If You Had $100,000, Which Three Cars Would You Buy?

Here's a fun way to waste a few minutes (or a few hours) on your Monday afternoon — if you had a stack of $100 bills to waste on a garage full of pure motoring joy, which cars would you pick? The Gizmodo team took that challenge on. After setting out a few ground rules, we each had half an hour to choose.

Firstly, we strictly had to pick three cars (although Luke kinda skirted that rule, but whatever). Secondly, every car had to be used — even if it was a demonstrator car sold at a dealership after a couple of months of test drives. Thirdly, the cars had to be available online — through Carsales, eBay or any other trading post website. Fourthly, you'd be paying running costs and buying insurance for each, so no wildly outrageous choices that weren't road legal.

Finally, there was no way we could spend more than $100,000 — no extra wiggle room on this entirely fictional and hypothetical pile of cash. Here's what we both decided on.

Campbell's Picks

Daily Driver: 2012 Audi A1 Attraction 1.6TDI, $21,990

I picked the Audi A1 because despite being a bit pretentious, it hits all my requirements for a daily driving car. It's an Audi, so it's refined and reliable, and it's a turbodiesel, so it's reasonably fuel efficient. It's a manual, and I know some people might find that annoying for daily driving, but I prefer it — plus it's actually slightly more fuel-efficient than the 7-speed S tronic auto. Most importantly, it's small, which is useful when I'm parking in the city or driving around the inner suburbs.

This particular example is optioned up with an up-spec stereo paired to Audi's great MMI interface and pop-up screen, upmarket 18-inch rims, dark tinted windows and grey roof pillar accents. It doesn't have a leather interior, but that doesn't bother me because I prefer fabric, and it's probably a little better for longevity during everyday use. Because it's white, it'll keep its resale value.

(To be honest, I wanted to stretch to a new three-cylinder Mini Cooper D, but at $39,384 it was a little too expensive for my budget. It's a beautiful little car, and unlike the Cooper S, it's available as a manual. Plus, that new modular BMW-Mini three-cylinder engine is a corker.)

Weekend Car: 2013 Toyota 86 GTS MY14 2.0, $29,900

Another manual two-door, but this one is rear-wheel drive and silver. I picked the Toyota 86 because it's simple, unpretentious, and most importantly great fun to drive; after spending a week in one I really didn't want to give it back. It's fuel efficient, and it's actually surprisingly comfortable to sit in for extended trips — it would make a great tourer for weekend trips up or down the coast.

The manual feels great, too, and not-too-sticky and relatively skinny tyres means it's easy to drive to near its limits without risking speeding fines. If I wanted to do a little tweaking, there's a fast-growing range of aftermarket suspension and engine upgrades from all the usual tuning houses. This particular GTS variant is a low-kilometres car, has a few more goodies than the barebones GT, and the owner has added a genuine rear parking camera and slim mud flaps — it has clearly been taken care of and not neglected.

(I was considering a plush 2007 BMW 335i, but I figured running costs would be a little harsh, and being an older BMW parts might start to get pricey if something decides to break on this particular computer-controlled twin turbo hard-top convertible coupe.)

Track Car: 2008 Lotus Elise 111 S MY08, $43,900

I have wanted a Lotus Elise ever since I first saw one on Australian roads in the early 2000s. The Elise S is a beautiful, basic, driving-focused vehicle, and I'd argue more track-focused and in line with Colin Chapman's "add lightness" philosophy than the Exige S that most people think is superior (extra power and fancier looks will do that, I admit). Just look at that interior — raised shifter, leather wrapped steering wheel, big gauges, and not much else to distract you from the task of actually driving. The Elise is a notoriously good track vehicle purely because it's so light and so carefully engineered for poise and balance on the limit.

This Elise 111 S has been very mildly modified with a few smart improvements — strengthened shift cables that eliminate a common point of failure on these cars, a toe link kit and body brace, stiffer poly engine mounts, and larger slotted DBA rear rotors. I reckon I could take it down to the track and throw it around without killing myself, but also have plenty of room to learn and improve before the car itself became the limiting factor.

(Other cars I considered were the I-promise-this-is-stock-and-not-constantly-thrashed 1999 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R and the slightly-more-out-of-left-field 2013 Renault R.S Megane 265 Sport Red Bull Edition.)

Total Spent: $95,790

Luke's Picks

Everyday Car: 2011 Abarth 500 Esseesse, $22,500

What you'll pick up quickly about me is that I don't like huge cars. I find that smaller cars are not only more fun, but have more character and ultimately go for less money, which is what this challenge is all about. I'm deeply in love with the Fiat 500. Both the 500 from way back and the retro-modern re-enactment that Fiat has produced in the last decade.

I've owned a Fiat 500, and it was one of the most character-rich and enjoyable cars I've ever had. Every time I got behind the wheel though, I was a tad let down by its conservative performance. That's why I'm in lust for the Abarth 500. For those out of the loop, Abarth is Fiat's in-house tuning company that takes cute cars like the 500 and makes them fit for lunatics like me. People who want to stick a tiny, front-wheel drive car into a bend at more speed than is probably sensible and come out with a smile on your face from ear to ear, and a little bit of wee in your seat.

For the most part, the Abarth 500 is still a pretty sensible hot hatch, which is why it's my choice for an everyday car. I'd pick up this beauty (in white, naturally) with less than 50,000km on the clock. All up, it cost me $22,500 from my budget. Perfik.

Weekend Car / Track Car: 2006 Lotus Exige 118 S, $59,500

This one was the hardest. Finding a weekend sports car that's suitable for the track that doesn't break the budget of around $60,000. Then I saw her. <a href="http://www.carsales.com.au/private/details/Lotus-Exige-2006/SSE-AD-2648797/?Cr=1&sdmvc=1"This amazing 2006 Lotus Exige.

For $59,950, I get a supercharged, rear-wheel drive go-kart styled like the Batmobile, and engineered to corner on a knife's edge. For the money, I wouldn't have anything else on the track.

The Exige S is the hardest of the hardcore Lotus road cars and this model has an uprated supercharger kit; it's actually a UK import and, according to the owner, is good for a 3.7-second 0-100km/h sprint. Yes please.

Two Wheels: 2010 Vespa GTS 300 Super Sport, $6750

So what happens with the remaining cash? I wouldn't blow it on options or insurance. No way.

Give me an extra $7000 and let me buy the best Vespa on the market (in my opinion): the GTS 300 Super Sport.

You can keep the budget-looking silver colour though: give me it in orange. Mega-swoon. (Cam's note: no, you take what you're given. Stop complaining.)

Total Spent: $88,750

Which three cars would you pick if you had $100,000 to spare? Take a few minutes to do a little searching, and let us know your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to throw in a link as well, so we can all agree and disagree violently with each other.



    Three cars? Can I just buy one and make it either a Caterham 620 R or an Ariel Atom v8? (despite it apparently righteously difficult to register for Australian roads)

    1969 camaro, Holden HQ Monaro,Holden cv8z Monaro,

      $100,000. 24 cylinders. 16.4 litres of swept capacity. Six wheels. Six doors. About a thousand litres of fuel per kilometre. Great choices!

        Six wheels? What am I missing?

          Um. I totally meant twelve wheels and I wasn't thinking.

            Thanks for that, Campbell! You had me sitting here wondering what the hell I was missing - I thought I was starting to lose my mind!

            It would still technically be six after you've burnt rubber in all of those cars :P

            Last edited 27/08/14 1:08 pm

        Already own a cheap corolla and a 2012 Kawasaki ninja zx10r for the petrol saving lol

      You'd struggle to find 3 good examples of these for under 100k in australia. the 3rd not so hard but the first two in a good quality with no rust would set you back over.

        Rust? Buy inland. You see some old cars in incredible shape away from the coast.

    Firstly I would buy something small
    2013 Kia Cerato YD S Sports Automatic - $20,990

    Then I would buy something cheap like a 1995 Holden Commodore for $2100

    So I still have $76910.

    This is where it get's tricky. I sign over my current car to exclusively in my partners name and get her to list it online for $76910. I then buy back this car using the money I have left over.

    Now I have
    - A new(ish) car for myself
    - My old car
    - An old bomb I can scrap

    I still have three cars, and have spent all of the hypothetical money. I also just happen to have $76910 in a joint bank account.

      Excellent interpretation of a loophole in the rules. Enjoy your fictional money!

      Then your partner decides they'd actually like to keep the 76 grand, pulls it out, leaves, never to be seen again.

      So you're left with a kia and a bomb. ☺

        At least you find out what your partner is like ;) Could save you a lot more down the track...

    Everyday Car: 2013 Volkswagen Polo GTI $29990
    Small, comfortable, quick enough for daily use.

    2011 Honda CBR600RR $11000
    (Sort of cheating like Luke)
    Track Bike/Weekend Ride.

    1981 DeLorean DMC-12 $45990

    Total cost $86980

    Leaves me $13020 for when my DeLorean breaks down, and when I get bored and want to change parts on the bike.

      I've got an 07-08 Polo GTI at the mo', so I'm slightly turned off the 6R Polo GTI, but I *was* considering the TDI until I saw that A1 available...

        Have you done any mods to the GTI?

          Yeah, a fair few. It's chipped with a Custom Code Phase One tune and a Forge 008 DV, and has a few induction mods, a Whiteline rear sway, poly mounts for the engine and gearbox. Fair few other bits and pieces but they're mostly repairs to degraded parts.

            Damn. That would have some go!

    My list would be as follows;

    05 Liberty GT ~ $15,000
    Luxurious and stylish for a daily, good economy and still fun around corners or in a straight line. Plenty of grunt to pull things and AWD to do a little bit of offroad travel (Dirt roads).

    06 RS4 B7 Quattro ~ $50,000
    Big luxury cruiser that lays down a solid 4.8 0 - 100 with its 4.2L Naturally Aspirated V8, and AWD to maintain that power to the ground. Good looks to boot for such a big car, and the reliability of AUDI. Performance and Luxury straight off the bat. Wouldn't be tracking this due to the fact that it weighs in at 1650KG, far too heavy for an enjoyable track car, unless the track is practically a straight.

    05 Subaru STi ~ $22,000
    This is the car to take to the track. An excellent mix of power and handling in a beautiful package. Pretty much speaks for itself. Plus, endless modability.

    I can't be certain but unfortunately I think this MAY go over that $100,000 threshold after insurance and rego, but as flat money for the cars themselves, you're spending roughly 87,000. Also note that the car prices are prices I've sourced on Carsales. Prices may vary depending on mileage and car conditions. All above prices are for cars around the 100,000KM mark.

    **EDIT: For the sake of maintaining my man card, these were all Manual vehicles.**

    Last edited 26/08/14 12:44 pm

      Some really solid nice choices in there. That RS4 would still be a monster on the track, but you'd go through brakes and tyres and fuel like nothing else. That STi would be killer, although I'd even be tempted to go for an older lighter one rather than the bugeye.

        Yeah I know it'd still prove to be alright, I just personally don't like throwing weighty cars around, don't find it enjoyable. Something about light go-kart handling cars that just makes you feel awesome.

        I was thinking about the GC8 STi's, but you can't find low kilometer, non-thrashed, genuine STi's for cheap these days. Although I would love one and think they're awesome. I really like the idea of the strong DCCD trans and the stalwart engine on the 05.

      I used to drive the '02 STi. That car can put a smile on your face any day of the week :)

    If I had $100k, I wouldn't buy three cars... I'd maybe buy one.'
    *place holder in case I change my mind*

      We had to have some rules, otherwise it would have been ANARCHY.

    For the record, if I'm not allowed to have the Vespa I'd go a Mini Moke in a heartbeat.

    I thoroughly endorse all these picks, especially the Loti (collective noun for lotus). But it begs the question who has a three car garage these days? I think for that reason I side with Luke for practicality sake. Small run about FIAT for the city and Lotus as a weekend toy.

    If I had 3 cars one would be a classic with some character. BMW 2002, mid 70's Alfa's or Citroens. These would probably get a run once a month but sit pride of place in the garage.

      I have done this
      I have:
      - VW Up! for daily commute to work
      - Lexus RX450h to keep missus happy and when comfort is key (she drives that)
      - '64 Triumph TR4 for some classic sports car action.

      Total just under $100k

        Brilliant @astro64, I should have added classic British sports cars to the mix. Apologies good sir, Triumphs and Austin Healy Sprites are all rite.

    I'd buy a newish Golf for the missus, a BMW R nineT for my two wheels, and then spend the rest on either a BMW 2002, or a Mercedes 190SL rolling shell, with funds left over to spend the rest of my life restoring and building up.

    Ending up with something along the lines of the Mercedes Bent 190SL being the goal :)

    Last edited 26/08/14 1:07 pm

    Some seriously weird choices, here. Old cars are awful, the older the awfuller. For that reason, if I were spending $100k on cars, all would be new.

    1. Commodore SS-V Redline (manual) - $52,490 + orc = $55k
    This car will cream any of the others anyone has mentioned, whilst also being the perfect daily driver and brilliant tourer. Yes, it's big but it parks itself so who cares?

    2. Kia Pro_Cee'D GT - $29,990 + orc = $33k
    Style with substance for small car money, who wouldn't want one?

    3. VW Golf (used) - Any model will do, as long as it's under $12k
    I don't like Golfs and would buy this specifically to push off a cliff.

    Of course, if I really had $100k to spend on cars, I'd just buy an HSV Gen F GTS, at $94,490 + on-roads, and be done with it. There is simply no better car to be had for the money, anywhere in the world.

      If I swapped my Monaro cv8z for a kawasaki zx10r for $16,000 I'll beat your ssv redline/gen f gts at any speed around any corner all day long.

        No, you won't. You'd beat me in a straight line but cars have a lot more rubber to throw themselves into corners with so they tend to go around faster. You can watch any number of Youtube videos showing cars beating bikes around tight tracks, the most memorable being from Fifth Gear. in any event, motorcycles are not cars and this article is about cars.

    I'll keep my SAAB convert & use the balance of cash for repairs & mantainence

      I don't think $100,000 is enough for maintenance on a Saab.

    I inform Luke that someone's trying to steal his nice new Vespa, nick the keys for the Abarth and Lotus and walk out with the $100,000 in cold, hard cash and two cars.

    Hey, nobody got rich being *nice*.

      Clearly you've never been in an Abarth. I don't think it has any suspension, it has the ride quality of a shopping trolley. It is easily the most uncomfortable I have ever been in a car. I doubt the Lotus would be much better.

    I'd keep my current car (VE Calais V) and put some cash into the driveline and suspension. $20k should get me a reliable 500kw.
    The rest can go into resto modding a 60 series Landcruiser into a touring behemoth with a 80 series chassis and LS3/T56 combo.
    Any left overs can go towards a bike. Maybe a XJR1300...

    Lotus - daily/weekend

    maybe an F6 with around 30k worth of work done to it...

    having used a 911 carerra as a daily for a few months, the ONLY thing that annoyed me, was the auto gearbox (wasn't my car), the ride and lowness and harshness of the car didn't worry me at all

      I was very close to speccing a 996 Carrera as my weekend car, but couldn't find one that I was entirely happy with for sale. Plus, they're all convertibles, urgh.

    1. a R34 GTR (around $45-$55k) would be a great collector's car and probably a weekend car.
    2. Subaru 04 STi (around $20k - $25k) makes a great daily driver and getting the family to places. Much prefer the 2.0 litre EJ207 over the later years EJ257 for boost.
    3. either a Mazda RX7 Series 7/8 or a Honda S2000 for track (both around $20k to 25k). Great for mods and heaps of parts out there so you can't go wrong. Problem with the RX7 is that I will probably get sick of doing engine rebuild so I am leaning more towards the S2000 for reliability.

    and yes, I prefer Jap cars.

    Last edited 26/08/14 1:36 pm

    1. 2014 Mazda 3 SP25 Astina - $40k
    2. 2003 Honda S2000 - $20k
    3. 2011 Mazda RX-8 GT - $27k

    Total: $87k

    All three cars with manual transmissions. The Mazda 3 would be my daily driver, with the S2000 and RX-8 for nice days and weekends. If the budget was a bit higher I'd have swapped out the RX-8 with a Honda NSX, but alas, prices on those aren't going down anytime soon :(

    Tesla Model S, although the base P60 isn't ideal.
    Then get two $100 shit boxes and on sell for scrap

    I'd buy cars that appreciate in price.

    1) 1969 Morris Mini Cooper S - 10 years ago they were worth about $10,000 now they are anywhere from $15 to $20k and getting increasingly rare. They're the best drives, easy to maintain and don't take up so much space.

    2) 1972 round tail lights BMW 2002 - A few years ago these were fetching $3000 -$5000. Now a good one is $20,000 or more.

    3) Ford Mustang - anything in good nick. They used to fetch about $40,000 for a nice one but recently I've seen them going for $70,000 in right hand drive and totally sorted.

    Any of these are good examples of "better get in now while you still can" cars. Plenty more examples. Haven't even touched classic Nissans and Toyota AE86 Treuno's for example. Another good one is a Nissan Hakosuka Skyline, bring one in from Japan, instantaneously collectable.

    All of these I would daily drive, I'm not kidding as I have done so with a mini in above example.

    Last edited 26/08/14 1:58 pm

    I want the Ariel Atom. Still waiting for it to be road legal in Australia :(

    I did get a ride in one in NZ last time I was over there.

    R34 GTR V.spec II Nür #IWIN

      R34 GTR V.spec II Nür: Roughly 80K imported

      Superlight Caterham: 50k spend 20k on mods. #youlose.

    Well first a Jeep Wrangler fully optioned up with some nice Double Black Offroad options $50K, much prefer mud days to track days

    A 2013 A3 Audi hatchback $30K as my every day town car.

    And $20k for a nice old 1963 Thunderbird because well they look cool

    Ok I have the first two, just need the TBird!

    Stagea + mods for a daily; because it's practical, I can have a little fun - I like them more than other wagons.

    s2000 + mods for daily\track - I have one currently and it's an amazing car, just not practical :P Also, convertibles are awesome fun - most people I know change their mind on convertibles after going for a drive with the top down.

    Harley Night Rod Special / Muscle or Duccati Monster - I currently use my bike as a daily unless it's wet\need space.

    New Subaru XV with the accessories I want - about $40k
    Used Toyota Land Cruiser Troop Carrier HDJ78R - average $33.5k on carsales
    Used KTM 640 Adventure dual purpose bike - average $6k on bikesales

    Spend the rest on fixing up the Troopy including good tyres, maybe lockers, a winch and winch bar if it hasn't already got one......... and a nice 12' Snyder beach fishing rod

    Instead of having 3 cars I'll take a mercedes GLA 45AMG for approx $90,000 and keep the change for fuel

    3 cars for 100,000. Sorry that's not enough money for one decent car.
    If it was money no object, I'd have the 2016 Audi TT RS (it should have more power directed to the rear wheels therefore partly negating the dangerous understeer that is inherent in Audi's) and then have APR put a stage three kit in it and it should be good for at least 600hp and a 0 to 100 times as low as 2.5 seconds. A real supercar beater that's small enough to drive and park comfortably in the city.
    OK, now for the 3 cars for 100,000
    No. 1..... Mercedes A45 amg
    No. 2..... A cheap van to move stuff about and to carry my tools
    No. 3..... With the rest of the money, any cheap car I can demolish and destroy on its first outing.

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