Cheap V8 cars are often looked past for something more modern or efficient. While there might be some benefits to that way of thought, there is a common saying in motorsport: there’s no replacement for more displacement. And, even today, that sentiment rings true. While turbochargers and other methods of forced induction might rival a naturally aspirated V8 in raw power, there’s something spiritual in how a V8 delivers that power.
As we traverse deeper into the 21st century, high displacement and high cylinder counts are on the decline. The term “V8” is typically only used in the recounting of an old memory these days; something about a neighbor owning a Shelby GT350 and hearing the earth-quaking rumble through your bedroom walls every Sunday morning in the summer. In an era of hybrids and EVs, experiences like that evade the present tense.
Luckily, your chance to own a piece of the magic lives on. Whether you’re searching for a solid workhorse or a weekend thrasher, there’s a wide variety of cheap V8 cars just a trigger pull away.
Our Picks For The Best Cheap V8 Cars:
1) Cheap V8 Cars – Lexus LS400
Price: $4,000 – $10,000
Engine: 1UZ-FE V8
Power: 290 Horsepower
We’ll start the list of cheap V8 cars with a vehicle that seems plush and pillowy on the outside but has a hidden unruly soul. The Lexus LS400 was introduced to the market in 1992 as a direct competitor to the Mercedes W140 and BMW E32, with most critics agreeing upon the LS400s superiority in almost every way. It is clear that luxury was the peak priority with the LS400, proven by the leather and premium material-clad interior.
A result of Lexus’ insistence on creature comforts, the LS400 came stocked with never-before-seen features. While we all love heated seats, ABS, automatic climate control, and seat position memory now, they were all new then.
Let’s not forget about the LS400s power plant either. With a fortified, 1UZ, 290-horsepower V8 under the hood, the LS400 isn’t a slouch. With a low 6-second 0-60 time, launches are impressive for what can be considered a certified land yacht. Perhaps unexpected at the time but beyond proven today, the 1UZ-FE is one of the most reliable V8s ever made. It isn’t uncommon to see LS400s with hundreds of thousands of miles still getting along just fine.
The LS400 exemplifies the autobahn spirit, showing its strengths on long road trips or highway commutes. With suspension that rivaled even Rolls Royce at the time, comfort is inevitable in the LS400. If you’re looking for a car that’ll go the distance without leaving you sore, look no further.
The Lexus LS400 is a great car to bridge the gap between modernity and old-school class. Introducing many modern life-enhancing features we know today, you won’t likely find that you need anything else. In addition to being a nice place to exist, the LS400 will get you from point A to B reliably and in style.
2) Cheap V8 Cars – Ford Crown Victoria
Price: $2,000 – $8,000
Engine: Ford Modular 4.6L V8
Power: 250 Horsepower
The Ford Crown Victoria is as legendary as it is infamous. Remaining the United States police force’s primary choice of vehicle throughout its production run, there has to be a reason. And, spoiler alert, there are a few. If you know anything about current Ford and their core values, you’d know they go something like this: affordability, ease of maintainance, reliability. This pretty much sums up the Crown Victoria, plus a few other additions.
While many of the luxury accouterments on the LS400 will be missing here, that’s not really what the Crown Victoria is about. The Crown Vic is an American workhorse and it acts that way. The interior is about as stripped back as can be. While air conditioning and AM/FM radio do come included, those are the only notable interior features. If heated leather seats and powered mirrors are a necessity, look for a Vic with the LX Sport package.
The Crown Vic is powered by a modular Ford 4.6L V8, capable of 250 horsepower in its highest trim. While not the beefiest V8 out there, it’s undoubtedly that the Vic has some get-up-and-go. If you’re looking for more power, Ford V8s never lack a wide array of mod options. They’ll be reliable horsepower too, as Ford V8s are designed for longevity.
As mentioned above, the Crown Vic is an easy and cost-efficient car to own. Placing high among the top ten most reliable cars ever produced, the Crown Victoria will rarely leave you stranded. Most cheap V8 cars have a hard time doing what a Crown Vic can do. Ultimately, it does what a car should do really well, and not much else.
3) Cheap V8 Cars – Chevrolet Tahoe
Price: $2,500 – $8,000
Engine: Chevy LO5 Vortec V8
Power: 225 Horsepower
Taking a departure from highway-cruising sedans, a Chevy Tahoe is our top V8 SUV pick. With the Tahoe name being synonymous with ‘giant family-hauler’ for almost three decades, most people disregard its capabilities.
Like what makes the other vehicles on this list stand out, the first-generation Tahoe is a solid owner’s car. At its root, that phrase encompasses high comfort, easy maintenance, unfaltering reliability, and joyful driving. Having owned a 1995 Tahoe, I can attest that all were, for the most part, present.
Starting with the first-gen Tahoe’s comfort level, it’s hard to beat. Honestly. The front seats feel more like a used sofa with a bit more support. Where many cheap V8 cars lack in the comfort department, Tahoes do not. In combination with the planted but forgiving suspension, it can feel like you are stationary at 80 mph a lot of the time. It is hard to imagine a better long-haul vehicle than a first-gen Tahoe.
It is also a key point that the first-gen has 7 seats, plenty for your whole family and your neighbors. With the rear seats in a downward position, a full set of living room furniture will fit in the back. Of all of the vehicles on this list, the Tahoe is unquestionably the most versatile.
That brings us to the first-gen Tahoe’s LO5 small-block V8; a strong and reliable powerhouse. Pumping out 225 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque, highway overtakes in a first-gen are easily done. The ample amount of power will make you forget how heavy the car is at times.
Of all SUV choices falling in the sub 10k range, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that can hold its own face to face with a first-gen Tahoe. With a cloud-like ride and 7 rear-end welcoming seats, the Tahoe is road-trip-ready. Combined with a hefty and reliable V8, a cheap, sturdy companion is what you’ll find in a Tahoe.
4) 1995-2003 BMW 540I
Price: $3,500 – $10,000
Engine: BMW M62 4.4L V8
Power: 290 Horsepower
To be honest, we might be a bit biased on this one. The BMW 540I is another car on this list that I have owned, loving every second of it. Slotting into a similar market as the LS400, the BMW 540I had its sights set on providing a luxury experience. That is exactly what it delivers.
The third generation of BMW’s 5-Series line, the E39 540I was the top-spec, excluding the M5. MSRP back in the day was over $100,000, adjusted for inflation. Considering that you can pick one up for under a tenth of that in the current day, there’s a lot of bang for buck potential.
In typical BMW fashion, the 540I’s interior is entirely wrapped in buttery leather and wood trim. In comparison to the other vehicles on this list, the 540I feels the most premium. A power rear sunshade and optionally included car phone will have you feeling like a 90s Fortune 500 executive.
There’s something truly special about the way the 540I drives. You can feel BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” mantra coursing through its veins. To start, the double-jointed Macpherson front struts allow for magical performance around corners. The performance suspension negates the 540Is 3,600 lb curb weight completely, making it feel like a much smaller car. The mean 4.4 liter V8 might have something to do with that as well.
BMW’s M62 V8 engine, which powers the E39 540I, is an enthusiast’s dream. Producing 290 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, it’s clear that the 540I was intended for the autobahn. While best utilized for long journeys, the 540I is capable of stomping challengers from light to light. In terms of cheap V8 cars, the BMW 540I is one of the sportiest.
The BMW E39 540I reaches a middle ground between performance and luxury that few other vehicles can replicate. The timeless styling is pure art. The V8 will leave anyone impressed. What else can you ask for? Well, perhaps reliability and cheap repairs, but nothing is perfect.
5) Cheap V8 Cars – IROC Camaro
Price: $2,500 – $9,000
Engine: Chevrolet 5.0L V8
Power: 220 Horsepower
If you lived through the 80s, this one was likely a dream car at one point. Now, 30 years later, an IROC Camaro is a perfect way to live out your American muscle fantasies. More in line with the Crown Vic in terms of ideology, the IROC is strictly no-nonsense. Embodying the American spirit, the selling point of the IROC is its engine, not much more.
Most of the cars on this list have been cruisers – comfortable and powerful on long drives. The IROC certainly breaks this mold by being a true, bonafide muscle car. With that territory comes an unenthusiastic interior, a lack of creature comforts, and only two doors. Power windows and air conditioning are standard, but that’s about all. And that’s okay.
Outshining the lack of features is the IROC’s 5.0L V8, specially designed to deliver burnouts. Putting down 220 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque, tires can easily be put to rest. In addition to straight-line capability, the IROC’s updated suspension following its 1985 update actually allowed it to go around corners. There are obviously better handling vehicles, but the IROC has passable cornering capabilities.
Another point of importance is the IROC Camaro’s reliability. As with most Chevy V8-powered cars, the IROC retains the reputation of being tough. The mechanical strength of the IROC is perhaps one of the strongest arguments for actually owning one. Maintenance is pretty straightforward as well. Being a GM-produced vehicle, parts are cheap and widely available. The spacious engine bay leaves plenty of fiddle-room as well.
If a muscle car on a budget is what you are gunning for, the IROC Camaro certainly stands out. With prices of Mustangs and Corvettes skyrocketing in recent years, it’s only a matter of time before Camaros do the same. Now is your chance to get in on the action.
6) Infiniti Q45 4.5L V8
Price: $3,000 – $7,000
Engine: Nissan 4.5L V8
Power: 278 Horsepower
Not many people remember that the Infiniti Q45 even exists, let alone consider buying one. While that might be the case, there are a few good reasons to keep it in mind. Another performance geared luxury sedan, the Q45 aimed to be the best handling vehicle in its segment at the time. The Q45 also featured a 4.5L V8 capable of producing a whopping 278 horsepower and 292 lb-ft of torque. That’s 58 more horsepower than the IROC Camaro listed above. Pretty impressive.
With performance being the primary focus of the Q45, it must be said that the interior leaves a bit to be desired. While still more premium than most of the American cars on this list, the interior is basic. The Q45 does feature heated leather seats, climate control, and keyless entry, but that’s where the list ends.
While the interior might not be glam, the Q45’s performance is what stands out. From the factory, the Q45 came standard with a limited-slip differential, making cornering slightly more effortless. To add to this, the Q45 also featured a multi-link suspension and rear stabilizer bar. Later introduced 17:1 steering boosted handling further. This all culminated in a notably planted, full-sized car with plenty of power. Overall, a great combination of things.
Top Cheap V8 Cars Summary
The V8 engine is a rare breed these days. With modern technology shunning high displacement out of existence, we have to look to the past. Luckily, there’s a wide array of cheap V8 cars that dipped into the range of affordability for most people. In comparison with most other kinds of used cars, cheap V8 cars tend to be reliable, cheap to repair, and smooth to drive. That is a trifecta that’s rare even today.
Whether you are looking for a tire-shredding monster, highway cruiser, or family workhorse, there are many options out there for you.
If you enjoyed this article and found the information on cheap V8 cars helpful, check out our other V8-related articles and guides including our 3 Most Common Toyota 5.7 V8 Engine Problems guide, our best cars under $5000 and our Mercedes M113 V8 Engine Problems, Reliability, and Specs guide. Safe driving!