Recent trends in the classic car market have illustrated that returns on investments are better than ever with sales at the high end of the market offering up to a 500 percent ROI for smart investors. Trends are heating up at the entry level end of the market with more modest cars beginning to appreciate in value. With Tax Day just around the corner, our experts have some suggestions as to how you can invest your money in something tangible that you can enjoy with your family for years to come – an entry-level classic car.
Based on extensive research, our experts have compiled a list of 10 vehicles that can be bought for less than $10,000 and that will continue to appreciate in the future. What sets the vehicles on this list apart is that these cars are modern enough keep up with traffic, are relatively affordable to maintain and allow owners to enjoy their purchases on the road.
1. 1969-1973 Mercedes-Benz 280SE
Mercedes of this period are absolutely legendary for their unflappable build quality and are renowned for being wonderful driving cars. Parts availability is excellent thanks to outlets like Mercedes Classic Center. While the 300sel might tempt the braver buyer, avoid cars with air suspension as getting them in top form can be an incredibly expensive proposition. Also avoid earlier carbureted models, as they’re simply too slow to keep up with modern traffic
2. Chevrolet Corvair
More than just about any other modern automobile, the Chevrolet Corvair got a bad rap. Mr. Nader’s book doomed what was one of the most innovative and unusual automobiles to ever come out of Detroit. While the very early models almost deserve the criticism for their wayward handling, this was mostly ironed out by the second or third model year. These cars are very simple mechanically and the aftermarket for parts is decent. They are incredibly affordable and are a perfect foot into the rear-engined air-cooled world for those who don’t have Porsche 911 money.
3. 1990-1994 Lexus LS400
These cars were so obsessively engineered and unbelievably well-built that finding nice ones is still pretty easy. The LS400 is a future classic and something that still looks great and can be driven for a long time. It’s rear-wheel drive and features a super-smooth V8.
4. 1979-1992 Jaguar XJ6
This car was in production for an incredibly long period of time and while the jokes about British reliability are true, this car can be a faithful companion for a modest outlay of cash if regularly maintained and watched like a hawk. The Jaguar straight six is buttery smooth and the interior feels like the smoking lounge of some exclusive “members-only club.” Parts availability and marque-specialist mechanics abound and the cost of entry for a nice one of these is well worth the premium over buying a car with needs.
5. Alfa Romeo 164
As the last Alfa to grace America’s shores until the advent of the 4C, the 164 served as a truly wonderful swan song. The famed Busso V6 and the much-loved TwinSpark four-cylinder models provided ample motivation for the Pininfarina-designed body. Despite its front-wheel drive layout, the 164 remains a pleasant and exciting car to drive on twisty roads. These cars were some of the first Alfas to use a predominantly galvanized body, so rust is less of a concern than with earlier cars. Parts availability is decent and running costs are low to average.
6. Volvo 240
The humble Volvo 240 may seem like an unlikely choice for a future classic, but these cars have started to appreciate. In stock form, these cars will run absolutely forever and with some simple suspension modifications, they can really handle. Build quality is stellar and these cars still have the lowest instance of driver fatalities of any car in history, plus the climate control vent knobs look like Oreos. What’s not to love? Stay away from cars with corrosion problems or any issues involving the heating system. Consumables are cheap and service is incredibly simple making it a perfect starter classic.
7. BMW E36 M3
The E36 chassis M3 of the mid-’90s has not historically been the recipient of the kind of love that is reserved for its earlier or later siblings. Things are starting to change though, and people are beginning to see what a capable and fun performance car the US-market E36 M3 is. While its true that the US cars were somewhat watered-down compared to their European brethren, that slightly more mellow drivetrain translates to reduced running costs and easier serviceability. The aftermarket for these cars is expansive and BMW specialists are everywhere. Pro Tip: the four door version is cheaper and handles better than the two door version.
8. 1987-1993 Ford Mustang
The “Fox-body” Mustang is having a renaissance. These cars, which were once so unloved and mistreated, are now cool and their prices are rising steadily. We like the aesthetic design of the third (and final) version of the car, and feel like it has aged the best. The Mustang and its 5.0 liter V8 are absolutely bulletproof and respond well to modification. The aftermarket for the Mustang is obviously colossal and these are a blast to drive.
9. 1948-1950 Packard
The so-called “Bathtub Packards” are more than a little unorthodox in their design, having been adorned with extra sheet metal when the company couldn’t afford a full post-war refresh. It’s this styling that lets them stand apart today from the tides of other American cars of that period. When you add the delightful Packard Straight-8 engine and a supremely comfortable interior and a shockingly low price of entry, these are pretty attractive starter classics. The build quality is decent and with the internet, sourcing parts isn’t very tough and entropy ensures that before too long, prices will rise.
10. 1960s and 1970s Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac wagons
The wagons from GM’s “other” brands represent a pretty decent value proposition when compared to their bowtie-sporting siblings. The styling of these wagons also runs a little left of center so for those who don’t necessarily mind a little quirk in their ride. Powertrains and running gear are pretty much standard GM fare so keeping one of these on the road is as easy as it gets. The aftermarket is huge and as a wagon owner, you’re guaranteed to get nods of respect on the freeway.
The classic car market is friendlier and easier to access than ever before. Entry prices are low, the quality of cars at the lower end of the market is high. Investing in a collector car can be just as good an investment as a traditional fiduciary investment, but unlike a stock or bond portfolio a collector car provides hundreds of hours of long term enjoyment. The classic car hobby is also a great way to engage one’s family and share a passion that teaches skills and builds memories. For more information on growing trends in the classic car marketplace and for many listings of great affordable classics that are available for purchase, please visit ClassicCars.com.