The 10 Best Cheap Cars For Drifting

Drift car! You may have seen it when you watch Fast and Furious or car racing. But do you understand what car drift is? Where does it originate from? And what is the line-up of the best cheap car for drifting? Stay tuned with Car From Japan.

Drifting is basically a controlled sport. The brakes, throttle, and steering are controlled in a way to keep the wheels on the road while maintaining absolute control and shifting the vehicle’s weight between corners.

Some professional drivers can drift just a few centimeters from a fence (or obstacle) while maintaining a speed of 130 km/h, 45 degrees or more. A good drift driver can swing the car’s weight through 5-6 corners precisely without increasing rear wheel traction at any point.

The Origin of Drift Culture

Drift was first popularized in Japan and quickly adopted by the West in the late 1990s. Drifting was stirred by a Japanese racer named Kunimitsu Takahashi who started his career in the motorcycle industry but switched to auto racing in the All Japan Rally Championship.

Takahashi’s technique was later adopted by street racers like Keiichi Tsuchiya, who started using the mountain roads in Japan to test his skills. This trend gradually became popular in Japan and is often practiced by racers in places like mountain roads or piers late at night so as not to endanger other road users.

Nowadays, drifting has evolved into a worldwide sport, although it is still not considered professional.

Best Cheap Cars For Drifting

You can drift cars with these following traits to ensure the smoothest performance:

  • Rear- or four-wheel drive vehicle with a rear bias
  • Vehicles with powerful engines
  • It has a limited-slip differential to keep both rear wheels spinning, instead of just one
  • A vehicle capable of disabling any electronic stability control system
  • Low-traction tires

And below is the line-up of the best cheap car for drifting you have been waiting for. Let’s follow along!

BMW E36 325i

Opening the line-up of the good cheap drift cars is a model from the powerhouse BMW. The BMW E36 325i has been a staple in the drift community for many years because it has enough power to make driving fun and sideways. It is also a reliable and capable drift car. The original engine gives almost 200 hp and can handle modifications up to 350 hp without the need for an engine overhaul.

This means you won’t have to worry about premature failure and can use the stock platform for years. It also comes with a rugged manual transmission that can withstand abuse. You can get a 325i in good condition for almost nothing on the used car market for around $8,000.

cheap drift cars
The original BMW E36 325i’s engine gives almost 200 hp and can handle modifications up to 350 hp. (Photo: Auto Arp)

Mazda Miata

The Mazda Miata is another great choice for beginners as it is easy to use and has the same power output and reliability as the BMW E36 325i. However, the stock engine doesn’t have the best drift potential and probably won’t be enough for serious competitive events. So the best option is to swap out the LS3 engine.

Overall, the Mazda Miata is also a great choice because it’s light and has a narrow turning radius, making it easier to maneuver around corners.

Toyota Chaser JZX100

Toyota Chaser JZX100 is another perfect drift car for beginners. It has a chassis that is sure to last forever and produces good power out of the box with the 1JZ-GE engine.

They are cheap and easy to find in good condition, and there are a lot of mods available. You can make this Chaser incredibly fast with just a few modifications, such as a larger turbocharger, an intercooler, and new headers. And because it’s so reliable, you can use it for years, making it a bargain for around $11,000 or more.

cheap drift cars for beginners
Toyota Chaser JZX100 is so reliable and you can use it for years, making it a real good bargain. (Photo: MotorTrend)

BMW E30 316i

Equipped with rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and a large engine compartment, BMW E30 316i can be a great choice for first-time drifters. Since the standard engine doesn’t have enough power to drift properly, you’ll need to change engines.

The most common and easily interchangeable engines include the LS V8, 2JZ, SR20, and VQ35. You can buy a BMW E30 316i for around $14,000 and do an engine swap like the LS3 we mentioned before.

Nissan 350Z

The Nissan 350Z may be ideal for both car drifting and everyday driving. You’d be hard-pressed to find another car that can go from light to wild so quickly for as little as $16,000.

The 350Z is an easy car to operate and drift. You can upgrade it with simple modifications like angle sets or solder offsets. This car also has a large aftermarket, making it easier to find new parts, repair shops, and change.

cheap starter drift cars
The 350Z is an easy car to operate and drift in general. (Photo: Top Speed)

Nissan Silvia S14

Coming up next in our cheap drift cars for beginners list today is the S14 Nissan Silvia. It’s an ideal choice for beginners who want to build a drift car, as it comes with an SR20DE or SR20DET engine. Specifically, the SR20DET is a turbocharged engine producing up to 350 – 500 hp, better than average power for a beginner drift motorcar.

The downside is that these engines are expensive to upgrade to full power (about 500 hp) compared to other engines that can do it cheaper, like the 1JZ. So once you’re competitive, it might be worth doing a cheaper engine swap.

Ford Mustang Fox 1992

Often overlooked, many people forget that the Mustang is more than just a straight-line performance car, especially the Fox Body Mustang. After the oil crisis of the ’70s, Ford made the Mustang as light as possible. You may be surprised by its lightweight performance that fits perfectly for drifting at the early stages.

Under the hood, it has a turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four or a 5.0-liter Windsor V8. While both engines are great for drifting, the latter delivers more rattle, making it easier to control the angle of slip and minimizing driver error. The V8 is also more reliable than the smaller displacement inline-four.

In addition, models produced between 1979 and 1993 came with a standard gearshift transmission and rear-wheel drive. It’s not difficult to find a good one these days, as Ford has sold more than a million units during its existence.

And being a legendary Mustang, the car has excellent aftermarket support. You can upgrade it into the best cheap car for drifting with unique twists, such as modifying it for limited slip mode and enhancing the chassis.

good cheap drift cars
Being a legendary Mustang, the car has excellent aftermarket support. (Photo: American Muscle CarZ)

Mazda RX-8

If the Mazca RX7 price is a little too much for you, an RX-8 may be an ideal alternative drifting beast with a lower price. The Mazda RX-8 boasts incredible turning power, 9,000 rpm, and an impressive drift chassis, something only a few cars can claim to have.

Go above and beyond with the front-engine, rear-wheel drive arrangement, and standard limited-slip differential, and you’ll have a side-steer monster ideal for any avid racer.

Weighing just 3,050 pounds, the RX-8 offers incredible handling thanks to its near 50:50 weight distribution and low center of gravity. The overall package is a perfect candidate for an engine swap if you’re worried about crankshaft maintenance.

Among the best affordable drift cars on the market, costing as low as $2,100 for 2004 high mileage examples, very few can give you the same or better performance than the RX-8.

Merkur XR4Ti Turbo

The XR4Ti is a German-made European version of the Ford Sierra RS, sold in the US as the Merkur XR4Ti from 1985 to 1989. As a result, the XR4Ti borrowed its sporty styling from the high-performance Sierra RS, a vehicle that was rebranded as the Merkur XR4Ti and designed for racing in the European Group A race.

Born a drift car, the XR4Ti is lightweight, has a long wheelbase, an easily adjustable independent rear suspension, a well-balanced chassis, and an excellent power-to-weight ratio.

best cheap car for drifting
The XR4Ti is lightweight, has a long wheelbase, an easily adjustable independent rear suspension. (Photo: Nationwidepicturecars)

The XR4Ti has a 2.3-liter turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Getting a place in the best cheap starter drift cars line-up, it comes with a five-speed manual transmission, completing the perfect recipe for a tire-burning drift car.

While the XR4Ti is rare, finding one is relatively cheap and easy as most hobbyists and tuners often overlook them.

Lexus SC300

Boasting a Supra interior, luxurious features, and luscious looks, the Lexus SC300 is an underrated drifting gem. While not the 2JZ-GTE engine you’ll find in the top-spec MKIV Supra, the non-turbocharged 2JZ-GE 3.0-liter in-line six is equally capable, priced at 225 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque.

In addition to the engine, the SC300 and MKIV Supra share other components such as electronics, transmission, brakes, and subframe. That means this Lexus model benefits from the Supra’s pre-existing parts as the Supra is one of the most popular tuned drift cars available today.

With a good car for drifting like the Lexus SC300, it will not be hard to find aftermarket components such as a header or exhaust system to modify or upgrade it as your intention. But the SC300 has an edge over the Supra in that it’s also luxurious and easy to hold. So if you want a drift car to get to races and clubs, the SC300 is a cheap car worth looking for.

You can enjoy Supra-like drift performance from the SC300 for as low as $2,250 for those that have gone the distance, but those in pristine condition cost around $26,500.

best affordable drift cars
Boasting a Supra luxurious features and luscious looks, the Lexus SC300 is an underrated drifting gem. (Photo: Cars & Bids)


We have just scrolled through some of the best cheap car for drifting in the market that is good for starters. Hope you find insightful information after reading this. See you later with more interesting Car Review pieces.