10 hot classics under $10K to grab this fall

Say hello to the stocking stuffers of your fall automotive wishlist. According to our data, these are 10 vehicles humming along ahead of the market average. If you’ve been following along with recent trends, it won’t shock you that a few late-’80s pickups and 4x4s reveal promising prospects, too, and can be scored for well under five figures in #3 (Good) condition. Keeping a couple of ’70s oddballs company near the top of our HVR list are some strong showings from the ’90s—hot hatches, roadsters, and a V-12 saloon.

What’s the Hagerty Vehicle Rating? It is a data-driven 0–100 rating that essentially determines how vehicles are performing in the current market. A 50-point rating indicates that a vehicle is keeping pace with the market overall. Ratings above 50 indicate above-average appreciation; vehicles below a 50-point rating are lagging behind the market. The rating takes into account the number of vehicles insured and quoted through Hagerty, along with auction activity and private sales results. The HVR is not an indicator of future collectibility.

Maybe it’s too early for the holiday season suggestions, but it’s never too early to brainstorm… or start bookmarking listings.

Vehicle
1971–1977 Mercury Comet 78
1973 Mercury Comet 2 Door
Ford
1973 Mercury Comet 2 Door

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $6200

Until this August, the final generation of these Falcon-based compacts had been unpopular amongst buyers; but late this summer, the trend nosed upward just a tick as more buyers added them to Hagerty insurance policies. Perhaps the Comet’s fundamentally unambitious character explains its pleasantly affordable median price of $6200. The Comet retains a whiff of the Mustangs of its day while setting the bar for mechanical excitement lower than its pony car relative.

1991–1998 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 79
1994 Mercedes-Benz S 280
Daimler
1994 Mercedes-Benz S 280

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $7784

Marching sedately in the ranks of the sub-$10K are these four-door German powerhouses. This generation marks the beginning of the now-familiar S-Class terminology; prior to 1993, the various offerings were known by the SE, SEL, and SEC acronyms with preceding numbers designating particular engines. 

You won’t be lacking for diversity in powerplants here, since the W140-generation came with inline-six, V-8, and V-12 options. (Fun fact: the W140’s V-12 was Mercedes-Benz’s first 12-cylinder engine.) Mercedes-Benz proved that that heavy does not mean sedate and that subdued doesn’t have to mean demure… and, for now, you can park one of these heavy-hitting saloons in your driveway for about $8000 in Good condition. 

1974 Datsun 260Z 80
1974 Datsun 260Z
Mecum
1974 Datsun 260Z

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $8650

After emissions regulations choked the 240Z, and before Datsun had ironed out the kinks in the fuel-injected 280Z, Datsun meanwhile cooked up a new variant. For the one year, the U.S. got the 260Z, which toted the 240Z’s straight-six stroked to 2.6 liters. (Hence the… you got it.) The ’74 260Z was basically a slightly tubbier version of the crowd-favorite 240Z. 

If you’re willing to stray slightly from the beaten path, however, you can snag a slice of classy Datsun Z styling, 260-flavor, for well under $10K. Median values for #3-condition (Good) 260Zs have settled at just about $8500, but given the one-year production run you might be in for some detective work to find the right survivor.

1977–1984 Cadillac DeVille 81
1977 Cadillac DeVille
Mecum
1977 Cadillac DeVille

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $6313

If you can tear yourself away from the fender skirts of previous generations, you can celebrate Cadillac’s 75th with this fifth-generation DeVille for roughly 6 grand. (Insert long cigar puff.) If you’re lucky, you could even snag a 1981-or-later model, which saw the introduction of the Eaton 368-cubic-inch V-8 that controlled fuel efficiency by restricting the number of firing cylinders. Predictably, the advanced componentry could be too advanced for its own reliability, and cylinder deactivation tech went back to the chalkboard for a few decades. 

1979–1985 Mazda RX-7 82
1979 Mazda RX-7
Mecum
1979 Mazda RX-7

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $8071

The FB-generation RX-7 marks the marriage of the rotary engine to the RX-7 name. The combination would forever be soldered together in enthusiasts’ minds because of this early-’80s-style wedge. The desirable GSL package came in 1981, gracing all four wheels with disc brakes and the rear with a clutch-style limited-slip differential. In the last two years of the FB generation came the most-drooled-over GSL-SE variant, featuring all the goodies of the GSL plus larger rotors, upgraded suspension, and the vaunted 1.3-liter 13B rotary engine. 

We can’t promise you can snag a GSL-SE versions of the RX-7 for 8 grand, but overall, it looks like a good time to be an RX-7 shopper. The subsequent 1986–1992 generation also seems to be a steal, with a #3 median price of $7239. 

1987–1991 Ford F-series 87
1988 Ford F-150 Regular Cab
Ford
1988 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $9376

Fuel injection spiced up the 300 six cylinder and various V-8s of this eighth generation of Ford F-series, which was also the first line of pickups to feature rear antilock brakes. Interest in these late-’80s pickups has popped up their values in relative to other vehicles in our Hagerty Price Guide. Valuation specialist Greg Ingold remarks, “We've been seeing the same year range of Chevy high up on the HVR scale… it was a matter of time before Fords caught up.” The time may have arrived to snag one of these pickups—maybe even in a two-tone—before the median values cross the $10K bar. 

1987–1991 Ford Bronco 88
1988 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer
Ford
1988 Ford Bronco

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $9246

The infectious appeal of the early-generation Broncos seems to be trickling down through the later generations. The higher-dollar, earlier models have been snatched up, and those with less generously lined pockets want in on the vintage 4x4 fun—of which, as we saw recently, there is much to go around.

1990–1994 Volkswagen Corrado 92
Volkswagen Corrado VR6
Volkswagen
Volkswagen Corrado VR6

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $6133

When the Corrado landed in 1990, it outstripped all previous VW offerings—and no one was much excited about it, even with one of the first speed-activated spoilers on a production car. The Corrado was an outlier in VW’s range and reputation in the early ’90s priced and produced to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. 

At the very start of its production run, the Corrado sported the supercharged, four-cylinder G60, or “G-fix-me,” affectionately termed for its tendency to detonate—as observed by our resident Corrado expert. The VR6-equipped, 1992-and-after models boasted more power even though the narrow-angle V-6 lacked the smaller engine’s supercharger; surviving, good-condition G60s are much harder to find. May the Corrado’s appearance on this list remind you of the collector-friendly tech and performance of these respected VWs. 

1990–1998 Mazda MX-5 Miata  93
1998 Mazda Miata MX-5
Mazda
1998 Mazda Miata MX-5

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $7063

Red, white, and blue were the original color options for the little ’90s roadster that so efficiently channeled the fun of driving. (Air conditioning was optional, too.) The ’90s Miata has the reliability and the charm to consistently appeal to car buyers. The first-gen Miata is appealing as ever in 2019 and its many lovers can find a treasure trove of solid examples at a median price of just around $7000—and a little less, if they’re willing to jump to the 1999–2005 NB generation. 

1983–1992 Volkswagen Golf Mk II 99
Volkswagen Golf Mk2
Volkswagen
Volkswagen Golf Mk2

Median #3-condition (Good) value: $5375

A big reason the Golf MK II is on this list is that its insurance quote activity is through the roof (and right about on par with the second-gen Miata’s). As these cars come more into vogue as collector vehicles, and supply remains relatively high, this is a most welcome development for Golf owners. Keep your eyes peeled for rust, but don’t be too afraid of mileage on these Mk II VW Golfs. If properly maintained, the eight-valve and spunky 16-valve Golf GTI variants maintain their charm and reliability approaching 200,000 miles. Most of the Mk IIs were produced in Pennsylvania in the old Rabbit factory before production moved to Puebla, Mexico in 1988.