All 3 of the American muscle cars offer some of the best bang for your buck on the planet, offering supercar levels of performance only dreamed of just 15-20 years ago. But what if you don’t have the money to spring for that Hellcat, Shelby or ZL1? Well if you have $40k to spend, you can get some serious performance. Here’s how the 3 stack up to one another with a maximum price of $40,000. Keep in mind this is just MSRP’s. Dealers have these models for way less. More on that below.
Mustang: First up, the Mustang. Recently redesigned, the price for the Mustang went up as well. You can go 3 ways to get the Mustang to $40k. But you have to be careful because pricing rises fast.
If you want 4 cylinder power, then you can go Ecoboost. Ecoboost Premium trimmed Mustangs start at $33,425. You can choose between 10 exterior colors, 8 of which are no cost (Rapid Red is $395; Twister Orange is $495); 4 tape strip colors 2 of which are $995 and one $895 and require the Pony package; a Black painted roof on every color but Black of course for $995 but it requires the Black Accent package; 2 racing stripes in Black or White for $475 each and 3 colors of hood and side stripes. But those are part of the recently introduced Ecoboost Performance Package. Just by adding on the Pony Package for instance, you’re already at nearly $35k. This is before any performance options. I kept it simple with Black, no stripes.
Other than that, the Mustang hits $40k quickly. Selecting the Ecoboost Performance Package and $1,995 10 speed auto, you’re looking at $40,015. Keep the manual, and you have almost no wiggle room to add on anything else as the price drops to $38,420. If you go that route with the Performance Pack and the manual, you have room to add on option package 201A that includes:
•12" LCD Digital Instrument Cluster with MyColor®
•Heated Steering Wheel
•Premier Trim with Color Accent Group
•Accent Stitched Center Console Lid, Wrapped Knee Bolsters with Accent Stitch, and Shifter Boot
•Premium Floor Mats with Accent Stitch
•Color-accented Leather-trimmed Seats
•Linked Graphite Aluminum Instrument Panel
•Unique Color-accented Door Trim
•Wrapped Center Console with Accent Stitch
•Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System with Pinch-to-Zoom Capability, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link®
•BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert
•Memory Driver Seat (3 settings) and Mirrors
The price jumps to $40,620. You can’t select anything else with $40k being the limit as it’ll either conflict with selected options or push the price even higher.
The Ecoboost Convertible hits $40k even quicker. A base Ecoboost Convertible starts at $33,910. Just by adding on the high performance package and no other options you’re $38,095 with the manual. Add the 10 speed auto and you hit $40,500. It gets worse if you go Ecoboost Premium Convertible. You can’t add the high performance package if you select this trim as the $38,925 base price of the Premium + the high performance package pushes the price to $43,920. You can add the 10 speed auto and it’ll be $40,520. Keep the manual and you can add on things like the Black Accent pack ($39,920), or the Pony Package ($100 less at $39,820), or the Wheel And stripe package….well you get the idea. You cant add on any performance bits. Just appearance packages and the price will stay at or under $40k. You can even go the Carbon Sport interior package. Other than that the way to go is base Ecoboost Convertible and the performance package for $38,905. Also keep in mind that for a $40k budget, you can’t get a V8 Mustang Convertible as there is no base GT convertible. Its base Convertible, Ecoboost Premium and then it jumps to GT Premium and that starts at $45,130.
Some, like myself might say you might as well get the V8. Speaking of which….
The only way to not go over $40 grand and have some wiggle room for options is with the base GT fastback. It starts at $37,370. You can add on the 10 speed auto and option package 301A which adds things like a 9 speaker stereo, dual zone climate control etc. The price goes $40,965. Pretty much any way you go about it, you can’t add on anything performance wise without cresting $40k with the GT.
As far as the Mustang is concerned, it gets pricey fast. The better way to go might be the Ecoboost fastback, as you have room to add on the performance package. Stick with the V8 and you will have a V8 that looks and sounds good, but it might not have that extra performance you’re looking for.
Camaro: The Camaro is just cheaper all around on the base pricing front. Base coupes start at $25,995 and convertibles $32,495. If I wrote all the ways you can option it up to $40k this piece would be all about the Camaro.. Pricing for the Camaro from base 1LS to 1SS range from $25,995-$35,590. Stick with the base model and you can add all the customization pieces to make it your own, from stripes, interior color pieces etc. But you wont get any performance.
The good thing about the Camaro though is that you can get the excellent 1LE Track Package for under $32k. A no optioned 4 cylinder Camaro 1LT with the 1LE package is just $30,495. And if the myriad number of customization options the Camaro has didn’t conflict with the 1LE package, you would have a lot of room to make it your own(Good luck finding a 1LE on a lot though. I found 16 in the entire country). You can even add Recaro seats and still be under $35 grand. Pretty much any sub SS model is a performance bargain. With that being said lets focus on the SS.
Camaro 1SS starts at $37,995 for the manual; $39,590 with the 8 speed auto. Being this close to $40k though you can only add on a few cosmetic options. The 1LE package is $7k. And while GM was smart and allows you to just have the suspension bits from the 1LE package in its own separate package called 1LE spec suspension package, its $1,970 and requires you add on an additional $3,665 for Magnetic Ride Control. That would push the price to $41,160, above our limit. All in a 1SS manual is $37,495; $39,090 with the auto and no options ($38,090 with GM’s current cash allowence).
If you go the Camaro Convertible route, you have to stick to just the 4 or 6 cylinder engines as the base SS convertible starts at $43,995. And unlike the Mustang, you can’t get the 1LE package on any trim of the convertible.
For the Camaro it looks like its the one to get over the Mustang if you want a bargain. But the recent design hasn’t been welcomed with open arms. But if you can get past the looks the 1LE is hard to ignore.
Challenger: The Challenger, like the other 2, can be had on multiple fronts under $40k. If you want all show and no go, there’s the base SXT trim with the V6. An SXT can be optioned to look pretty good with Dodge’s Blacktop package and red interior. And you’ll still be under $35k. I loaded out an SXT Challenger and got it to $32,265.
One big advantage the Challenger has over the competition is the fact that it can be had with AWD. The Challenger GT starts out where a fully loaded SXT ends. It starts at $32,440. But like the Mustang, it can head toward $40k fast. Load it out with things like the Blacktop package, Nappa leather/Alcantara performance seats in red, power sunroof and 19” black wheels and you’re looking at $40,410. Not worth it considering that leaps both R/T and Scat Pack pricing. And with V6 and AWD along with no performance package to speak of, it’s not worth it at that price when you can’t take advantage of the performance with how big the car is. But it is one of the few ways you can get a V6 and AWD in a coupe.
But its a muscle car. So what about the V8’s? Well with the Challenger, despite its wide array of V8 power, you can only go 2 ways to keep it under $40 grand and still have a V8. Its either standard R/T or Scat Pack. And pricing rises fast. A Challenger R/T starts at $36,040. Just adding $1,095 20” black wheels ( one of six 20” options and the only one that doesn’t require an option package) and performance seats pushes the price over our $40k max to $41,430. And on the R/T, along with a number of stripe and old school graphics options, you can also choose from 2 performance packages. If you want performance and some goodies, for $39,926 you can get an 8” Uconnect screen, a power sunroof , Performance Handling package and rear seat delete and be just under $40k.
You have to tread lightly with the Scat Pack however. Starting at $36,890 You can only select the Dynamics Package or 2 other appearance packages as anything else would push the price way over. With the Dynamics Pack and red brake calipers its $39,585. You can keep it up under $40 grand though if all show and no go is your game. But you still have to be careful.
You can choose either the Brass Monkey pack ($39,424) or the Shaker Pack ($39,885) and still be right under $40k. Any way you cut it prices rise fast.
Out of the 3 though, honestly, it looks like the Camaro might be the best bargain out of the bunch. Especially with GM’s willingness to move them due to its slow sales and 3rd places position on the sales charts. This also points to the fact that the prices here don’t reflect dealer pricing. Keep in mind the examples I’m about to go over are from dealers in my area but I’m sure where you live pricing is similar or lower. I’ve touched on the Camaro pricing recently so there’s no reason to go over it again.
The Challenger can be had for cheap. SXT’s are practically given away. Granted it may be rental spec but thats enough for some people. You can find them all day for compact car money.
Challenger R/Ts can be found with thousands off. Here we see just a few with $8-10k off. And that can probably get even lower if you negotiate. What’s more surprising but makes sense is that a lot of the cheap ones are manual. And they are cheap most likely because no one wants them. But autos are cheap too.
Scat Packs look like they will be the best bang for your buck as most if not all look to have at least $10k off sticker. (Over $40k but an honorable mention here is that the new Scat Pack Widebody is already discounted as well.)
With the Mustang, it looks like the deals to be had are on the base Ecoboost fastbacks of course. You can find them all day for Fusion money.
If you want the previous Ecoboost performance package, the one without the engine from the RS, they can be found discounted too like this example.
It gets hard to consider the Ecoboost, even with the performance pack, when you see how cheap the GT can be. These examples show you can easily find a GT under $32k if you look hard enough. If you don’t want to go spartan though, even the Performance Pack equipped GT can be found discounted.
This example, at a local dealer in Long Beach, has a GT with the Performance Pack for $37,565. MSRP on this one is $43,435.
It’s also worth mentioning though that on both the Camaro and Mustang, dealers aren’t too inclined to discount convertible models. From my search, Ecoboost convertibles still command the mid to high $30’s. And that’s for base models. Premium models close in on $40k. But again if you like to hassle you may get them to come down a bit.
Camaro convertibles are cheaper in 4 cylinder guise, as you can find those discounted to the low $30’s, while V6 models range from $34-37k. SS convertibles are a whole other story as the MSRP on them is usually over $50k, so their discounts take them to the mid $40’s. Also dealers don’t stock many convertibles period. I found 58 Camaro convertibles (10 I4, 16 V6 and 30 V8) within 100 miles of me, while there are almost 800 coupes.
There you have it though. You have a myriad number of options if you have $40k to spend on a muscle car. From spartan just want to look good base models, to models equipped with performance or handling packages you can choose your poison and not have it break the bank. Which do you guys think is the best for no more than $40k?