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Buying used: Can I get a 10-year-old Corvette for less than $20,000?

Buying Used

A midlife-crisis Corvette with its top up

Nissan 2007 350Z.

Searching for a used 'Vette no older than 10 years on a strict budget delivers limited options

I've wanted a Corvette since I was a kid and now it feels like a good midlife-crisis car – but I don't have a midlife-crisis budget (thanks, divorce). I believe I know the answer, but can I get a 10-year-old Corvette for less than $20,000? I don't want to go any older – and I don't want a convertible. – Grant, Vancouver

The 1970s was a time of ideas that don't seem so bright now. Eight-tracks, waterbeds, Neil Diamond – and the third-generation model that made the Corvette seem cheesy.

"The C3 was a ride for guys whose tastes ran to gold chains, Hai Karate aftershave and strip clubs," Globe Drive said.

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But, it survived the seventies and became a real sports car.

"By the time the C6 Corvette came to market in 2005, Chevrolet's engineers had turned the car into a genuine world-beater, with power and performance that could best Porsche and Ferrari when the right driver was behind the wheel," Globe Drive said.

And although it was cheaper than competitors, it still wasn't cheap – it started at $68,000 new.

Now, you can get a used 'Vette for less than $20,000, but you'll probably have to reach back to 1997 – or at least 2000.

Alternatives include the Chevy Camaro ($17,904 for a 2010), Nissan 350Z ($17,725 for a 2007) and Hyundai Genesis Coupe ($17,798 for a 2013).

2005 Chevrolet Corvette.

2007 Chevrolet Corvette

  • Sixth generation: 2005-2013
  • Average price for base: $34,617 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Transmission/Drive: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic/rear-wheel drive
  • Engine: 6.0-litre V-8
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.8 city, 9.0 highway (manual); 15.2 city, 9.3 highway (automatic), premium gas

The Corvette didn't start out being cheesy. And by 2007 – nearly 30 years after Mark Hamill lost his Stingray in Corvette Summer – it was a serious sports car again.

"Perhaps the best performance bargain ever in the history of sports cars, the 2007 Chevrolet Corvette makes fast friends with those who like to go fast affordably and comfortably," review site Edmunds said. "[Its 400-horsepower engine] along with a choice of three suspension levels, an improved interior and revised styling make this the best 'Vette yet."

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Edmunds praised the Corvette's "world-class performance at bargain pricing, daily-driver livability, excellent ergonomics and very good build quality." But it said the cockpit had too much hard plastic and lacked "pizzazz."

And, it said the high-performance, 505-horsepower Z06 ($56,154 used) looks too much like the normal Corvette.

"Both a comfortable cruiser and an exciting sports car, it has a roomy interior and the optional power convertible top is simple to use," Consumer Reports said. "Handling is capable with the standard suspension, but steering is light and lacks feedback, which undermines agility."

Consumer Reports gives the 2007 Corvette four our of five for reliability.

There were three recalls, including one for the detachable targa roof that could indeed detach – and fly off – while on the road.

Nissan 2007 350Z.

2007 Nissan 350Z

  • Fifth generation: 2002-2009
  • Average price for base: $17,725 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Transmission/Drive: six-speed manual, five-speed automatic/Rear-wheel drive
  • Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city, 10.3 highway (standard); 14.3 city, 10.4 highway (automatic), premium gas

It's the 350Z here and the Fairlady Z Z33 in Japan. But whatever you call it, it's a heck of a deal for a sports car.

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"The 350Z is a two-seater coupe carrying on the tradition of the Datsun/Nissan Z cars of the past," Consumer Reports said. "Its strong, punchy [306-horsepower] engine provides smooth, quick acceleration and it even has commendable fuel economy for a sports car."

But it said the two-seater has a harsh ride, poor visibility and minimal cargo space.

Edmunds liked the "strong and sweet-sounding" V-6 engine, capable handling and braking and "high value for the dollar."

It didn't like chintzy interior materials, lack of a telescoping steering wheel or poor rear visibility.

"We've driven the 350Z extensively the past few years and come away impressed with its performance, style and value," Edmunds said. "Thanks to its new, freer-revving V-6 engine, the 2007 Nissan 350Z is likely the best Z to date and the Nismo version pushes the car's dynamic potential to the limits."

Consumer Reports didn't have reliability data for the 350Z.

There was one recall for an airbag sensor that might turn the airbag off with an adult passenger in the front seat.

Trying to decide on a used car? Send your questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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