While the automotive industry uses a wide array of different engines, the V8 has become the most iconic of all. Even though other motor layouts have grown in prevalence, the V8 still manages to be the preferred powertrain for multiple applications. Whether this engine design is used as a workhorse powerplant in a truck, a smooth and sublime motivator for a luxury vehicle, or is being used to transform rubber into smoke in a muscle car, the V8 is often chosen for its impressive capabilities, regardless of what fuel it burns. Even though it seems like Americans have a monopoly on producing this epic piece of machinery, the rest of the world has an appreciation for it as well, using it only for their finest models.
However, it’s not cheap to purchase something with eight thumping pistons under the hood. Even work trucks and base trim muscle cars can be rather pricey. For cheap V8 power, one must look at the used market. While a new vehicle with such a powerplant will likely start above $30k, it’s fairly easy to find a used model with similar power at a third of the price. With that being said, it’s worth remembering how much more it will cost to insure and fuel a vehicle with eight thirsty cylinders. Although, there’s nothing else that moves a car quite like a V8, especially when such an experience can cost less than $10k.
20 Chevrolet Corvette C4
The formula for building a competent sports car is rather simple. Use a strong powerplant in combination with buttoned-down suspension and a lightweight design. One of the few American offerings that follows this philosophy is the Chevy Corvette. Its body doesn’t weigh much thanks to the fiberglass panels, which pair well with its unique leaf spring suspension design. When put together, it makes for an excellent sports car. However, the most important part of a Corvette is its motor. Powered almost exclusively by Chevy small block V8s, the best Corvettes accelerate as well as they corner.
While many modern Corvettes are far too expensive to fit within this tight budget, the C4 model, arguably the first truly modern example of the car, can be found for well under $10k.
The model’s strength heavily depends on which motor resides under the hood. The C4 Corvette launched in 1984 came equipped with only 205 limp horsepower. While that V8 was later revised to produce up to 245 horsepower, the LT1, the predecessor to the legendary LS, is the engine to seek out. This motor’s 300 horsepower rating means this aging Corvette can still tear up the street. While the newer LT1 models will cost more, it's well worth the extra cash.
19 Jaguar XK8
At a glance, the most exclusive and expensive vehicles on the road are European, two-seater, luxury sports cars. These models are designed to cater to people who are used to driving the best vehicles on the road. With attractive styling, supple interiors, and powerful motors, there’s a lot to like about these high-end models. When these cars are new, they often cost well over six figures. One of best examples from the ‘90s and 2000s was the Jaguar XK. Its slippery shape and Aston Martin-related underpinnings make it quite an appealing piece of machinery.
Under the bulging hood was initially a 4.0-liter V8, but it was later bumped up to a 294 horsepower 4.2-liter unit. Even though there are more nimble and agile competitors, they tend to be more expensive and more common. There aren’t too many of these attractive Jags cruising around and they will attract more eyes than any Corvette or Porsche while offering a plusher, if dated, interior. It’s pretty incredible that anyone can buy a high-end sports car built by a prestigious British company for under ten grand. Just keep in mind that this is an aging English luxury car and such vehicles aren’t known for their longevity or affordable maintenance.
18 Ford Mustang GT
What American muscle car is more iconic than the Ford Mustang? It has been in continuous production since it was introduced in 1965. As a result, there are many Mustangs that can be had for well under $10k. For those who want some classic V8 muscle, there are many original Mustangs that are surprisingly cheap, if a bit rough around the edges. And that kind of money can also buy a very clean Fox-Body Mustang with the iconic 5.0-liter V8. However, if a buyer is willing to purchase something that’s a little less clean, they can opt for a cheaper Fox-body and use the left-over money to turn it into a track destroying monster thanks to the model’s huge aftermarket selection. While newer SN95 Mustangs are definitely cheaper, they aren’t as modifiable as the older Fox bodies or as attractive as the newer 2005 through 2009 cars.
The retro Mustang GT’s are powered by 300 horsepower three valve motors that allow these models to offer impressive straight-line performance, even to this day.
It doesn’t hurt that these models also have a wide selection of modifications available. While Coyote 5.0-liter ‘Stangs are out of this price range, there’s still a lot of fun to be had with older examples.
17 Chevrolet Camaro
With the exception of the Ford Mustang, the longest running muscle car is the Camaro, having been produced uninterrupted from 1969 to 2002. The model did return once again in 2010, now sporting a retro look. However, these newer examples have yet to depreciate into affordable territory and, obviously, the classic models can get quite expensive. If there is anyone who still wants a Camaro that offers Corvette power, strong acceleration, and impressive handling for under $10k, then the fourth-generation model is a perfect choice.
This version entered production in 1993, but the one to look out for is the 1998 to 2002 model. Originally, this Camaro came with the C4 Corvette’s LT1 V8, but the way the engine was crammed under the hood made it difficult to work on and it was not as powerful, nor as fuel efficient as the motor that came after. For 1998, Chevy decided to throw in its new LS1 V8 that was more powerful, being rated at 335 horsepower and being capable of achieving decent highway fuel economy with its efficient, computer-controlled motor in conjunction with its slippery body design. While the four-speed automatic is capable of delivering powerful acceleration, it’s the six-speed manual that will really unlock this car’s performance.
16 Dodge Ram 1500
Out of the American Big Three, Ram tends to be the lowest volume seller when it comes to trucks. With Ford being the most established brand, Chevy providing a more traditional truck experience, and Toyota offering its usual undying, if outdated, experience that it’s known for, Ram has a tough time competing. On the surface, the Ram’s main appeal is its unique looks. Starting with its 1994 redesign, the Ram’s styling shifted towards its now iconic semi-truck inspired look with low headlights and a tall crosshair grille. It was further refined in 2002, and, a year later, the model received Chrysler’s new 5.7-liter Hemi V8. This new motor was good for 345 horsepower, which put the Ram’s new optional V8 shockingly close to the other brands’ performance trucks of the time. That powertrain combined with the truck’s tough looks gave the Ram 1500 a very muscular presence, and Dodge saw an opportunity.
To capitalize on its redesigned truck’s new powerplant, Dodge released a few special edition models, such as the Rumble Bee, Daytona, and GTX, all referencing classic Mopar muscle cars. As most of these were less desirable single cab models and are getting a little old, it’s easy to find such Rams for under $10k.
15 BMW 5 Series
If there’s one thing that BMW is known for, it’s for producing high-quality sports cars that are surprisingly practical. Despite the company generally building performance vehicles, it manages to keep its models’ styling fairly subdued while retaining an instantly recognizable look. Perhaps the company’s best combination of performance and practicality is the 5 series. For many years, it has provided owners with a driver-oriented experience with the practicality and comfort of a luxury sedan, with the M5 being the quickest option. Unfortunately, M-power is not within our budget, but there are still plenty of V8-powered 5 series available for under $10k, as long as the model is more than a decade old.
Although the 5 Series never came standard with eight cylinders, there were plenty of buyers willing to shell out the money for the extra oomph. Power was dependent on which V8 was equipped.
Buyers get to choose between a 4.0-liter, 4.4-liter, or 4.8-liter eight-cylinder options for the E60 generation. Power ranged from 302 horsepower to 362 horsepower.
While any of these motors make for a quick sedan, it’s still worth remembering that this is a premium German luxury sedan and that repairs may be quite expensive should they come up, but the experience may be worth it.
14 Dodge Charger R/T
Today, many companies have moved away from sedans and are instead focusing on crossovers and SUVs. However, Dodge is still selling its 12-year-old Charger to demonstrate how good sedans can be. Besides being a large four-door with plenty of room, one of the Charger’s biggest draws is its optional Hemi V8. These days, everyone is drawn to the model’s 707 horsepower Hellcat trim, but that beast of a motor is understandably worth a lot of money. In comparison, the car that launched over a decade ago can be found for only four figures while still rocking V8 power. Even though the 2006 Charger R/T made a comparatively small 340 horsepower from its 5.7-liter Hemi, it’s still a powerful and practical performance option that remains quick in comparison to its contemporaries.
Weighing in at around 4,000 pounds, the Charger is more of a smooth cruiser and highway pulling machine rather than a canyon carver. For those who want even more power, the SRT8 model sends 425 horsepower to the rear wheels and sports stiffer suspension and bigger brakes. That said, only high mileage SRT8 cars will clear out tight budget. If you need more practicality, Dodge also sold the Magnum, which was basically the wagon variation.
13 Ford Crown Victoria
Used American police cars are often a good bang for your buck, which unsurprising given that many of these vehicles have a V8, are rear-wheel-drive, and have little else. America’s most popular police car over the last decade was the Ford Crown Victoria; the last old-school American sedan.
Even though this model is rather outdated, it has proven to be a durable machine, as it is still seeing police and taxi duty seven years after its discontinuation.
When it comes to chassis design, the Crown Vic utilizes a ladder frame, which is only used on pickups and full-size SUVs these days. Even though such as layout certainly doesn’t help the model’s driving characteristics, it’s part of the reason of why these cars simply won’t die. This large dinosaur packs a V8 under the hood that makes up to 250 horsepower. While that’s hardly a huge number, it’ll certainly get this big car down the road easily. In its Police Interceptor form, nobody can tell between a decommissioned model and an active unit, meaning that nobody will pass you. However, for those who want a vehicle that can just float over the bumps at the cost of performance, civilian models are also quite cheap. It’s easy to buy a Crown Vic for under $5k, let alone 10.
12 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes has spent a long time building its image with plush interiors and its past reliability. Perhaps the car that helped build the company’s reputation the most is the full-size S-Class, which is used to ferry around rich people. For those who want something smaller, more affordable, and more driver-oriented, Mercedes offers the E-Class. While it was once a somewhat small car, it has grown considerably over the years. Given its current size, it’s no surprise that modern examples are offered with a V8 motor.
The early 2000s may have been a bad time for the three-pointed star brand, but the E-Class models from the time are still impressive machines, especially when powered by a 5.0-liter V8. Being a large German car, the E Class is a practical vehicle, especially in its wagon form, which even had a rear-facing third-row seat. There aren’t many offerings on the market from the past decade that offer a wagon body and a healthy V8 powerplant. The only hang up is the potential cost of ownership, as it may be expensive to keep up a 15-year-old German car. AMG variants were also available, packing a supercharged 5.5-liter V8 under the hood. However, those are less likely to fall under the $10k barrier and are probably even pricier to maintain.
11 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC
One of the biggest hurdles that American luxury car companies have to get over is appealing to younger audiences. These brands previously offered large, inefficient, and uncompetitive land yachts that were far more attractive to old people rather than their grandchildren. The most outdated type of vehicle these companies pushed out was the personal luxury coupe; two-door cars designed to be as large, comfortable, and ostentatious as possible. These cars certainly challenged the idea that coupes were meant to be sporty. As the popularity of this segment decreased, Lincoln tried to inject some performance into its Continental Mark series.
The Lincoln Mark VIII may not look like much, but it is hiding some impressive muscle under the hood.
While one may expect the Mark VIII to use any old smooth engine, it instead employed a dual overhead cam, 32 valve V8 that also saw use in the Mustang Cobra R.
If that’s not enough, the engine’s time in the Mustang has resulted in a wide selection of aftermarket parts, so long as they fit in the Lincoln’s packed engine bay. The versions to search for are late-model LSC trim cars, which produce 290 horsepower and feature body-color trim rather than the ugly chrome that came standard. Regardless of year or trim, many Mark VIII’s cost less than $5k.
10 Ford F-150
The quickest selling vehicle in the world is the Ford F-Series. Jatco Dynamics studied the best-selling cars of 2017, and the F-Series was at the top of the list with over a million trucks finding owners. It even outsold models that are available in more countries than the Ford truck. Given its ridiculous popularity, the F-150 often the first truck to come to mind when thinking of light-duty pickups. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of F-Series available on the used market with varying degrees of luxury and practicality. The biggest hurdle is the price. Trucks are highly popular in today’s automotive world, so used examples still hold a lot of value despite their age.
F-150’s from the early 2000s are the most likely models to fall within the $10k price limit. Models from this generation were offered with two V8 options, a 4.6-liter, and a 5.4-liter. As expected, the larger motor produces more power, but it may not be the best choice for those who want something long-lasting. Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords reports that three-valve 5.4-liter motors can wear prematurely due to a bad camshaft phaser, and its spark plugs are so difficult to replace that FourWheeler wrote a how-to guide on how to change them. While the 5.4-liter may be more powerful, the 4.6-liter V8 may be the smarter choice.
9 Pontiac Grand Prix GXP
It’s not hard to find people who miss the Pontiac brand, mostly due to the company’s past models. It offered the powerful and sleek Firebird Trans Am and the muscular GTO, making it GM’s performance company. At least, that’s what it used to be. Towards the end of Pontiac’s existence, too many of its cars became rebadged Chevys and its few memorable performance models were imported from GM’s Australian Holden division. While the Aussie muscle options are excellent vehicles, they tend to run well over our price range. However, the last real performance Pontiac does fall within the price limit and it has classic American muscle under the hood. The late-model Grand Prix was generally not much to speak of. In the past, the hottest Grand Prix was a supercharged V6 GTP model. For 2005, a new GXP trim was released featuring 5.3 liters of LS horsepower.
While it is rather unfortunate that the Grand Prix was a front-wheel-drive car, and 303 horsepower is a lot for the front wheels to handle, Pontiac used high-performance shocks, and special, wider front tires to mitigate unfortunate handling effects caused by the layout, according to Car and Driver. However, these cars can suffer from transmission problems, so prospective buyers should get theirs inspected.
8 Chevrolet Silverado
There are many aspects where Chevy can easily be mocked. Throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, the company was well known for producing low-quality vehicles. There are many examples of its models having laughably bad interiors and poor quality control. However, the company does build quite a few workhorses that can run for many miles just on general maintenance. Perhaps the longest lasting and best-engineered powerplant to come out of the company would be its small block motors, which go by the LS and Vortec names. Of course, it’s no surprise that Chevy uses these power plants to move its Silverado pickup. While the model comes standard with a V6, many pay extra for the reliability and power of the small block motors.
Besides producing over 300 horsepower in many of its various designs, the Vortec engine is capable of running for a couple hundred thousand miles without much trouble.
Even though brand new trucks are considerably quicker and more powerful than their ten-year-old counterparts, such aged examples still have plenty of V8 muscle under the hood. For extra power, Chevy offered the stout Vortec Max motor in various trims. However, the asking price on a used Silverado depends on the vehicle’s cab size, engine choice, and mileage, so availability will vary.
7 Chevrolet Suburban
It’s no secret that the car market is shifting towards SUVs and crossovers. This process has been slowly progressing over the last few decades as buyers learned that they can use bigger, taller, and seemingly tougher vehicles to haul their family around. Perhaps the model that had the greatest influence in this change was the Chevy Suburban. Not only does it share its name with a type of residential area, but it can also seat up to eight people while providing plenty of space behind the third row. It would be easy to assume that the Suburban would only be successful while gas was cheap, but even expensive fuel didn’t stop this truck-based family hauler from selling. It’s practicality and general reliability (at least in older examples) have earned the model quite a reliable consumer base. Of course, the most important part of such a large vehicle is an equally large and torquey motor. Unsurprisingly, the Suburban has generally employed a Chevy small block V8 as its base motor.
During the 2000s, Chevy offered a heavy-duty Suburban with an optional 8.1-liter big block V8 for those who want something with a little more torque.
Of course, year and condition affect the value of a used Suburban, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find examples that fall under $10k.
6 Lexus LS
Despite generally catering to an older audience, the Lexus brand is surprisingly young, as far as car companies go. While competitors like Mercedes and Cadillac have been with us for over a century, Toyota began its luxury brand less than 30 years ago. Even though the company has been making a few questionable decisions in recent years, particularly with its spindle grille design, Lexus still has a reputation for building luxurious and long-lasting vehicles and has even dipped its toes the sports car world. Before all of that though, Lexus started with the LS400 in 1989, which was, on the surface, a large luxury car with nondescript styling.
However, it resonated with audiences and the LS lineup has been an important part of Lexus’s offerings ever since. Up until the latest generation, the model packed a V8 under the hood, mostly to make the vehicle powerful enough to haul around its extra equipment. While not quick, the motor will offer a smooth and effortless experience to any buyer. Given the model’s penchant for comfort and reliability, it is really easy it is to find clean examples of the LS. It’s also not hard to find one within the budget, with early examples being shockingly cheap.
5 Jeep Grand Cherokee
One of the most well-known SUV companies in the world is Jeep. For many years, it has produced a wide selection of off-road oriented machines, with the Wrangler being its most capable model. That small box on wheels can easily bounce over any terrain given its extremely basic chassis and axle design. However, the Wrangler has become a classic of sorts which has driven up its value. It also doesn’t tend to be a practical vehicle, and only has six cylinders at most, making it ineligible for this list. However, the first truly modern vehicle sold by the brand was the Grand Cherokee, as it was designed to be somewhat luxurious while still being able to tackle rough trails. Jeep managed to build a vehicle that could drive well on the road and provide a sophisticated interior all while sitting on tough solid axles that have impressive articulation. For power, the original Grand Cherokee was offered several powertrains, with either a durable, but rather underpowered straight six or a 5.2-liter V8. While these motors were powerful enough for a ‘90s SUVs.
Jeep would later stuff in a 5.9-liter V8 that was good for 245 horsepower, making it one of the quickest SUVs available at launch, according to Autotrader.
For the price, it’s hard to find a similarly refined and capable truck.
4 Infiniti M45
Much like Toyota, Nissan decided to enter the luxury game in the very late ‘80s with its new and frequently misspelled brand, Infiniti. Unlike Lexus, which quickly became a global brand, Nissan’s premium company would only service the North American market, selling models that didn’t take off quite as well as the LS400. However, the brand’s lineup was hard to miss, as the majority of its early cars had a uniquely round shape that was unlike anything else. Even if it wasn’t necessarily attractive, it was recognizable. When it came time to make a new M series car for 2003, a new Infiniti emerged featuring all-new styling that was as attractive as it was recognizable. Nissan’s designers used strong, simple lines to give the car a strong presence. In pictures, this look makes the M45 seem much larger than it actually is. Passengers will only realize how small it is once they sit inside and see that the interior isn’t quite as roomy as expected, but at least the materials are pretty nice.
Completing the M45 package is its 4.5-liter V8 which conjured up 340 horsepower; surprisingly potent for a fairly small displacement motor.
This model is both more affordable and more attractive than its newer counterparts.
3 Chevrolet Caprice
For many years, the Crown Victoria reigned supreme over the police, taxi, and traditional full-size sedan markets, primarily due to it being the only ‘modern’ offering throughout the 2000s. However, that doesn’t mean that the Crown Vic was always the sole choice for interested buyers. In fact, during the ‘90s, Chevy’s Caprice was generally the preferred choice over the similarly geriatric Ford. On the surface, the Caprice is nearly identical to the Ford, as it was a giant car based on an ancient platform with a corporate V8 under the hood. However, the motor is what makes the Chevy more intriguing than the Crown Vic.
While the final generation Caprice started out with a reliable but feeble Chevy small block engine, the model received a Corvette-derived LT1 V8 for the 1994 model year.
Even though this motor was detuned to produce a comparatively low 260 horsepower, that was enough to make this big boat surprisingly quick despite its size. Given the age of these vehicles, it’s not hard to find them for well under $10k, or even $5k. Furthering its appeal, the Caprice was also available in a wagon and performance-oriented Impala SS trim, though these models can command higher prices, but will generally remain under the budget.
2 Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota is often well-known for building long-lasting and tough vehicles, and its most impressive model in this regard is the Land Cruiser. In the beginning, the Land Cruiser was a Jeep-like vehicle with a strong focus on off-road capability. Over the years it became a more practical four-door SUV, but it never lost its trail tackling capabilities. While the US lost the utilitarian Land Cruiser long ago, the more modern and luxurious examples are still impressive machines. Newer examples and classics still quite valuable, but there are plenty of Land Cruisers from the late '90s and 2000s are ripe for the taking.
While such models are becoming popular again, there are plenty of high mileage examples that can be purchased for a quite a low price. While a few hundred thousand miles on a normal car is usually something to worry about, the Land Cruiser will still have plenty of life left in it. Using Toyota’s 4.7-liter V8, this large SUV is sufficiently quick and smooth. Despite its plush interior and soft ride, the Land Cruiser is still more capable off-road than many other modern alternatives. If Land Cruisers are difficult to find, look for the Lexus LX470, as it is basically the same vehicle, just with different badges.
1 Hyundai Genesis
It’s pretty amazing how far Hyundai has come since its introduction to the American market. Even as recently as the mid-2000s, the brand was most well-known for producing cheap models with debatable quality and longevity. However, only a few years later, that same brand would release a rear-wheel-drive performance coupe, a full-size luxury car, and the Genesis sedan. Today, Genesis has become a new premium brand for Hyundai and Kia, separating the luxury models from a potentially less desirable brand image. Regardless of whether or not that’s a good idea, the original Genesis sedan is a strong offering, even if its brand isn’t known for such cars.
For 2009, the large sedan was first released sporting an optional 4.6-liter V8; a rare sight under a Hyundai hood. Early models are the most affordable, and during these early years, the Genesis’s V8 produced 361 horsepower, which was good enough to propel this rear-wheel-drive sedan to 60 in 5.5 seconds, as found by Motor Trend.
Even though some may have reservations about purchasing a near decade-old Hyundai, it’s proven to be a reliable car, with USNews giving it a five out of five in reliability. While it’s a slim margin, early V8 Genesis sedans can be had for less than our $10k limit.
Sources: Road and Track, Autotrader, Mustang 360, Motor Trend, Kelley Blue Book