8 classics that could be yours for under $10,000

February 7, 2019


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So you think a limited budget prevents you from owning a collector car or truck? Think again. There are plenty of driver-quality collectibles out there with prices that won’t singe your wallet. For some prime examples, let the latest Hagerty Vehicle Rating be your guide.

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 collectability.

After browsing through the vehicles at the top of the HVR, Hagerty has selected eight  that are performing well in the market and can still be had for $10K or less. Whether you agree or disagree, the data says that these rides might be worth a look. Happy hunting!

1990-98 Mazda MX-5 Miata (HVR - 84)
1991 Mazda Miata
1991 Mazda Miata

Average value is $5800 for a #3-condition car.

Three decades after the Mazda MX-5 Miata was unveiled at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, first-generation cars are back in the spotlight as the Elan-from-Japan celebrates its 30th anniversary. Of course, Miata fans will tell you they were never out of the spotlight, because—all together now—“Miata Is Always The Answer.” The original “NA” model rejuvenated the convertible market in the early 1990s, and these fun-loving roadsters are a blast to drive.

1982-92 Pontiac Firebird (HVR - 83)

1984 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1984 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Average value is $7000 for a #3-condition car.

If you were a teenager in 1980s, you know you wanted a third-gen Firebird. Here’s your chance to make it happen. Built on a unibody platform that was both shorter and lighter than previous models, the 1982–92 Firebird was sleek and immediately recognizable. Plus it had V-8 power (although usually modest V-8 power). In 1982, the top Firebird Trans Am retailed for $9658—equal to about $26K today—but you can snare a decent example for a fraction of that. “They’re still pretty cheap if you want a V-8, rear-drive performance car,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton. 

1977-79 Ford Thunderbird (HVR - 82)
Average value is $4650 for a #3-condition car.

The 1977–79 Ford Thunderbird was a drastic departure from the previous generation. Rather than continuing to grow in size, the T-bird shrunk in response to growing concerns about rising fuel costs. Nearly 1000 pounds lighter than the 1976 model, its wheelbase was 6 inches shorter, and the price was also reduced. Less was definitely more, as nearly one million were produced over three years, making it the best-selling Thunderbird ever. Regardless, the seventh-gen T-Bird’s recent rise in the HVR is a bit of a head scratcher. “I’m still kind of surprised by this one,” Newton says, “but it has really high quote activity.”

1965-71 Dodge D/W Series Pickup (HVR - 82)
Average value is $9400 for a #3-condition car.

As the popularity of trucks and SUVs continues to rise, these Chrysler-built pickups are the latest “next best thing” as buyers look for cheaper alternatives to Fords and Chevys. Second-gen Dodge trucks received upgraded engines and are easily distinguishable from their first-gen siblings because they have two headlights instead of four. Hopefully that’ll help you find one, because they won’t stay under $10K much longer.

1990-97 Lincoln Town Car (HVR - 81)
Average value is $2000 for a #3-condition car.

We’re heading straight to the bargain bin with this pick. With the 1990–97 Lincoln Town Car’s super-low average value of $2K, even the slightest rise in auction or insurance activity will reverberate like a cannon blast in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. That’s what’s happening here. Interest is up (however slightly), so the Town Car’s HVR is also up. Come on, this is a luxury four-door sedan with Boeing-style fitted doors and a 150-hp, 302-cubic-inch V-8. You could do a lot worse for 20 Benjamins.

1996-2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK (HVR - 80)
Average value is $8200 for a #3-condition car.

Although the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3 are more sought-after among European sports cars, you can get more bang for your buck with the 1996–2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK, which officially stands for Sportlich (sporty) Leicht (light) Kurz (compact). In addition to its good looks, the SLK offers respectable performance and luxury amenities. “Some mechanical ‘gotchas’ and the fact that the SLK is a lower-tier model in the Mercedes-Benz lineup have kept the prices low,” Newton says, “but people are starting to look at them as collectible.”

1949-65 Jeep CJ-3 (HVR - 80)
Average value is $9000 for a #3-condition car.

If it has a vertical seven-slat grille and says Jeep on the rear, chances are it’s collectible. Jeeps of nearly every vintage are doing well, and that includes the classic 1949–65 CJ-3. It’s not exactly a luxury automobile, having a lot more in common with its military brethren than it does with later models, but people keep wanting one, so values continue to rise. It may not be long before CJ-3s in general break out of the “under $10K” category; in fact, some early models already have.

1986-92 Toyota Supra (HVR - 78)
Average value is $6700 for a #3-condition car.

Although the 1986–92 Supra Mk III will always live in the shadow of its adored younger sibling, the Mk IV, you can get one for less than half the price of a fourth-gen Supra. Powered by a 3.0-liter DOHC six-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 196 lb-ft of torque, the Mk III is a decent consolation prize for buyers who’ve been priced out of the Mk IV market. Mk III Supra Turbos are also available at reasonable prices, but many have been driven hard, so tread lightly there.


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