Not all cars lose value. We highlight enthusiast gems and soon-to-be classics positioned to trend up, not down.

Safe Bets and Speculation

Man driving his car
Man driving his car

Most cars depreciate. You drive them, they wear down, components fail, and one day it is off to the scrap heap. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. Classic cars, enthusiast icons, the rare and the highly desirable among automobiles can and do go up in value over time. Some of it is current fashions and passions, like 80s and 90s cars evoking nostalgia in Millennial car buyers or the rise of JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) tuner culture or the current boom in off-roading and overlanding. And some if it is just the vicissitudes of the classic car market as collectors try to predict what the “next big thing” will be in a year’s time.

Again, most used cars will lose value over time. Below are some cars we feel are poised to retain or even gain value in the near to medium term future.

Dodge Viper 1991-95

1992 Dodge Viper - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
1992 Dodge Viper - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

The Dodge Viper was originally conceived as a modern version of the classic Shelby 427 Cobra, that is, a stripped-down performance monster. As such, the Viper shed weight wherever it could, deleting things like A/C, door handles, and a roof. The raucous 8.0L V10 offers a symphony of growls, howls, and shrieks. While collectors have given later Vipers, like the SRTs, their due attention, the early Vipers can still be had for around $50,000. As the advent of EVs makes the distinctly internal combustion experience of the Viper less common and these cars age and become scarcer, we expect them to rise in value.

Toyota Pickup 1984-88

1984 Toyota Truck - pressroom.toyota.com
1984 Toyota Truck - pressroom.toyota.com

Coveted by Marty McFly in Back to the Future and by today’s off-roaders and overlanding set, the old school Toyota pickup from the mid-1980s is an increasingly hot commodity. These Toyota pickups are legendary for their durability. Indeed, one of the most famous episodes of Top Gear was dedicated to trying to kill one, a mission Clarkson and company failed. As the prices of Toyota Land Cruisers, related Lexus products, 4Runners, et al, have soared in recent years, we have seen buyers going further down the depth chart of rugged Toyota products. Add in the Radwood-era retro cachet of an 80s model and the classic movie tie-in, and you have the recipe for an appreciating Toyota pickup.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 2014-19

2014 Chevrolet Corvette - netcarshow.com
2014 Chevrolet Corvette - netcarshow.com

Among safe bets for appreciating values, there are few better choices than the Chevrolet Corvette. C1s with a V8, C2s, C5s, Z06s, Grand Sports, the list goes on of desirable collectors’ cars. But for our money (or yours) we submit for your consideration the last-generation C7 Corvette. The last of the front-engine Corvettes is a gnarly beast of a drive and one of the fastest cars you can buy for less than $100,000. Everyone might be drooling over the new midengined C8 Corvette, it is easy to forget how good the prior generation really was.

BMW E36 M3 1990-2000

BMW E36 M3 - bmw-m.com
BMW E36 M3 - bmw-m.com

Sandwiched between the ultra-rad E30 M3 and the increasingly hot E46 M3 is the BMW E36 M3. The M3 of the 1990s has remained under the radar. But those days are numbered as collectors turn to the E36 with fresh eyes. The early cars come equipped with a 3.0L straight-six worth 240 horsepower while later gen cars got a 3.2L. The E36 M3 jumps from zero to sixty in 5.6 seconds and boasts a top speed of 155 mph. BMW cognoscenti recommend the 345, that is the E36 M3 with four doors and the five-speed manual. For a proper bimmer on a budget, consider the E36 M3.

Porsche Cayenne 2002-10

2008 Porsche Cayenne - netcarshow.com
2008 Porsche Cayenne - netcarshow.com

This might seem an odd Porsche for a list of appreciating cars. There is the 996- and 997-generation 911s, the VW/Porsche 914, and the front-engine transaxle cars (the 924 and company), all of which are poised to rise in value over time. But we wanted to highlight the first generation of Porsche’s first SUV, the Cayenne. Why? Because these early Cayenne’s were sneaky capable off-roaders that are becoming increasingly popular among overlanding and off-road enthusiasts. Consider this, unlike many other options for off-roading, the Cayenne is just a tire-swap away from comfortable, even nimble, street driving. We would be remiss if we did not mention the potent 4.5L and 4.8L V8s you will find in the S/GTS and Turbo/Turbo S versions.

Lexus LS400 1989-94

1992 Lexus LS 400 - pressroom.lexus.com
1992 Lexus LS 400 - pressroom.lexus.com

Debuting in the late 1980s, the Lexus LS400 was Toyota’s answer to German luxury sedans. If Mercedes-Benz and BMW could make fast, quiet, and refined cars, Toyota would make them all that and sell them for less. The formula worked, launching the Lexus brand, and giving the luxury sedan a new benchmark. The unperturbed ride and smooth 4.0L V8 compliment the numerous luxury features that include memory seats, walnut trim, and the first ever automatic tilting and telescoping steering wheel. Its German counterparts today will sap your wallet with repair bills, while the rock-solid LS400 keeps rolling. Smart is its own form of stylishness, which is why we are predicting lower mileage, well-kept examples of the soon to be classic Lexus LS400 to begin to rise in value.

Ford Thunderbird 1961-63

1962 Ford Thunderbird - netcarshow.com
1962 Ford Thunderbird - netcarshow.com

The first generation is the best-looking version of the Thunderbird (its part in American Graffiti making even more desirable). And yet it is the third-generation Thunderbird from the early 1960s that is seeing an uptick in valuations of late. The third generation of Ford’s “personal car of distinction” has a few things going for it: first, the bullet shaped streamlining, next, the 300-horsepower V8, and finally, its Sport Roadster and sophisticated landau roof options. Like many cars poised to appreciate, the third-gen Thunderbird is not as well-known as its iconic first-gen iteration, but once collectors have driven up the price of the most obvious picks, buyers move on to respectable second and third-tier options. That appears to be the case with the third-gen Thunderbird, which has seen strong appreciation over the past year.

Lotus Elise 1996-2021

2021 Lotus Elise - netcarshow.com
2021 Lotus Elise - netcarshow.com

Lotus builds drivers’ cars. So, for those seeking superlative levels of engagement, the Lotus Elise has become an increasingly attractive and more affordable alternative to exorbitantly priced supercars. Whatever it lacks in straight line speed, the Elise more than makes up for in handling, feel, and connectedness. Lotus took the basic formula of a two-seat, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive design, and kept the Elise centered around those fundamentals. Enthusiasts have gotten wise to the value proposition of a used Elise, collectors should as well.

Hummer H1 1992-2002

2002 Hummer H1 - netcarshow.com
2002 Hummer H1 - netcarshow.com

The original H1 Hummer is the definitive vehicle of American excess. A dubious yet durable symbol of US military power, the Hummer on civilian roads has always been provocative, for all the right and all the wrong reasons. The go-anywhere over anything ethos of the Hummer is instantly seductive. Whatever you or passersby might think about the Hummer from the outside (too big, too loud, too inefficient), once you are behind the wheel, all that disappears. Driving the H1 Hummer is equivalent to bouncing around in one of those Sumo fat suits, you feel comically encumbered and at the same time invincible. As more of these already 20-year-old vehicles continue to get snapped up by preppers and Schwarzenegger wannabes, we expect them to rise in value.

Porsche Boxster 1996-2004

2003 Porsche Boxster - netcarshow.com
2003 Porsche Boxster - netcarshow.com

The Porsche Boxster has long resided in the shadow of its big brother, the 911. A smaller engine, those “fried egg” headlights, and simply being a Porsche sports car that was not a 911 all conspired to place the 986 Boxster in second-tier status. And yet the mid-engine little brother offers superior (or at least more controllable) handling and all the tech and luxury of a proper Porsche sports car. The 996 generation 911 has begun to gain converts (long derided for sharing the 986’s “fried egg” headlights and the heresy of converting to water-cooling) and has seen increasing interest and higher prices over the past few years. As prices are driven up on 996-generation 911s, we anticipate more frugal buyers will opt for the still excellent and more affordable first-generation Boxster.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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2 Comments

  1. Sam Greer Jr. January 30, 2023

    1st. gen Chevy s10 & 2 dr. Blazer : 5 spd. Dependable & sought after appreciatong daily.

    Reply
  2. Robin Lyles February 3, 2023

    2003 Acura cl s type with 6 speed manual less than 400 built! One year only.

    Reply

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