Did you ever wonder why Jay Leno’s garage has over $52 million in cars? Certain cars can be highly collectible and coveted. These same cars have a long history of actually appreciating in value. In this piece, we’ll explain everything about this idea and even list 10 cars that appreciate in value.
The Depreciation of a Typical Car
For the vast majority of the cars on the road, this is the case. The old saying is “anything on wheels goes down in value over time”. That’s campers, motorcycles, trailers, and cars.
Why does a car depreciate? It’s due to the fact that things wear down and break over time. The second you start driving a car, you’re starting the timer until its final road trip. Some cars like Camrys or Civics last a lot longer on the road, but they suffer the same fate of depreciation.
Within the first years of buying a car, the value can drop to 50% of the purchasing price. That’s a really big hit for most people. However, if you pick the right car then the value will actually go up. This prestigious group of cars is the focus of the whole article – cars that actually appreciate in value.
You Can Buy Cars as an Investment?
That’s right, you can buy a car as an investment – as long as it’s the right car. The right car is one that collectors drool over and jump on the second a For Sale sign appears anywhere near.
Cars can be collectible for a million different reasons. The theme that ties it all together is the uniqueness of the car. Special production years have special qualities that make the car… well, special.
In many cases, the car is a milestone for the manufacturer and often boasts low production runs. In a following section, we’ll talk all about this small category of car.
What to Look for In a Car That Appreciates
Shopping for a collector’s car is vastly different than buying through a dealership. In a used car lot, there is a pretty specific sequence to go through when you’re inspecting a car before buying it. You can throw that out the window when it comes to buying a car as a collector’s piece.
In general, you aren’t going to care what the odometer says, whether or not the AC blows cold air, or how bald the tires are. You’re looking for mechanical rigidity and exterior appearance.
How Does the Outside Look?
A rare car becomes exceedingly less desirable with a bunch of dents, scratches, and bumps on the outside. Unless you’re going for a sleeper car from the 60s, even rust could be a big problem.
Most of the cars on this list have incredible curb appeal. Of course, that all goes away with a massive dent in the hood. You want to make sure the car is Instagram-worthy!
One of the biggest pitfalls is structural damage in older cars. Some of the cars on our list are about 30 years old. That’s a lot of time for Mother Nature to show her scorn and rust the framework of a car.
Make sure you spend a good deal of time looking over the car mechanically. Check for odd noises, strange smells, and misplaced items. When in doubt, take it to a mechanic to have them look it over before buying it.
Is it Stock?
Unless you’re getting a heavily modded rally car, you probably care about the origin of the pieces. A Supra isn’t really a Supra if half of its parts come from aftermarket manufacturers.
Collectors will be able to spot any inconsistencies. This could ruin the appeal of your car and hurt the overall value. Again, this is only the case for true collectible cars.
Check the Performance
Many collectible cars increase in value because the performance is so incredible. The cars from the 90s that stood apart from the pack in terms of performance now find themselves in collectors’ garages. Performance alone isn’t enough to make a car collectible, but it’s a big part of why collectible cars go up in value.
Low Production Means Big Money
If the car manufacturer made 100 of those vehicles, you’ll want to lock it in the garage and never touch it. The rarer an item is, the more valuable it is. We’re not telling you anything you don’t know, but just keep in mind that it’s true in the car world, too.
Low production runs for any car usually convert to a car that appreciates in the future.
Learn the Big Years
An ’82 Mustang GT 5.0 is nothing like a ’21 Mustang GT. A lot of the big car manufacturers have a golden era of their vehicles and a few big years worth knowing. These years could coincide with a big change to the car, new releases, a complete overhaul, or a very low production run.
In general, sticking to a certain generation of cars usually yields the same appreciation for the car. Just make sure you don’t get fooled and think that all Mustang GTs are collectible and identical.
10 Cars That Appreciate in Value
Without further ado, let’s get into the cars that appreciate in value. Keep in mind, we’re not guaranteeing that you’ll make money on these bad boys. We’re just pointing out some rare or unique models and years that car collectors historically love.
1. 2002 BMW E46 M3: $23,000
Here’s a rule of thumb, if you see a BMW with an M badge, the car is probably a winner. This is definitely the case for the BMW E46, the M3. In classic BMW fashion, the car depreciated like crazy after it was first released.
Now, you get to reap the rewards of a high-performance, budget supercar that will only go up in value. After all, that’s what BMW was known for making back in the day.
2. 1999 BMW E39 M5: $33,000
Another gorgeous M-series BMW that goes up in value is the E39 M5. This was first released in ’99, and that’s also the best model to get of this little beast.
When it first hit the road, it was one of the hottest things to come out of Germany since pale lager. The engine was perfectly tuned, the body was head-turning, and the 7,000 rpm redline was unheard of.
The car sells in the low 30-grand range, but good luck finding a seller that’s willing to hand over the keys. This is one of those cars that you keep forever and never get tired of driving.
3. 1995 Mazda RX-7: $28,000
If you have a Miata to a speed-crazed designer with a passion for fun, an RX-7 will leave their shop. The 1995 Mazda RX-7 is a collector’s dream for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, the car is a blast to drive.
It’s a lightweight, high-horsepower, affordable vehicle to add to your garage. This generation is often called the “poor man’s Porsche”, and we love that nickname. It’s true – the Japanese handling and engine give a taste of the same performance and feel of a Porsche.
This car hails from the decade of Japanese sports car brilliance (you’ll find plenty more on our list). In fact, it was an RX-7 that won the 24-hour Le Mans race in ’91. With such a rich history and a huge rarity, this car is one to invest in.
4. 1998 Toyota Supra: $40,500
Is that a Supra? If you have one of these beauties from 1998, then this is a question that will be yelled at you every time you stop the car. This is one of the biggest pillars in the car community, and it has every right to be praised.
After decades of silence, Toyota released a new-gen Supra. This only hiked the price up of their freshman year run.
This is yet another contender that came during Japan’s golden decade of cars. It has a 3.0L straight-six which pumps out around 325hp. Beyond the mechanical prowess, it has an incredibly sculpted body. It’s impossibly aerodynamic and boasts a 50-50 weight distribution.
Only a few hundred were made of this first-generation supercar. If you find one for sale, make sure you bring your checkbook and get ready to spend big. The payoff will be even bigger in the future and you get to be the proud owner of a Supra – what else could you want?
5. 2002 Honda S2000: $20,000
A distant relative of the Supra and RX-7 is the Honda S2000. This is yet another head-turning coupe that makes an impression both on paper and on the road.
It was first released with a 2.0L four-cylinder. This little beast could churn out 240 horsepower and wouldn’t redline until 8900 RPM. It comes in a six-speed manual that feels incredibly smooth.
The body looks really great from the outside and feels perfect behind the wheel. It will grip through harsh turns and unleash its full power in the blink of an eye.
The car is often heavily modded by owners, in traditional Honda fashion. You can throw a thousand horsepower under the hood if you’re looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday. Otherwise, you can keep it stock and watch the value keep ticking upwards.
6. 2018 Nissan GT-R: $100,000
It’s only fitting to throw a Nissan GT-R on this list. After all, it accompanied many of these cars in collectors’ garages across the world.
We are madly in love with the 2018 model and plenty of experts are predicting that the value will only soar in the coming decades. In the meantime, make sure you have your share of fun behind the wheel.
With the specs on this GT-R, it’s hard not to have fun. Its 3.8L twin-turbocharged V6 engine cranks out 565 horsepower.
There have been a lot of old GT-Rs that sell for a lot in the modern day. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that the same will happen with the newer models.
7. 1991 Acura NSX: $60,000
The first-gen Acura NSX was an exciting way to start the 90s. Tons of car lovers proudly had a poster of an NSX on their wall. The body styling and exterior look were unlike anything at the time. It had a Lambo-esque body, without the Lambo price tag.
Acura recently rolled out the newest-gen NSX, and this has collectors nostalgically buying up the old ones for even bigger money.
The car first retailed around $60,000. Today, if you can find someone willing to sell their NSX, you can expect to pay about the same or a little more. That’s a staggering testament to just how great these cars are.
It’s a supercar that’s backed with Honda’s incredible reliability and durability. It has an aluminum block V6 which redlines around 8,000 rpm. The car itself is bulletproof.
The car stopped production in 2005, with some minor changes along the way. There were no critical upgrades, further proving how incredible this car was from the launch.
8. 1997 Lancer Evo IV: $5,000
An Evo has a look that’s hard to replicate. More specifically, the Lancer Evo IV was one that spoke to make car enthusiasts across the world. It was one of the first times that a car was sold to the public that could easily be transformed into a rally racer.
The folks at Lancer knew why people wanted their car. For that reason, they offered it in two trim models. The RS was a standard, nothing-special version. It had the bare-bones you need to overhaul and soup it up into a monster.
The GSR trim model was their daily-driver version. It had some added comfort and road-going upgrades that made it easier to drive to work and back home.
A ton of people grabbed the RS and dropped tons of money in parts and labor into the car. The result? The birth of car modding. This is something that you’ll see all the time on Subies or old Civics. With the right skeleton, you can make your car really fun to drive. That’s exactly what the Evo 4 aimed to do.
9. 1996 Dodge Viper GTS: $50,000
How about one of the most infamous concept cars to come out of America? The 96 Dodge Viper GTS did more than just turn heads on the highway. This little monster would overperform at any track you put it on back in the day.
It was often lauded as being as durable as a pickup truck. At the same time, its v-10 engine could crank out up to 450 horsepower. That’s a ton for a car that only weighs 3,400 lbs.
The design is something that helped initially sell the car, but the performance is really what made it a collector’s item. The car debuted with a price tag of $66,000, and the price is trending back up to that number.
This car is the closest that most of us will come to owning and driving a Ford GT. We suggest grabbing the second-gen run of the Viper (1996-2002) due to the performance and aesthetic upgrades.
10. 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302: $30,000
The Mustang is synonymous with American Muscle. The 2012 Mustang Boss 302 took that to a new level. This car is positioned perfectly between the skin-peeling Shelby GT500 and Mustang GT (flagships of the Ford brand).
You get the best of both worlds with this car – 444 horsepower coming from an enthusiastic V8, a 4.3-second 0-60 time, and a performance that screams BMW.
As perfect as this car was, Ford decided to only make around 8,000 of them. For a collector, this figure looks like a bag full of money. The Boss has all the comfort you need for your typical commute, but it can quickly turn into a bat out of hell with a stomp of the pedal.
If you have the pleasure of driving one of these little beauties, you’ll quickly get hooked. Everything feels very intentional, balanced, and precise when you’re behind the wheel. In your garage, the price will only keep going up.
Now you know some cars to look out for. We reviewed 10 cars that appreciate in value and we also explained what to look for in a collector’s car. Armed with this information, you should be prepared to make a good decision about buying a car as an investment. Check out the rest of our blog for more car news, highlights, and buying guides. Make sure you have the right tools and accessories to keep your car running forever.