8 cars to snap up before values climb

Summer is upon us, which means driving season is in full swing. And if you’re finally ready to slap some cash down on the table for that long-desired ride, it stings to learn that prices have inched up while you’ve been taking your time. Wouldn’t it be nicer to get in on the ground floor, drive your classic as you please, and have the small peace of mind that it’s slowly creeping up in value?

We don’t have a crystal ball, of course, but we do have a trove of data that helps paint a picture of which cars are best positioned to grow in value in the future. Using insurance quote data, the frequency certain vehicles are being added to policies, auction activity, private sales data, and more, we’ve assembled this collection of eight vehicles to buy before the ramp-up kicks off.

2008–09 Pontiac G8

2008 Pontiac G8 GT front 3/4
2008 Pontiac G8 GT GM

We’ve talked about this car before, but given what had happened to 2005–06 GTOs previously, it’s natural for G8s to follow. Quoting activity is 100, which means it leads the entire market in that metric, and insurance activity is quite high, too. Median values (in #2, or excellent, condition) are flat since the beginning of this year, but up 8.3 percent on average over the past year and 32.6 percent over the past three years.

The hottest models are the GT SLP Firehawk and GXP SLP Firehawk, both super rare and both up 53 percent over the past three years. The GXP is up 32.6 percent over the past three years, and the GT is up 16.7 percent. No matter which is your favorite snarling, V-8-powered, rear-drive Australian muscle sedan‚ you can’t go wrong.

1999–2005 Ferrari 360

Ferrari 360
Yoav Gilad

Ferraris in general didn’t make much of a showing as of our latest pricing update in May, but 360s were flat, and they have some upside given what happened to 355s before them. No big growth to point to yet, but values bottomed out in 2014–15, and they’re a lot easier to live with than a 355, considerably quicker (both more powerful and 130 pounds lighter), and one of the last Ferraris commonly fitted with a manual (+$50,000 premium in HPG). The Ferrari 360 is a better car with better upside than the 355 in most real, measurable ways.

1991–98 Mercedes-Benz W140

1994 Mercedes W140
1994 Mercedes W140 RM Sotheby’s

Models include 300SD, 300SE, 400SE, 600SEL, 400SEL, 500SEC, 600SEC, 500SEL, S320, S350D, S420, S500, S600, S320, CL500, and CL600. With a median #3-condition (Good) value of $7800, they can’t really get any cheaper than they are now—especially considering the degree of car you’re getting per dollar.

Relatively, we’re getting a big volume of insurance quotes for the W140, putting it ahead of almost everything else on the market in that metric. People aren’t just poking around, either—insurance activity is also very high, which means shoppers are following through on transactions.

The whole generation is up 9.6 percent (median values for #2-condition cars) over the past three years, but the major growth has been for the 1992 600SEL (+26.3 percent), 1993 500SEL (+51.6 percent), 1993 600SEL (+26.3 percent), 1994 S420 (+18.4 percent), and S600 Coupe (+30.3 percent).

1997–2004 Porsche Boxster

2002 Porsche Boxster S
2002 Porsche Boxster S Porsche

Boxsters are showing up at collector car auctions more, which is a sign that they’re making the transition from used car to collector car. At a median #3 (Good) condition value of $10,700, they’re one of the cheapest things with a Porsche badge from any era, but unlike other cheap Porsches (924, 914, etc.), Boxsters have modern performance and convenience.

Insurance quoting activity and insurance policy additions are both high enough that it’s clear people are increasingly interested in the mid-engine roadster. Median #2-condition values are already up 15–16 percent over the last three years for all models (base, S and S 50th Anniversary), but there is still room for growth. The #3 and #4 (Fair) condition cars haven’t climbed like the cleaner examples, but it’s a matter of time, really.

1999–2005 Porsche 911

1999 Porsche 911
1999 Porsche 911 RM Sotheby’s

Like the Boxster, the 996-generation 911 has started showing up at collector car auctions more often, a phenomenon that signals a sea-change in the Porsche market overall. Although prices are flat so far this year, our insurance data indicates a high level of quotes and policy additions, which means there are enough cars out there for people to soon get more selective and pay more for the right car. Turbos, GT2s, and GT3s have seen a little growth, but it’s natural for lower tier models to follow later. Median #3 values across all 996s is $34,700, but looking specifically at C2/C4/C4S models, even the average #2-condition value is $28,400. For the moment, that is still a serious bargain for a fantastic-to-drive sports car.

1993–95 Ford SVT Lightning

1993 Ford F150 Lightning front 3/4
1993 Ford F150 SVT Lightning Mecum

The performance truck from way back when. Desire for these 351-cubic-inch Windsor V-8 sport utilities is on the rise—insurance quoting activity for the first-gen SVT Lightning pickup is sky-high at 98.

Excellent, #2-condition values are up 13 percent over the past three years, but they are still at $17,200, so prices are not outrageous. Moreover, they’re comfortably less than the Chevrolet C1500 454 SS, which is $23,500, and the GMC Syclone, which is $33,100. The sway bars and springs help with handling, but don’t expect it to drive as well as a modern Raptor. There’s no question, however, that the Lightning is historically significant as progenitor of SVTs with a bed.

2003–04 Mercury Marauder

2003 Mercury Marauder
2003 Mercury Marauder Mecum

When new, it was a bit of a disappointment compared to the 1994–96 Impala SS, but the Marauder has a badass name and it’s still a V-8 sleeper sedan at a bargain price. Quoting activity is sky-high with a score of 100. Values have been creeping up for the past five years and are up a little over one percent since the beginning of 2019, but looking at the whole picture suggests there’s room for more movement.

1984–93 Mercedes-Benz 190

1987 Mercedes-Benz 190
1987 Mercedes-Benz 190 Bonhams

Excluding the 2.3 16-valve cars, which are in a different ballpark in terms of value/performance/collectibility, average #2-condition value for the 190 is $5600. Just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean it’s not a Mercedes through and through. These are from back when Mercedes still built its cars to be bulletproof, and it makes a bit of classier statement than the comparable E30-generation BMW. And the diesels last forever.

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