Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your pals at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used car deal.

This time around, we’ll answer a popular question from readers: what’s a good pick on a lightly used, high-performing plaything with a six-speed stick, power to spare, and boatloads of fun dialled in? In our opinion, recent versions of the Ford Mustang GT nicely fit the bill – and that’s where we’ll focus today.

Here’s the magic of a used Mustang GT: reliability looks fairly solid on models that have been well maintained and treated, these machines are a total hoot to drive the pants off of, and where performance sights, sounds, and sensations are concerned, the bang-for-the-buck is off the charts.

The Sticky

We’re focussing on the Coyote-powered Mustang GT variants specifically, which rock a screamer 5.0-litre V8 with horsepower into the 400 range, a provocative 7,000-plus rpm redline, and some magnificent sound effects. Have it your way – this generation of Mustang offered up automatic or six-speed manual transmissions, coupe or convertible body styles, and no shortage of accessories, options, and trim grades for fine-tuning to any need, taste, or budget.

Notable feature content included the Ford Sync connectivity system, a potent Shaker audio system, and cabin mood-lighting provisions with driver-selectable colours. Owners rate performance very highly, especially with the 5.0L V8, though the Mustang’s cabin may feel cramped for larger drivers, and especially for rear-seat passengers.

Approximate New Value

When new, early Coyote-powered Mustang GT models would relieve owners of no less than about $39,000, before any optional add-ons. Convertible models tended to clock in at a roughly $3,800 premium. Through the years, and thanks to several reconfigurations of equipment collections and trim grades, the Mustang GT’s entry pricing fell slightly, though new Premium models were introduced to value-bundle high-end features, driving the price of this variant up well into the $40,000-range. In terms of price when new, let’s call this one a $40,000 car.

Approximate Used Value

Today, depending on feature content and mileage, you’ll find no shortage of selection on Mustang GT models from this generation on offer from $20,000 or less, often with highly reasonable mileage.

Here’s a nicely loaded unit with automatic transmission and less than 51,000 kilometres of use for under $20,000, at six years old. Here’s another example with less mileage and similar pricing at only three years old. Pricing is highly variable and depends on the year, condition, and equipped options, but put simply, you can do very nicely in a Mustang GT for $25,000 or less.

If your budget is closer to the $30,000 range, you’ll find younger units like this or this, with reasonable miles, from the high twenties. Right at the $30,000 mark, you’ll find models like this low-mileage Mustang GT Convertible. Just four years and 35,000 kilometres ago, this particular example would have relieved its original owner of at least $44,799.

Put simply, here’s a high-performing car that once cost $40,000 or (likely) more, available today after just a few years, for as little as half of its original price. Note, too, that most Mustang models aren’t winter driven – meaning that unlike some used cars, most miles are free of salt, sand, and harsh winter use.

Test Drive Tips

To avoid potential headaches, bear the following in mind during your shopping and test drive process.

Owners have expressed frustration at the need to reboot, reload, and even replace the Ford Sync infotainment system, thanks to laggy performance, inconsistent operation, and a buggy interface. Learn how to hard-reset the system in case it gets moody, and ask your local Ford dealer about ensuring that all applicable system software updates have been installed.

Earlier copies of models with the 5.0L engine (2011–2012) should be triple-checked for manual transmission operation and condition. Be sure the shifter doesn’t pop out of position, bite back at you while you shift, and that no unwelcomed noises or sensations are present as you work the gearbox. Take any unwelcomed noises and sensations from an early Mustang GT’s six-speed manual as a signal to have it investigated by a professional, or to move to another unit. An NHTSA investigation revealed that possible transmission problems may have been the result of abusive driving, not the transmission. If in doubt, add any extended warranty coverage that may be available to cover the powertrain.

Is your potential used Mustang GT convertible concealing a leak? Inspect the fabric for signs of rips, tears, and abrasions, and inspect all vehicle carpeting, the trunk, and the area where the roof stores, for signs of moisture and mould.

Finally, beware newer Mustang GT models that have any extensive modifications applied by past owners. Though intake and exhaust systems are typically safe, bigger or more extensive modifications can cause problems, and may void any remaining warranty. The average shopper is typically best to stick to a used Mustang that’s as close to factory stock as possible.

The Verdict

With fairly solid looking reliability and access to a sweetheart of a V8 engine with 400-plus horsepower for $20,000 or less, a properly cared-for Mustang GT is worth strong consideration by shoppers after performance to spare, on the relative cheap.