speed gearbox, and a carbon fiber body it will move smarty when you want it to.  The experience of driving a 430 Scuderia across the Scottish Highlands is hard to top.  The single clutch F1 gearbox is quick, sharp, & as the last iteration developed by Ferrari, best in class.  The Scuderia is a beautifully balanced car that urges you to drive it hard.  It’s also the last Ferrari that still feels more analogue than digital. Definitely a future classic.  

$200-500K range: In 2018 I had the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and Porsche Carrera GT is the half million dollar range. Current Carrera GT values now put it well above the high end here and the Daytona is out based on age.  The replacements for 2019 are the McLaren 675LT Spider and the Ferrari 458 Italia Speciale.  The 675LT Spider is a personal favorite and I have thoroughly enjoyed owning ours for the past three years (see: McLaren 675LT Spider). It’s a car that always leaves me with a smile after long drive in the mountains. The Ferrari 458 Italia Speciale makes the list based on recommendations from a few very knowledgeable friends.  I one gentleman who’s opinion I value highly called the Speciale the best drivers car Ferrari has produced this century.  Praise like that has earned the Speciale a place here.

A couple of honorable mentions: Acura/Nissan NSX, Dodge Viper, Ford GT, current generation Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, Ferrari 430 Spider, Aston Martin V12 Vantage, and the Lexus LFA.

Opinions and recommendations are just that.  At the end of the day, always buy what speaks to you.  

Thoughts, comments, other recommendations? Please see the comments section below.


Please share. Buttons are below. 

Follow us on

March 2020

Share Now

Recent Posts