The best open-top sports cars for less than £5000

Always wanted an open-top sports car? Here are ten true bargains, from traditional MGs to the unfeasibly cheap Porsche Boxster – and lots in between!

Five grand isn't a small amount but when you're talking open-top sports cars, it often doesn't go far. There are, however, still a few great models that you can buy for less than £5000, and which won't also cost a fortune to run – at least not in the majority of cases...

For some, you might have to compromise a little to stay within budget, and accept that you can't buy the most desirable version – you won't get a decent early MGB at this money for examples – but otherwise there's little to fear.

In some cases, prices are still unfeasibly low, but will go up, or might already be on the rise. So now is a fine time to buy! Scroll down to see which one appeals to you.

See also...

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Mazda MX-5/Miata Mk1 1989-1997

Honestly, we should all have one of these. They’re still so very, very cheap and so very, very enjoyable that it’s madness not to try one at some point. The Mk1s are now fair and square into classic territory, and prices are edging up, but the Mk2s are still at rock bottom.

If you can, opt for a Mk1, because they’re lighter, purer and better looking. They’re also very basic, almost at the level of the 1960s sports cars that inspired them, but they’re much tougher than any Triumph, MG or Lotus. Rust is the weak spot, particularly rear wheelarches, sills and sometimes even chassis legs – buy carefully.

For a full buying guide on the MX5 or Miata, click here.

Classic Mazda MX5s for sale here.

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MG TF 2002-2011

Built to a truly British formula of inspired design, cost-cutting manufacture and slapdash build quality. Under all that, though, there’s a great car desperate to get out and have some fun – and there’s a wealth of upgrade parts and knowledge available to allow that.

Both the TF and the MGF that preceded it are mid-engined, stylish and comfortable, but the TF was better built and less prone to problems. The 1.8-litre K-series engines are smooth and revvy, but famously prone to head-gasket problems – an upgraded multi-layer gasket kit is the only answer.

Rusty sills can be an issue and fragile trim is a frustration, but spares back-up, enthusiast network and specialist knowledge are all excellent. The last of the TFs were much improved by the by-then-Chinese owner of MG.

MG TFs for sale here.

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MG Midget /Austin-Healey Sprite 1961-1980

One and the same car – as long as you start with the Mk2 Sprite, because the Mk1 is the similar but far more expensive Frogeye or Bugeye. Tiny, simple in the extreme, cheap and easy to maintain – is there actually any classic car easier to look after? – and remarkable fun to drive, even in early 1098cc A-series form. Even new bodyshells are available.

The structure is simple and stiff, the suspension basic but effective, and the enjoyment levels way beyond the sum of the parts. Early cars are most charming, later 1275cc models more practical, and the end-of-the-line Midget 1500s cheapest but let down by heavy-impact bumpers and a less revvy engine. You takes your choice…

There's a full Spridget buying guide to help here.

Check out Midgets and Sprites for sale here.

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Triumph Spitfire 1962-1980

In theory, the Spitfire is a deeply flawed design, compromised with a separate chassis that was outdated even when the model was launched in 1962. Today that’s irrelevant, and being able to separate body and chassis can make restoration much easier, if that’s the route you choose to go.

They’re not as structurally stiff as the Midget/Sprite, which means that wonky panel gaps and rattly trim are typical, while handling isn’t as delightfully pointy. But they’re still great fun and still cheap.

Having said that, the charmingly period Mk1 and 2 have risen in value. The Mk3 has, too, but not to the same extent, although it’s actually the best compromise of practicality and 1960s charm. The 1970s MkIV and 1500, with their Michelotti-styled bodywork, aren’t as charismatic but are far more useable. We prefer the MkIV, which has the sweeter 1300 engine.

Take a read of our Spitfire buying guide here.

Triumph Spitfires for sale here.

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Fiat Barchetta 1995-2005

Autocar once referred to the Barchetta as ‘the thinking man’s MX-5’ – although perhaps it meant you’d need to think for longer about buying one. The great-looking roadster was only ever built in left-hand drive and in relatively small numbers, so it’s now a rare sight.

The mechanicals are all Fiat Punto, so straightforward and tough, but at 1060kg the car is light enough to be an enjoyable drive – and the engine used is the 128bhp one with variable valve timing. The 2003-on facelift models are less desirable than the more characterful earlier cars, but all variants suffer from rust (check floors in particular) and problems with that variable valve timing. If the latter is playing up, the engine will sound like a diesel. We think the Barchetta is worth a look, simply because it’s so unusual to see one.

There are a few Barchettas for sale here.

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Toyota MR2 Mk1 1984-1989

How often do you see a Mk1 MR2 these days? Not often – which is such a shame, because as time goes by their unusual angular shape has become even more appealing. Mechanically they’re extremely tough, with the only likely problems due to air locks in the cooling system (sometimes confusing engine sensors and ECU) and jumping out of fifth gear (usually only after 100,000 miles or more).

Rust is the bigger problem, with the T-tops more susceptible due to water leaks. Check sills, rear quarter panels, back wheelarches and more. A great buy if you find a good one.

Need more help? There's a buying guide here.

Toyota MR2 Mk1s and 2s for sale here.

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MGB Roadster 1962-1980

Once the most obvious choice, the MGB is a good sports car that can be made much better with a few minor tweaks – even just a performance air filter and exhaust, along with a mildly uprated suspension, will make a big difference. Spares back-up is unrivalled, to the point that you can buy virtually everything, including a new bodyshell.

They’re simple and robust, but prone to rust – especially in the sills, whose central membrane section makes them unusually complicated to repair. The optional overdrive gearbox makes a huge difference, although five-speed conversions are popular, too. Early pull-handle (referring to the door handle) cars are the most valuable, but later models have all-synchromesh gearboxes. Late-model MGBs came with heavy rubber bumpers and a raised ride height. Not great – but so much cheaper than chrome-bumper cars.

Read the full MGB buying guide here.

MGB Roadsters (and a few GTs just in case) for sale here.

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Smart Roadster 2003-2005

Possibly the best bargain of all the cars here. They’re tough, they’re stylish and they’re almost unfeasibly cheap. There are two versions, the Roadster and the Coupé, but both have a removable roof panel for open-top motoring – it’s just that the Coupé gets a glass fastback-style rear as well.

They’re all three-cylinder 600cc, with power varying from 60bhp for certain non-UK market cars, 80bhp for most models, to 101bhp for Brabus variants. That doesn’t sound much, but these cars weigh less than 800kg, so they’re still surprisingly fast. The transmission is a six-speed semi-automatic, which isn’t the car’s best point to be honest – but they don’t rot, and they are remarkable run to drive.

Full Smart Roadster buying guide here.

They're rare but you might find a Smart Roadster for sale here.

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Reliant Scimitar SS1/SST 1984-1982

Had you forgotten about the poor old SS1? It’s the cheapest of the lot here, but that’s mostly because of its looks – though admittedly the 1.3-litre Ford CVH-engined versions weren’t especially rapid. The Nissan Turbo version is another story – seriously quick and a lot of fun. Then there’s the later SST, redesigned by William Towns to rid the styling of at least some of its gawkiness, and available with slightly better 1.4-litre CVH as well as that good old Nissan turbo.

They all handle well, although brakes are MG Metro and only just up to the job. The best bit is that the chassis of all these cars are made from hefty square-section steel, while the bodies are non-structural plastic – mostly glassfibre, with some injection-moulded panels. So no rust! Don’t know about you, but we think these Reliants are worth a second look.

Want a Scimitar SS1? Check here to see if there any for sale.

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Porsche Boxster 986 1996-2004

In many ways, this is the bargain of the bunch, because it’s easily the best car. But if you buy a sub-£5000 Boxster, then you’ll most likely ending up paying the same again for repairs. Maybe more!

The early Boxster (986) models are great to drive, but usually the clutch will need replacing after around 60,000 miles, and suspension parts last between 30,000 and 50,000 miles – and they’re not cheap. There’s also the spectre of the IMS, or intermediate shaft bearing, which can disintegrate with very little warning, usually destroying the engine.

The solution is to fit an uprated bearing but it’s a gearbox- and clutch-out job, although the bearing itself isn’t expensive. It’s best to change it at the same time that the clutch is changed. All that said, if you’re willing to invest a bit of time and money, you’ll get a fantastic Porsche that absolutely will appreciate in value.

Plenty of Boxsters for sale here.

Classic Cars for Sale