That new car smell is good and all, but it isn’t for everyone. Sometimes individuality comes in the form of something old.
We’re using the term “old” loosely here. The list below is made up of vehicles that have been redesigned or out of production for at least 10 years. However, they’re still new enough to have a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Consider these five modern classics with a background check.
Acura RSX (2002-2006)
The successor to the much-loved Integra of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Acura RSX never enjoyed the notoriety of the model it replaced, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, it may have been one of the most overlooked cars of the last decade.
The RSX handles well, steers well and does everything you’d ask of a sporty Acura, but with the ease of use of a Honda Civic. Base models are a little more pedestrian than the 200-horsepower RSX Type-S, but all have slick responses and a decent amount of practicality.
Finding one that hasn’t been driven hard over a number of owners can be a bit tricky, but you’ll be rewarded with many more fun-to-drive miles ahead.
Mazda Miata (1990-2005)
The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the classic sports car without the classic sports car problems. It’s the answer for those who want something special that also just works.
Miatas are easy to use and easy to live with, thanks to both the way they drive and their build quality. They don’t have a lot of space for more than two people and a sack lunch, but that won’t matter very much on a good road.
Enthusiasts will appreciate the early Miatas from 1990 through 1997, while those in search of more power and creature comforts will be drawn to the later models. There are endless special edition models of varying values, but at least there are ways to find one that’s your own.
BMW 5 Series (1997-2003)
The great thing about the BMW 5 Series is that it hardly seems to age. Especially the so-called E39 generation. This BMW hides the fact it’s a nearly 20-year-old car very well in terms of both looks and the way it drives.
Whether it’s a six-cylinder or V8 model, this 5 Series model impresses by the way it operates. The BMW is so refined you may mistake it for a new car, with an impressive and quiet ride, but a huge helping of athletic responses. You can have fun while looking like a grown-up in this car.
Ones to go for are the 2001-2003 models with upgraded electronics and styling tweaks, as well as the 530i that has more power than the old 528i. There are also wagon models that were offered from 1999 on. Oh, and do yourself a favor and get one with one of the nicest manual transmissions out there.
Nissan Maxima (1990-2006)
If you’re not a BMW person, consider the Nissan Maxima as a more humble alternative. Specifically, Maximas with the manual transmission, offered through 2006.
Even 20 years ago, it was getting rare to find a V6-equipped family sedan that also offered the ability to row your own gears. But the Maxima always appealed to the enthusiast buyer, who needed five seats and craved the ability to go quickly around corners.
The V6s in the Maximas have also been known to provide loads of power with smooth delivery. They’re also long lasting with proper maintenance. A Maxima with a manual transmission is a rare car, but worth seeking out because of the performance it offers.
Toyota Tacoma (1995-2004)
The good news for buyers is that the Tacoma really hasn’t changed much since it was introduced. Apart from the occasional engine upgrade, styling change and added features, it’s always been a compact pickup truck ready to take on rough jobs.
There are many models to choose from, but our recommendation is to find ones that haven’t been too abused, especially if you’re looking for four-wheel drive. Toyotas have been known for longevity and a high-mileage Tacoma that’s been taken care of could still provide years of service.