GTA Online has become an expensive game, in no small part thanks to the number of expensive vehicles that have been added since 2013. It takes a lot of time to grind for money and Shark Cards aren’t the best value proposition either. So what cars should you buy if you’re on a budget? I aim to answer that question below.
For the purposes of this discussion I'm going to set a hard limit of two million GTA dollars. If you’ve already invested heavily in the game and put all your effort into grinding money in the most efficient way possible, you could earn this in about 4-5 hours as we explored in my previous article on how to make money in GTA Online. However that does require the entirety of those 4-5 hours being spent grinding money rather than doing other more fun activities, and you need to have invested in certain businesses already to reach that hourly income. In most cases, doubling that first cool million is going to take some time, but it’s also not outside the realms of what most people will be able to achieve through a normal experience with the game.
This article will order things by importance, with the most useful cars first. There will be a heavy leaning towards cars that will allow you to compete in races and be quick in free roam, alongside more useful vehicles for missions and heists. These videos covering lap times and top speeds of every vehicle in GTA Online, as well as this document made by myself, will all be used to reach these conclusions. If you have any questions about any numbers quoted here, as well as what you should buy when you’re no longer on a budget, your answers will likely lie in those links.
Best cheap GTA Online cars: let's start with $2 million
Schafter V12 (Armored)
Performance Upgrades: $52,250
Class: Sedans (1st for Lap Time, 1st for Top Speed)
The armoured version of the Schafter V12 is a must have for anyone on a budget. At over half the cost of the armoured Kuruma, it’s an absolute steal when you consider that it will protect us from a few explosions and a number of bullets whether we’re in free roam or missions, in addition to taking three of our friends along for the ride. It’s also the quickest car in the Sedans class for both lap time and top speed, so if we ever find ourselves in a Sedan race we’ll be well equipped, and its top speed rivals most Supercars. Not much will be able to catch us in free roam with this, and if it does we’ll be well-protected. From a speed & usefulness vs price perspective, nothing beats the Schafter V12 (Armored).
Remaining Budget: $1,622,750
Performance Upgrades: $165,550
Class: Sports (4th for Lap Time, 33rd for Top Speed)
As long as you are registered on Rockstar’s Social Club, you can get one of the quickest sports cars in the game for free. Although it lacks a little in terms of top speed, a good driver will be able to use this car to great effect in Sports races. Until you have some money to spare to buy more specialised machinery, you can’t argue with the price to performance ratio of the Elegy RH8.
Remaining Budget: $1,457,200
Performance Upgrades: $165,550
Class: Supers (37th for Lap Time, 5th for Top Speed)
The Supercars class is a difficult one, mainly because everything is expensive. And unless we’re going to fork out around $1.7 million for a Vagner we’re not going to be able to compete in a corner heavy race with anything else anyway. So we might as well focus on getting a good top speed for our money and rely on our skills in the corners to be better than any competitors. The Banshee 900R, which is a Benny’s upgrade to the Sports class Banshee, is king in this respect, having one of the highest top speeds in the entire game and being a fraction of the cost of other cars around it (and many cars slower than it). It’s a big hit to our budget, but it’s the smallest we could hope for with this class that is certainly the most expensive and most often raced.
Remaining Budget: $621,650
Performance Upgrades: $114,525
Class: Muscle (10th for Lap Time, 8th for Top Speed)
After Super & Sports class races, the next most common type of racing happens with Muscle cars, but since our budget is almost a quarter of what we started with the best option now is to simply get something that we can use to compete. The Dominator shines here, being in the top 10 for both lap time and top speed for the Muscle class while keeping a low price. It’s difficult to drive, but if you can handle it you’ll be able to do well. If you’re a returning player from old gen GTA, getting the Pisswasser Dominator instead is a no brainer—it’s significantly quicker and, being free, cheaper. That isn’t an option for everyone, though.
Remaining Budget: $472,125
Performance Upgrades: $52,250
Class: Sports (24th for Lap Time, 5th for Top Speed)
In the absence of any cars within our budget that would be suitable for Sports Classics class races, we turn back to the regular Sports class. If you’re finding the free Elegy RH8 a little down on top speed, you can diversify with the relatively cheap non-armoured version of our first recommendation. The regular Schafter V12 is a shade quicker for both lap time and top speed than its armoured brother and can be used in both Sports and Sedan races. With four seats, too, it will be a nice car to use for transporting friends if you’re not worried about enemies, and you’ll have two cars to choose from for Sports races depending on the type of track (corner-heavy vs long straights).
Remaining Budget: $303,875
Performance Upgrades: $158,500
Class: Motorcycles (19th for Lap Time, 3rd for Top Speed)
While the inclusion of the BF400 may not seem to make sense given our final vehicle, it must be noted that, in addition to being one of the bikes with the highest top speed in the game when pulling a wheelie (beating out every non rocket powered car and bike), it can also be used in Off-Road races. This is key, because when used in that way it essentially becomes the quickest vehicle in the “Off-Road” class. Any normal Off-Road class vehicle will be beaten by the BF400, which technically isn’t in their class but can race against them anyway. The utility of this bike is staggering, which is why it has been included despite this being a list focusing primarily on cars.
Remaining Budget: $55,375
Performance Upgrades: $45,700
Class: Motorcycles (5th for Lap Time, 4th for Top Speed)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d not be able to get any kind of useful vehicle with only $50k in GTA Online, and you’d be right if the Bati 801 didn’t exist. While its upgrades do push us around $5k over our budget, that’s a pretty inconsequential amount of money. And for a bike that is so high up the order in terms of lap time and top speed for not only the Motorcycles class, but for all land vehicles in the game, you can’t go against the price-to-performance ratio of this machine. With a better lap time and top speed than every non rocket powered car, this is the ultimate way to go fast for a small price.
Remaining Budget: -$5,325
Oh snap, we went over budget!
More GTA 5 and GTA Online
If we want to remain strictly under budget, not getting the brakes upgrade for the Bati 801 leaves us with $1,675 of our initial $2 million, and in the process we’ve managed to get competitive cars and bikes in the most commonly raced classes in addition to some very useful machines for missions and free roam. For sure a successful spending spree, that is probably more useful than those you might see on YouTube for tens of millions of dollars more.
If you have $2 million and follow this guide, you’ll have a garage full of vehicles that will certainly get the job done in most situations, and allow you to start accumulating wealth for some bigger purchases later on down the line. And with GTA Online only getting more and more expensive, perhaps buying cheap but useful and waiting to see what you really want is a good overall strategy.