7 cars to buy before prices tick up
As fall comes around, driving season around much of the country is entering its final chapter before the chilling breath of winter blows in. Around this time of year lots of classic owners who have been looking to move on are open to selling, rather than having to deal with the cost and effort of storage. That’s where you come in, all savvy and in the know, ready to strike a sweet deal.
According to our trove of data (including insurance quote data, the frequency certain vehicles are being added to policies, auction activity, private sales data, and more) the following cars are showing strong indications of future appreciation. We can’t predict the future, and these cars aren’t necessarily investment-grade, but as far as avoiding losing your shirt down the line, get on board with these seven cars before the ship’s left port.
1999-2005 Mazda Miata (NB)
By now you’ve probably heard us sing the praises of the Mazda Miata about a million times. Doesn’t make its merits any less impressive—these cars are fun, cheap, easy to maintain, and readily available. The first-generation (NA) Miata from 1990-1998 is firmly in the realm of collector status now, but the second-gen (NB) car is not far behind. The car is really more of an updated NA than an all-out reimagination; the NB has a sleeker, less “cute” body, standard headlights to replace the original pop-ups, and a host of other performance improvements. Most notably, the revised 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine makes 140 hp, compared to 133 hp in the latest NA cars. Of course, the NB also brings to mind the only factory turbocharged Miata, the short-lived 2004-2005 Mazdaspeed Miata, which was good for 178 hp.
NA Miata prices started their climb around 2014, but NB prices are still well below when you look at #2-condition (Excellent) values. The average price for an NA in #2 condition is $14,575, versus $9800 for an NB—and that includes the Mazdaspeed.
If the sky-high rate of insurance quotes we’re getting for NBs is any indication, this disparity is going to close fairly soon. These cars are very similar underneath, and many of the NBs are cleaner than their older NA siblings.
1974-83 Jeep Cherokee
The Cherokee was Jeep’s sporty, off-road, two-door sibling to the more luxurious Wagoneer. The Cherokee was also cheaper and available with a straight-six underneath the larger V-8, and the sturdy inline 258 was torquey down low and well received by dirt-covered enthusiasts. Jeep was so successful with these two-doors that the Cherokee arrived as a four-door in 1977, and a Laredo came for 1980 with more interior polish to go with the SUV’s capability. The Cherokee combines the classic Brooks Stevens design of the Wagoneer with fun sticker packages and real off-road credibility. What’s not to like?
Prices for the Cherokee grew quite a bit in 2018, but have been mostly flat for 2019. In #3 condition (Good) they cost about 9 grand—it’s hard to see them getting cheaper. Right now, the average value of a base 1976 Jeep Cherokee with the straight-six in Excellent condition is $14,400. However, high quoting activity suggests there is still some room for additional growth. Demographics help paint a positive picture; Gen Xers really love them, with 51 percent of quotes coming from Gen Xers for Cherokees, versus the rest of the market where Gen X makes up 32 percent of the whole.
1972-80 Mercedes-Benz W116 (S-Class)
As we noted in our extensive, in-depth buyer’s guide for the Mercedes-Benz W116, this generation of S-Class often goes overlooked. It’s the first large Benz to officially be named the S-Class, and these elite-level sedans were early adopters of major technological leaps like anti-lock brakes and a structure with real crumple zones. These cars are also very reliable in the world of Mercedes-Benz, as well as easy to service for the DIYer when necessary. Whether your flavor is the straight-six-powered 280S/SE, the SOHC V-8-powered 450SE/SEL, or the beefy 450SEL 6.9 with its hulking dry-sump M100 V-8 from the Red Pig race car, there is a W116 for any taste. Also, a North America-only diesel 300SD for your vegetable-oil-owered car needs.
We’ve seen the W116 being added to Hagerty insurance policies at an increasing rate, and prices are slowly trickling up. But the truth is, with a median Good-condition value of just $11,700, it’s a whole lot of car for the money—both cheaper and less sought-after than other classic, large M-B sedans, too. Pretty soon, people will get wise to this reality.
1966-74 Saab Sonett
In true Saab form, the Sonett is a weird one. It’s based on an older Roll Mellde design from the 1950s, which launched in the mid-’60s as the Sonett II. Most cars have a German-built V-4 engine displacing 1.5 liters, but the first 258 units off the line had an 841-cc three-cylinder two-stroke that—shockingly—didn’t meet emissions requirements. The fiberglass-bodied Sonett II became the Sonett III in 1970s, growing both longer and sleeker. The rear window now opened as a hatch, but the sweet tilt-nose from the II was replaced with a kind of access panel for the engine, which meant you’d more or less have to remove the whole nose to do any serious work up there. At 65 hp, Sonetts aren’t especially powerful, but they are aerodynamic and rather unique; it has both popup headlights and rollbar as standard, and they came in some really crazy colors.
No, it’s not as pretty as a Volvo 1800, but it’s much less expensive. Even in absolutely pristine Concours condition, a Sonett costs $30,500. For a rough driver, you can find them for under $5000. The number of insurance quotes we get for these cars has been climbing consistently the last year, which is a good sign. One thing to consider, however, is in the far future the Sonett may not have lasting collectibility. Common memory of the Saab brand will eventually fade, and a disproportionate number of current quotes are from Boomers. In the short-term though, prices could go up as long as the Sonett remains affordable.
1981-87 Alfa Romeo GTV6
Cars from the 1980s are hot right now, but despite the Alfa Romeo GTV6’s merits, prices are only a little bit up as of late. We wouldn’t be shocked if that soon changed and this Giugiaro-designed coupe started gaining steam. Not only is the GTV6 a looker, it’s legitimately fun to drive and the 2.5-liter SOHC V-6 sounds dynamite on the boil. And thanks to the weight distribution benefits of its front-engine/rear-transaxle setup, this sporting Italian is a solid handler. There are also several special editions to further distinguish it from the crowd.
Our data shows that Hagerty is adding GTV6s to insurance policies at a very high rate, which is a strong sign that interest is picking up. Alfa sold about 22,000 examples of the car, which is enough that they are still out there, but the very clean ones are going to be desirable and potentially priced accordingly. Average value for the GTV6 in #2 (Excellent) condition is $16,000, but that figure excludes the twin-turbo Callaway version.
1959-70 Volvo 122 (Amazon)
Volvo wasn’t always boxy, but there’s no doubt its street-cred as the ultimate wagon marque can be traced back to the success of the Amazon. In fact, the two-door and four-door Amazons are curvaceous and downright stylish, in a very 1950s kind of way. These cars are reasonably resistant to rust compared to its contemporaries, strong as hell mechanically, and downright affordable.
Prices have been largely flat for the past four years, with Excellent-condition two-doors just under $15,000, wagons at a bit north of $12,000, and four-doors coming in dirt cheap at under $10,000 on average. Hagerty is getting a high number of insurance quotes for this era of Volvo, and it’s especially heartening that younger buyers like Millennials seem to really dig the Swedish automaker. Millennials comprise 34.5 percent of Volvo 122 quotes, compared to 21.4 percent when looking at the market at large.
1969-75 IHC Pickups
Most people just think of the Big Three as far as vintage American trucks, but don’t count out International Harvester. These sturdy and surprisingly stylish workhorses are charming as ever, especially in light of the recent boom in truck popularity. With a range of inline-six and V-8 options, there are plenty of IHC pickups to choose from if all you need is simple, honest transportation and some reliable utility.
International Scouts have really picked up in the last few years, riding the wave of surging Chevy Blazer and Ford Bronco values. It makes sense that IHC trucks will follow to some degree, even if they’re a little more obscure than IHC’s SUV. Prices have been mostly flat over the last year, but insurance quotes are coming in at a significant rate, especially from Millennials. There is a dizzying variety of configurations, but overall #2-condition (Excellent) values range from the high teens to the low-$20,000 range. For more of a rugged driver, you could easily find one under 10 grand, which means for now these beasts of burden are a great value. Get ‘em while you can.