Think Small: 5 little vintage vehicles under $20,000


Why is it that so often, little cars equal fun? Here are five classics that fit in that category, all of them under $20,000. Prices are from the Hagerty Price Guide, based on the average value of a vehicle in #3, or Good, condition across the given range of model years. (Want to read more about how we rate a car’s condition? Click here.)

If you want to find the value of a vehicle from a specific model year, look it up using Hagerty’s Valuation Tool. You can even specify trim level and engine choice (if applicable).


1965–74 Saab Sonett ($9918)

Sweden’s idea of a front-wheel-drive sports car was slow—its Ford V-4 engine had 65 horsepower—but not unpleasant to drive. Production of the three models—the Sonett II, Sonett V4, and Sonett III—totaled barely 10,000 vehicles, so they are rare but not unobtainable. 

Saab Sonnett III 1974

1968–73 Opel GT ($12,300)

Yes, it looks like a baby 1968 Chevrolet Corvette, but the Opel GT is a pretty solid little car on its own. Sold by generally clueless Buick dealers, most Opel GTs had a 102-horsepower four-cylinder and a smooth-shifting four-speed manual transmission.

Opel GT

1974 Datsun 260Z ($17,150)

The 1971–73 240Z is a genuine collector’s item, but the 260Z is sort of overlooked. Virtually the same car as the 240Z but with a bigger engine, the 1974 model was introduced by Datzun as the 260Z, one year before the company introduced the 280Z.

The biggest problem with the 260Z was vapor locking in warm weather, but there’s a fix, and any 260Z that has survived this long probably has been equipped with one of the known solutions. No longer must you drive around with the (rear-opening) hood partly open to cool the 2.6-liter inline six-cylinder.

Datsun 260Z

1986–1995 Suzuki Samurai ($9950)

The Samurai was a 2022 Hagerty Bull Market pick, and the itty bitty 4×4 is definitely loads of fun off-road. On the road, not so much. It is the only press vehicle I parked and refused to drive on my 100-mile hilly daily commute: The 1.3-liter, 63-horsepower four-cylinder couldn’t keep up with traffic.

Suzuki Samurai

1984–86 Dodge Omni GLH-T ($9033)

If you don’t mind a steering wheel that makes you feel like a bus driver, you might like the turbocharged Omni. Its drivetrain is a respectable 142-horsepower four-cylinder paired with a slightly balky manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Wider than most small cars, the Omni is a legitimate four-passenger sedan.

Dodge Omni turbo





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    I’d expand the Suzuki category to include the later Geo and Chevrolet Trackers (through the mid-90s). Those have the same basic characteristics but actually can keep up with modern traffic……sort of.

    Those old Sprint Turbos were fun, and basically bullet proof could run the hell out of them with no prolems.
    In Canada we also had the Pontiac Firefly,also came with the turbo.
    We got the second generation Sprint Turbo as well, for some reason they discontinued the turbo in the US after the first gen.

    A $20k offers many choices that are far better than all of these. The Opel and the Saab might be interesting, but forget the rest. The Omni?! Seriously?

    For $20k, you could get a great Miata, a Boxster, a 996 cab, a 300z, a Z3, Spitfire, MG, and host of others maybe even 2 of the above.

    I had an ’88 or ’89 Turbo Caravan with the 5 speed. The transmission could be a pain but it fast, fun, and stealthy.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and look in a different direction: Volvo 240, anyone? Dirt cheap, built like a tank and great handling. Sure, they aren’t quick by any stretch of the imagination, but that can be fixed and still be way under $20G!

    I parked my Lark behind a yellow SAAB Sonett at Cruise the Gorge three weeks ago. You know that was the first car there that I checked out. I’ve always liked the Opel GT as well. Was there a Plymouth Horizon version of the GLH-T?

    My winter-time daily driver is a 1988 Subaru GL-EFI with a 5-speed manual, and on the fly shifting between front wheel drive, and 4 wheel drive. I call it winter-time due to its ability to eat through snow, and the fact that it has no air conditioning. It also gets about 38 MPG. Is it sub-$20K? Yes. I bought it 3 years ago for $750, and dropped about $400 worth of parts into it.
    My AC equipped summertime drivers include (non-vintage) a 2005 Saturn Ion 3 Quad Coupe with a 5-speed manual, and a 2011 Nissan Juke SV with a Renault/Nissan MR16DDT twisting into a 6-speed manual. Both sub-$10K cars. My advice: Buy up as many well-equipped 1998-2015 manual shifting cars as you can hold onto now, while they are cheap, and unwanted. They will be the vintage classics that Hagerty is talking about 25-30 years from now.

    Ah yes, three of my personal favorites, Opel, GT, Saab, Sonnett and Dodge, Omni GLH. All of which I had the pleasure to work on and drive when they came into the independent garage where I was employed as a technician. They were good looking and a blast to drive. I also owned a 1987 Plymouth, Horizon, 5 speed manual, 4 door hatch which was bullet proof reliable and never left me stranded. For me, the beauty of these cars is that all of the
    mechanicals were tried and true factory parts bin stuff, no unpleasant surprises.

    I remember our horrible Suzuki Samurai as a back-breaking SOB if you happen to be unlucky enough to have to sit in the back seat. Couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.

    Also, if I remember right, the torque-steer was downright scary. Only drove a turbo once but that’s what stayed with me.

    I have an 87 Shelby Charger GLHS. #642 out of 1K purchased by Shelby. Intercooler, turbocharger and 175HP. 2400 pounds.
    56K original miles. Also had a brand new one and back then it was dominating most cars. Now my Volkswagen Jetta has 158 HP. Slow by today’s standards.

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