Although overall trends are slightly down, the market for collectible cars continues to grow at both ends of the spectrum. For upscale shoppers, a 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 racer recently became the most expensive British-made car ever sold at auction, going for $22.5 million at the RM Sotheby’s August sale in Monterey, Calif. Yet according to the vintage-car insurance experts at Hagerty, the general category seeing the strongest values is actually Affordable Classics, where prices are less than $30,000.
That’s good news if you’re hoping to buy a relatively low-cost used car today and have it turn into a pricey collectible sometime in the future. Just remember, because of the uncertainty surrounding any investment, it’s best to stick to vehicles you’ll be happy to own even if they don’t appreciate in value (like the ones listed below).
1. Scion FR-S (2013-2016)
It’s not just full-on racecars such as the DBR1 that tend to do well with collectors. Rare street-legal sports cars see impressive auction prices as well: This year, a 1995 McLaren F1—one of only seven with U.S. specifications—was sold for $15.6 million by Bonham’s. Now, production for the Scion FR-S wasn’t quite that low, but fewer than 62,000 were sold in the U.S. before it was transformed into the Toyota 86.
The FR-S is a true sports car, too, designed in partnership between Toyota and Subaru to provide a dynamic driving experience for owners on a budget. As a result, its 2013 MSRP was less than $25,000, and for that very reasonable price, owners got a rear-wheel-drive powertrain and a dramatic exterior design. Both a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic were available. Known more for its handling than its pure power, the FR-S offered 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, along with a low curb weight of roughly 2,770 pounds.
2. Nissan Leaf (2011-2017)
The all-electric Nissan Leaf may seem like an odd choice for collectors, but it could be considered this generation’s Ford Model T. Neither vehicle was the first of its kind, but just as the Model T proved the case for gasoline-engined cars, the Leaf did the same for electric vehicles.
Introduced in 2011, the Leaf was the first mass-market EV sold in the United States, and the original models feature a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that produces 107 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Per the EPA, that powertrain is good for a 73-mile all-electric driving range. The Leaf’s quirky exterior design certainly catches the eye, and the hatchback also features a high-tech cabin with a floating center stack. (Note: The second-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf is expected to go on sale within the next few months.)
3. Cadillac CTS-V Coupe (2011-2015)
Handsome and accomplished, the Cadillac CTS-V Coupe is a standout. Sold for five model years, this model represents the high point of the brand’s Art & Science design language, and it features a radically angular exterior, dramatic rear roof pillars and a sophisticated, driver-focused cabin. As the high-performance variant of the standard Cadillac CTS Coupe, the V-Series model also wears unique details such as a mesh grille, sportier front and rear fascias and a sculpted aluminum hood.
Under the hood, a supercharger helps the car’s 6.2-liter V8 deliver 556 horsepower and 551 pound-feet of torque. The CTS-V comes standard with Brembo brakes, an adaptive suspension and a six-speed manual transmission; a paddle-shifting six-speed automatic is optional.
4. Ford F-150 SVT Lightning (1999-2004)
Given the popularity of new pickups, it’s probably only a matter of time before older ones start attracting the attention of collectors. The Ford F-150 SVT Lightning, for example, would appeal to truck fans, performance enthusiasts and folks who prefer rarer rides.
To be clear, Ford’s SVT Special Vehicle Team also put together a Lightning edition for the 1993-1995 F-150, but what we’re talking about here is the version sold from 1999 through 2004. In that truck, owners enjoy a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 that was developed specifically by SVT engineers for the Lightning. It supplied 360 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque for models made in the 1999 model year. By the truck’s final year of production, output was up to 380 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque.
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (2006-2010)
Another likely candidate for collectors—based on current trends—is the original Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. This high-performance flagship of the Jeep brand is perfectly positioned to attract the steadily increasing number of SUV lovers.
For one thing, the Grand Cherokee is the very first vehicle from the Jeep brand to get the SRT treatment, and this paves the way for the SUV’s outstanding on-road performance. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 provides Brembo brakes, an SRT-tuned suspension and a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 that delivers 420 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. When all those cylinders start firing, acceleration is blistering: The 2006 Grand Cherokee SRT8 is quicker from 0 to 60 mph than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo from the same year.