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What Used Cars Are Going Up in Value and Why?

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Rising used car prices have been well publicised in the UK of late. With the Covid-19 pandemic (and an ensuing chip shortage) affecting the availability of new vehicles, second-hand ones became the default choice for thousands of car buyers, pushing values to an all-time high.

But while used cars rose in price across the board, there were some that appreciated more than others. Let’s examine what those cars were – and why they’ve become so desirable.

The 1990s boom

Much like any other commodity, the market for used cars is influenced by the simple principle of supply and demand. The more desirable a car is (and the fewer examples there are available to buy) the more it’s going to be worth.

Not so long ago, ‘60s and ‘70s cars were the ones shooting up in price – and many of them still are. The reason? Because people who’d grown up in those decades, lusting after then-unattainable sports cars, had worked hard and were finally able to afford them, decades later. They all bought them around the same time, pushing prices north.

The same thing is now happening with ‘80s and ‘90s cars. Not only are enthusiasts now able to afford cars they could only dream about when they were young, but they’re beginning to realise that 1990s cars – in many ways – signalled the end of an era.

They had much of the performance of modern cars but little in the way of complicated electronics, making them easier to maintain and, in many cases, more rewarding to drive than the cars of today. Unencumbered by stringent safety and emissions standards, they were typically lighter, more agile and even made a better noise. We may never see their like again.

1980s and ‘90s cars are now firmly in classic territory as a result. Now, let’s look at some of the models that have risen in value the most over the last few years.

Japanese classics

‘90s Japanese cars in particular have experienced a value boom over the last two to three years, spurred on by Gran Turismo and Fast and Furious nostalgia. The rising popularity of drifting has given some cars a cult following too, leading to an explosion in demand – particularly of grey import models.

  • Nissan Skyline GT-R: The R32, 33 and 34 generations of the GT-R have risen in value hugely, and they’re not slowing down just yet either. Good examples of the 34 will now set you back over £100,000; they used to be a third of that. Non-GTR models are getting pricey too, particularly GT-T coupes.
  • Toyota Supra Twin Turbo (A80): The Fast and Furious poster child of an entire generation, the Mk. IV Toyota Supra’s silver screen provenance has undoubtedly boosted values. That’s far from all it has going for it though; its 2JZ-GTE engine and 6-speed Getrag gearbox are unbelievably tuneable and over-engineered. Nice ones are now over £30,000.
  • Honda S2000: Seemingly out of nowhere, values of Honda’s sublime two-seater have increased dramatically. It’s perhaps no surprise though, given just how special this car is. Its F20C engine revs to 9,000 rpm, and to this day remains one of the most potent per-litre naturally aspirated engines around. Prices for good ones start at around £10,000.
  • Toyota Chaser (JZX100): To the uninitiated, the Chaser and its close cousins, the Mark II and Cresta, look like typical ‘90s Japanese barges. Top models come with the fabled 1JZ-GTE engine though, a powerful and extremely rugged six-cylinder that’s easily tuned to produce over 400 bhp. A darling of the drift world, good examples can now fetch over £25,000.
  • Mazda RX-7 (FD): The greatest rotary-powered car of all time? We think so. Paired to beautiful bodywork and an agile chassis, the 13B two-rotor engine gives the RX-7 a totally unique character. Find a standard or tastefully modified example with its original engine and you’ll be onto a winner – but you will need to find at least £20,000.
  • Nissan Silvia (S15): Offering similar performance to the RX-7, the Silvia is a great car in its own right, but is most closely associated with drifting. In Japan’s D1GP drift championship – the original pro series – the S15 is the most successful platform of them all. A tidy turbocharged spec-R model will now set you back in the region of £25,000.

Hot hatch heroes

Hot hatchbacks have experienced a similar uptick in value. Not only are they now highly desirable to those who couldn’t afford them when they were young, they’re rare. Thrashed and abused over the years, few clean examples of any of these models remain.

  • Volkswagen Golf GTI: The archetypal hot hatch, VW’s original GTIs are now highly collectible. Mk1s and Mk2 16-valvers are the most highly prized, with solid examples of each fast approaching the £10,000 mark.
  • Renault Clio Williams: Limited edition hot hatches don’t get much cooler than the Clio Williams. Produced as a tie-up with the Williams F1 Team – who Renault was supplying engines to at the time – this rally homologation special was built in limited numbers and now regularly fetches in excess of £20,000.
  • Peugeot 205 GTi: Considered by many to be the greatest hot hatch of all time, the 1.9-litre 205 has long held classic status. There aren’t many nice ones left, though, and you’ll have to fork out in the region of £10,000 to get your hands on one.
  • Ford Focus RS (Mk.1): It may be newer than the cars we’ve just covered, but the original Focus RS is no less desirable. Again built in limited numbers, its purposeful styling echoed Colin McRae’s WRC car of the day. Good ones now fetch over £20,000.
  • Renault Clio 182 Trophy: A run-out model produced as a send off to the second-gen Clio, the motoring press raved about the 182 Trophy when it came out – and those who drove it at the time still do. Demand for this rare model remains high, with nice ones selling for over £10,000.

Honourable mentions

We couldn’t include every appreciating classic on this list, but there were a few more we just couldn’t resist talking about. Here are our honourable mentions…

  • BMW M3 (E46): In the eyes of many, the E46 is the sweet spot of the M3 lineage – and we can’t disagree. Compact and light enough to be true to the original yet faster, comfier and easier to live with, the E46 M3 is a wonderful machine. BMW made loads of them, so they’re not super expensive yet, but values are on the up. £15,000 should buy you a nice one.
  • Mazda MX-5 (NA): Again, values of the Mk.1 MX-5 are limited by how many Mazda built – 431,506 to be precise. They’re more desirable than ever, though, and the very tidiest examples can now sell for over £6,000 – a far cry from the £600-odd they used to go for.
  • Land Rover Defender: When Defender production ended a few years ago, we all knew that values of used models would go up – but they’ve become more desirable than perhaps any of us expected. Prices vary wildly depending on spec and condition, but they’re on the rise.
  • Porsche 944: It wasn’t long ago that the 944 was considered the poor man’s Porsche, but nowadays that title applies to the Boxster, as the 944 is anything but. Prices for this front-engined, rear-wheel drive model have now rocketed past the £15,000 mark – and turbo versions can go for double that!
  • Jaguar XJS: Having spent most of its life living in the shadow of its forebear, the E-Type, this once-unloved two-door is finally starting to gain traction. Once upon a time you couldn’t give them away, but nice ones are now £7,000-plus.

Got your heart set on one of the cars on this list? It doesn’t look like prices will go south any time soon, so get your hands on your dream car while you still can!

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