The only way most of us ever get close enough to look at, let alone touch, an exotic sports car or a six-figure luxury sedan is at an auto show, and at that many of the priciest models are often roped off to avoid the commoners’ oily fingerprints.

But driving some of the finest vehicles on the planet isn’t necessarily limited to only the fabulously wealthy. Savvy automotive enthusiasts are able put themselves behind the wheel of some pretty heady rides, from Corvettes to Porsches – even Bentleys and Lamborghinis – on what is otherwise a modest stipend.

As in the world of big business, the key is not to put your own money into hard assets – in this case an exotic car – but to leverage someone else’s to your advantage. Short of begging the CEO for a spin in his Rolls Royce Ghost or convincing a Lamborghini dealer you’ve just been picked in the first round of the NFL draft in order to take an Aventador out for a test drive, this can be accomplished for varying amounts of money in either of three simple ways:

1. Join A Car Sharing Club.

One way car lovers with a bit of money to burn can indulge their vehicular fantasies is to join a club that provides access to various upscale autos. At least in theory it works like a vacation-home timeshare – members buy the right to drive one or more vehicles for select periods over the course of a year’s membership. Maintenance, insurance and pick-up/delivery are usually included, which makes “owning” an exotic car even easier.

A quick web search will easily uncover car sharing clubs in your area, and most offer multiple plans to fit a range of budgets. One of the largest, Curvy Road, maintains cars in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami. Annual fees start at $12,000 for four weeks’ use of select vehicles per year in addition to a $1,250 one-time membership fee. Available models include the Bentley Continental GT coupe and the Aston Martin DB9 and Lamborghini Gallardo sports cars.

In addition to the “usual” high-end sedans and sports cars, DFW Elite Car Club in Ft. Worth, Texas offers its members access to several classic rides,  including a 1959 BMW Isetta, 1959 Mercedes-Benz 190SL and 1959 Volkswagen Beetle. Individual memberships run from $750 to $2,000 per year according to the number of “points” purchased. The number of points necessary to secure a given model – which include some of the world’s costliest sports cars – are computed based on the car, the day of the week and the number of days specified.

For those who want to fulfill the Tony Stark-level billionaire’s dream of driving several exotic high-performance cars over the course of a day, World Class Driving holds events at various locations in or near 45 major cities year-round which allow you to do just that. Limited access to five top-shelf sports cars over a 60-mile tour costs $999, with a 120-mile driving experience going for $1,695.


2. Enroll In A High-Performance Driving School

Another way to get behind the wheel of a top-shelf sports car on the cheap is to enroll in a high-performance driving school. Various entities conduct classes at motorsports venues across the country that can both help sharpen one’s driving abilities and fulfill any number of automotive fantasies. Best of all, they supply the vehicles.

The accompanying slide show highlights several of the best-known driving schools in the country that allow students to take the wheel of several highly desirable sports cars. More adventurous motorists can alternately choose from a larger number of national and regional schools not listed here that let students slip into the seats of bona fide racecars, from open-wheel Indy and Formula cars to NASCAR and kart entries.

Basic performance-driving courses generally start out with classroom sessions that outline motoring fundamentals and track rules. But most of the action takes place on the pavement – either on specially laid-out courses in a parking lot area or on the racetrack itself – for individual training sessions with an instructor in the passenger’s seat. Pupils are taught to master proper vehicle control, specifically when and how to properly and safely accelerate, brake and steer.

One of the nation’s largest schools for speed, the Skip Barber Driving/Racing School conducts myriad courses at various venues across the country. Beginners can take a one- or two-day high-performance class piloting Porsches and Lotus coupes, while aspiring Formula One drivers can choose from multiple skills-building sessions in open-wheel racecars. Courses start at $700.

Offering lessons in driving safety, high-performance driving and flat-out racing, the renowned Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving holds court at the school’s own facility adjacent to Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona. Hot cars available to students include the quick Chevrolet Camaro SS and even quicker Corvette ZR1. Courses start at around $400.

What’s more, several upscale automakers, including Audi, BMW and Porsche, conduct high-performance driving schools of their own, allowing current and prospective owners to hone their skills with their top models at various locations throughout the year.

3. Rent An Exotic Car

Another way to drive what would otherwise be an unobtainable auto when you want to turn heads and live the impossible dream is to simply rent an exotic ride for a day or weekend at a time. Upscale car rental is becoming increasingly becoming popular these days, particularly in major cities and tourist destinations for those who want to make an impression on clients or vacation like high rollers. They’re easily located via the Internet. At the “low end,” a Porsche 911 might cost around $500 a day with a more attention-getting model like a Lamborghini Gallardo costing $1,200 a day.

With multiple locations in and around Los Angeles – including Beverly Hills, of course – Midway Car Rental stocks a wide selection of ultra-luxury rides that includes the plush and posh Rolls-Royce Phantom (which is available with or without a chauffeur). Renting one will set you back around $3,000 for a one-day joyride, but that’s about $377,000 cheaper than actually buying one to impress the former homecoming queen at your next high school reunion.