Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Purchasing an older vehicle can be an investment if the vehicle has qualities that are sought after by collectors or fans
  • Certain vehicles hold a high status in the car market and, even without restorations, can still increase in value over time due to their rarity
  • Modern cars are not excluded from the list of cars that appreciate in value, as rarity and reliability are also factors that can dramatically increase the value of a vehicle

Several factors go into whether or not a car will appreciate as you drive it. The majority of cars on the road today share one thing in common, and that is their value depreciates with every mile driven. Exceptions to this rule come in different areas of car ownership, such as:

  • Cars sought after by collectors
  • The known reliability of a car
  • The limited original production of a car that increases its value
  • Restored classics with modern conveniences and upgraded parts
  • Classics that are original without any aftermarket parts

These are some of the qualities that make a car increase its value as time goes on and are good things to look out for if you’re in the market for an investment that will make you money as you drive it.

What to Look for in a Car That Appreciates

In terms of what to look for when deciding on a car that will appreciate in value, there are a few key components. Bodywork, engine and transmission status, aftermarket parts, or a history of damage/wrecks are the most important things to look for. The price of used cars is usually reflective of how much work has been put into maintaining and upgrading the frame and mechanics of the vehicle. Though the buying price may not reflect the vehicle’s appreciating value it holds over time, learning what to look for can help you snag a great deal on one of these cars.

Is the body in good condition?

Always ensure that the frame condition is acceptable. Especially check for rust damage underneath the vehicle. Rust can be a common problem with used cars — especially in humid or cold environments — and can be a costly repair. When looking over the car, keep a watch out for weird smells, misplaced items, clunky noises, or parts that are aftermarket (if you are buying a classic car that is being sold as an original, that is). Shoddy aftermarket parts that are low quality or installed by someone who isn’t proficient can lead to expensive repairs in the future that will shave off the value of the car over time.

What does it look like under the hood?

When searching for a car that will hold or increase in value, make sure you or someone you know that is knowledgeable in cars is available to watch out for internal issues that might not be easily noticed. The health of the car’s engine and transmission are key components that have the heaviest price tag if they need a repair down the line. Having original parts in a classic car is sought after by collectors, so ensuring the mechanics are all original is important to clarify before purchasing. For newer vehicles, taking it to a mechanic is recommended to ensure that the more modern components of the car are in working order.

Is it stock?

In some cases, the value that a car holds — especially if it is an older model — is based on whether or not the car has been modified or tinkered with. The majority of collectors that spend top-dollar prices on classic cars want to make sure the vehicle is nothing but stock parts, so ensuring the vehicle you’re purchasing is all original is recommended. With certain models, the factory default parts are very reliable and play into the car’s value when reselling.

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Cars That Appreciate in Value

2002 BMW E46 M3

BMW is well-known for producing reliable budget cars that perform at above-average levels. It is not uncommon, however, for BMW vehicles to begin depreciating immediately after release. The BMW E46 M3, as well as others, have recently come back into fashion and are now sought after by collectors and BMW enthusiasts. With select BMW models, their performance over time illustrates reliability and has become popular again in the market. Any BMW with an M badge is typically a safe bet for an appreciating cost over time.

1995 Mazda RX-7

The Mazda RX series produced in the latter half of the ’90s has become a wanted addition for any Japanese car enthusiast because of its great performance and affordability. Their performance on the road is comparable to a more-expensive Porsche from the same year, with a drastically lower price tag. Given the chance to acquire one of these budget performance cars is a sure bet for a profitable resell down the line.

1998 Toyota Supra

The Toyota Supra line from the ’90s has one of the largest fan communities in the car world — to no surprise, due to their ability on the road. The Supra came from the “golden decade of Japanese cars” and packs a powerful 325hp, 50-50 weight distribution frame, and 3.0L engine. A consumer-priced supercar for its time, the ’98 Supra in good condition is a rare find with a hefty price tag, with its cost appreciating consistently.

1997 Lancer Evo IV

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, or Evo for short, became a quick favorite in the car community when it was released. It was an affordable car that was great for a daily driver but also became a symbol for rally car enthusiasts. The fan base at the time put tons of time and labor into transforming these cars into rally cars and street racers and is credited with one of the earliest forms of consumer car modding. Its status in car modding communities is still praised and sought after, hence its value appreciating over time due to lower availability, especially unmodified ones.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

The newest car on the list, Ford’s 2012 Mustang Boss 302 holds a very valuable position for car collectors and Mustang fans. With a V8 engine, 444 horsepower, and only 8,000 models released, this car screams valuable and is a worthy addition to our list. The Mustang’s updated body is reminiscent of the classic Mustangs from the ’60s and ’70s but has modern conveniences and performance that make it a great combo that is still highly sought after in today’s car market.

1971 Datsun 240Z

Last but not least with the oldest car on the list stands the 1971 Datsun 240Z. With base models ranging around the $30,000 mark, the cost of investment is similar to a modern vehicle but you get the confidence of knowing its value will increase over time. Finding one of these classic hatchbacks without rust damage or mechanical issues might be challenging. However, with upgrades and a nice restoration, this car will be quite a valuable addition to your garage.