It’s an undeniable boost to your ego when someone compliments car you’re driving, but there are certainly times when all you need is something low key, where you - and no one else - knows its true potential. That’s why last week, I asked you to give me the best under-the-radar cars for a $10k budget, and it almost seems like you all know what you’re doing. Almost. 


10. 1994 Buick Roadmaster

This Buick Roadmaster has everything you need to know about the car in its name alone. It owns the road. I’ll let Sethism explain:

5.7 Litres of LT1 torquey goodness, hauls ass and half of your apartment. At under $2k, there’s plenty left in the budget to address any issues, and the rest of the budget goes a very, very long way in performance upgrades, which are both widely available and relatively easy to DIY. To top it all off, when you are driving past Officer Friendly, he’ll just assume Meemaw is out on a grocery run.

(Suggested by Sethism)


9. 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton

This VW Phaeton admittedly does resemble every other car in the Volkswagen lineup, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s an absolutely epic driving experience. It’s a depreciated, complex, and expensive to maintain “car of the people,” and should be on the short list of quirky luxury buys for this price.

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Those unfamiliar will probably think it’s a Passat XL and you’ll have no problem losing it among the sea of mediocirty in your local Target parking lot.

(Suggested by 900turbo)


8. 2008 Toyota Camry V6

This Toyota Camry is the epitome of fitting in with the crowd. It is technically a trendsetter, if only for the fact that it sets the unequivocal standard for conformity.

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This is the reason why this version, fitted with the V6 engine, is the upstart in the otherwise milquetoast family. It’s legitimately quick, yet hides all of its relatively high-performance pedigree to give others the illusion that their participation trophy isn’t as worthless as it really is.

(Suggested by EL_ULY)


7. 1995 BMW 540i/6

This BMW 540i 6spd is the German automaker’s first time tripping over their own untied shoelaces. You see, the top-spec M5 that came out still sported a slightly beefed up version of BMW’s inline six cylinder engine, which was slightly better than the base model 5 series, naturally.

The 540i, however, sported an all new V8 that had a raunchy rumble and a six speed manual made it the car to have over the top-range M5. It also looked unassuming and made for one hell of a daily driver. Who needs reliability anyway?

(Suggested by Yeahsurewhynot)


6. 1998 Toyota Landcruiser

This Toyota Landcruiser is more rock crawler than mall cruiser, but that doesn’t mean it’ll get a second glance from anyone looking in its general direction. As Snowball puts it:

Gas is cheap, why not buy a vehicle that will last until gas costs $4.48 per gallon again and will fit right in anywhere it goes for the next 300k on it’s odometer. 1998 Landcruiser, last redesign for about a decade and a half so it will fit in for sure.

(Suggested by Snowball)


5. 2003 Infiniti M45

This Infiniti M45 may look like an automotive tribute to the late, great Harambe, with its squared jawline and pronounced features, but the car was actually a pretty phenomenal performer and luxury value. I’ll let Enginerrrrrrrrr explain:

You need the Yakuza Infiniti. ‘03 M45. Great car, and easily goes under the radar so you can continue with your nefarious acts. 4.5L V8 with an excellent interior and enough trunk space to hide many many bodies. Also it’s in black. At $5800, definitely a NP.

(Suggested by Enginerrrrrrrrr)


4. 2008 Lexus GS350

This Lexus GS350 is the entry-level Lexus that was assembled by robots and designed by committee. It was made to evoke emotions of oneupmanship and status when new, but now, it simply represents a dependable luxury value that will go largely overlooked by most buyers.

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The driving experience is quite good, considering that it was a car designed for 64 year old retired stock brokers with three houses.

(Suggested by The Dummy Gummy)


3. 2010 Volvo S80

This Volvo S80 is probably no one’s dream car. That makes it the perfect candidate to be the car you didn’t know you desperately needed. For Sweden has the right idea:

You won’t take it to a track day, but this late-model Volvo S80 with a 235 horsepower naturally-aspirated straight six is so comfortable you won’t care. And not comfortable like a huge bean bag chair. Comfortable like Nordic craftsman who also has an ergonomics laboratory built this car just for you.

(Suggested by For Sweden)


2. 2003 Mercury Marauder

This Mercury Marauder is the four door Mustang that looks nearly identical to the Ford Crown Victorias in use by countless cut-rate taxi services across the country, except this one’s black. That’s pretty much it.

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Until you smash on the loud pedal and have the car sing the song of its people, no one will ever confuse you for actually being somebody, and that’s exactly what you want in a sleeper.

(Suggested by You had fordboy357 at “meat tornado”)


1. 2006 Pontiac GTO

This Pontiac GTO, derived from its Australian Holden doppelganger, is one hell of a performance value that no normal person will give two hot shits about. I’ll let smalleyxb122 explain:

Here’s why you should buy one:

1. They’re under $10k in most cases.

2. LS-power in a “mature-looking” package. I love the dull looks. Until I fire her up, most are oblivious to what she has. I like it that way.

3. You don’t see them often, but when you do, chat the owner up. I’ve made at least 20 friends (most of whom also own GTO’s) as a direct consequence of owning this car.

4. Maintenance isn’t terrible. The aftermarket is healthy, so if an OEM part is too expensive, either get a replica, or an upgraded. I bought the SAP grilles you see there for $250, and they fit perfectly. Real ones are close to $700.

Seriously, the reborn GTO was passed up by many, but it’s a great car. The culture associated with them is great, and you get big power without looking like a dudebro.

(Suggested by smalleyxb122)