Not all cars lose value. We highlight enthusiast gems and unsung 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’s 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 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’ve 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’ve got 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. With everyone drooling over the new midengined C8 Corvette, it’s 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.

Toyota MR2 1990-95 

1992 Toyota MR2 - pressroom.toyota.com
1992 Toyota MR2 - pressroom.toyota.com

The Toyota MR2 is part of the classic 90s Toyota triumvirate that also includes the Supra and Celica. The MR2’s distinction is its unusual mid-engine layout and playful (sometimes too playful) handling. Our recommendation for those looking to retain or gain value in their sports car is the second-generation Mk II (a.k.a. SW20). The MR2 Mk II smoothed over the first generation’s sharp geometry for a more streamlined body. Revisions also arrived under the hood with a new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder making 200 horsepower which allowed the MR2 to make a zero to sixty run of 5.8 seconds. It’s this iteration that stands to best retain value. It’s important to note that the first-generation and some of the second-generation cars were known for snap oversteer due to their rearward weight distribution. Updates to the suspension dialed out this squirrely nature starting with the 1993 model year, though some lamented a certain loss of character as a result.

Honda S2000 19992009 

2009 Honda S2000 - hondanews.com
2009 Honda S2000 - hondanews.com

The Honda S2000 is another spritely Japanese sports car likely to continue to rise in value. The S2000 name harkened back to Honda’s first forays into cars, the S600 and S800 of the middle 1960s. Like them, the S2000 was a two-seat sports car with a high-revving engine, but it also benefited from 35 years of automotive engineering experience. The S2000 was thus able to provide a premium sports car experience with a 50/50 weight distribution and an impressive amount of power, 240 horse, from its 2.0L DOHC-VTEC inline-four. The S2000 was indeed rev happy as the 2.0L produced peak power all the way up the rev band at 6,000 rpm. The 2004 S2000 saw revisions to its suspension and frame as well as the addition of larger 17-inch wheels and a bigger 2.2L engine. For collectors, the 2008 Club Racer special edition is the real prize. The Club Racer cut weight from the car, revised the suspension and exhaust, and added chin and rear spoilers. Sadly, the S2000, like so many other sports cars, fell victim to the Great Recession and was cancelled after its 2009 model year. Like the MR2, the S2000 is less plentiful than the Miata but no less playful. It’s that character that makes it desirable for those seeking a pure sports car experience.

Chevrolet Nomad 1955-61 

1955 Chevrolet Nomad - media.chevrolet.com
1955 Chevrolet Nomad - media.chevrolet.com

The Chevrolet Nomad has two things going for it as a collectors’ car. First, among 1950s classics it’s something of an icon, popular in its day and evocative of the era to modern eyes. Second, the Nomad is not your typical ‘50s classic. It’s not the ’57 Bel Air (though close) or a ‘59 Caddy. It’s hard, in our SUV dominated time, to recall that the station wagon was once the prestige trim for many models, a high-end family hauler with luxury appointments and eye-catching styling. The Chevy Nomad ran for three generations, the first as part of the “Tri-Five” era starting in 1955. Originally, the Nomad concept had been built with a Corvette front end, but the V8-less Vette was struggling, and the Nomad got the same styling as the Bel-Air instead. With its second generation starting in 1958, the Nomad switched platforms to the Impala’s B-body, went from two to four doors, and expanded its range of engines. The Nomad name continued on as a Chevelle variant, but it’s these first two generations, from 1955 to 1961, with their classic Harley Earl designs, that stand to gain value.

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 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’re 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 utterly 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 wasn’t 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.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2023 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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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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4 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
  3. Anonymous February 10, 2023

    I got a 1963 sports rodester silver mink blue

    Reply
  4. D.Grodzki 02/2023 February 21, 2023

    1996 Grand Cherokee Limited V8 4 door 4X4. It is my little secret. Top Quality Leather Interior and exterior original Black with gold accent. Just 138K and runs like a sportscar…I see people selling them cheep under 10K, however if you find original like mine, with BELL PHONE included its a treat.(cant use it anymore) Yet fun fact and history of the good old times…

    Reply

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