My first car cost me $1,200, and I later sold it for $2,000, and I’ve ever since then, I’ve had an addiction to affordably priced cars. So, today we’re going to take a look at a few cars that are still affordable now but are rapidly going up in price.
For this video and article, we’re specifically going to be looking at cheap cars that are going up in value because I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a ton of money lying around to just buy cars with.
#1 Jeep XJ Cherokee
That being said, cheap is a very flexible word, so just keep that in mind as we go through this. That takes us to the first car on the list, the Jeep Cherokee, aka the Cheap Jeep.
And specifically, we’re talking about the XJ Cherokee.
You know, the one you’ve seen on basically every off-road trail ever. The little unibody shit-box all the Jeep guys bought when they couldn’t afford a TJ Wrangler.
Trust me, I was one of them or two of them? I don’t even know. Regardless, these little things have gone up quite a bit in price over the last few years.
With its boxy lines, bulletproof reliability, and extremely impressive off-road capability, the Jeep XJ Cherokee has often been the go-to off-road vehicle for those who couldn’t afford the more expensive and iconic Jeep Wrangler.
But not just that. The unibody construction keeps the Cherokee really lightweight, and the extra wheelbase from it being a four-door instead of a two-door like a YJ or TJ Wrangler really helps it excel off-road.
The XJ was introduced in 1984, and it ran all the way through 2001, and compared to many other American SUVs of the time, the Cherokee was significantly different because of the aforementioned unibody construction, which is vastly different from the more classic body-on-frame construction.
That being said, Jeep Cherokees were absurdly cheap at one point, with cheap running examples selling between $1,000 and $2,000.
But those extremely cheap prices quickly resulted in many XJ Cherokees being turned into cheap off-road rigs and practically thrashed to death.
Not even kidding you, my first Cherokee cost $1,200, and I drove it home from Prescott to Phoenix, and nothing went wrong.
My second Cherokee was, I think, around $1,200, and that one was also pretty reliable.
And because so many XJ Cherokees were bought, modified, and beaten on, finding clean and stock examples of this little SUV became more and more difficult as the years went on, and now we’re at a point where low-mileage examples can fetch upwards of $20k.
Luckily, there are still some cheap XJs out there, but they’re slowly getting harder to find and more expensive.
And just for reference, here’s a chart from Bring a Trailer showing the sale prices of XJ Cherokees on their website since 2017, and as you can see, there is a pretty clear trend upwards.
Seriously though, which one of you paid $37,000 for a Cherokee? Why on earth would you do that? What a crazy world.
#2 Mazda Miata
And for much of the same reason, the next car on the list has also become annoyingly expensive after once being dirt cheap, and that’s the Mazda Miata.
Seriously, this is what happens with stupid sayings like Miata is the answer for everything. Stop it. It’s good at like two things: driving to hair salons during the week and hitting the autocross on the weekend. It’s not the answer for literally anything else.
On a more serious note, we really don’t need to explain what makes the Miata “the Miata.” It’s a lightweight rear-wheel drive car that is excellent in the canyons and great for learning about high-performance driving.
But for a while there, it was more or less just another cheap JDM car that was often being used as a drift car, even though it’s not particularly great at that, given the power level and short wheelbase.
At one point, it seemed like there were $2,000 and $3,000 Miatas everywhere, but now $3,000 won’t even get you a good running example. At that price, there are lots of Miatas that are basically just running and driving parts cars that you have to fix everything on.
Miatas as a whole have gone up in value, but the NA Miatas, specifically, have gone through the roof, with clean examples easily selling for $7,000, and it’s probably only going to get worse from here.
This chart here from Car Gurus demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about, with prices basically doubling in the span of about a year or so.
#3 Ford Fox Body Mustang
Now this is another car I once owned for dirt cheap and sold way too early, and that’s the Foxbody Mustang.
And for the uninitiated, this is simply the third generation of the Mustang that Ford produced from 1979 to 1993.
Part of the reason for Foxbody’s sudden increase in pricing is very similar to what happened with the Jeep XJ Cherokee.
It was once cheap and a very popular option for drag racers with a massive aftermarket behind it, making it extremely easy and affordable to build a decently fast street car.
But a lot of the good ones got scooped up, modified, and beaten on. Leaving the clean examples of this car rarer than ever, and with that came the pricing to match.
An important thing to note about the chart I’m about to show you: just about all the high-priced cars are SVT Cobras, which have seen their own crazy pricing jump in the last five years or so.
But even non-Cobra variants of the Foxbody Mustang have increased drastically. Where you could once scoop up a slightly modified Fox for $3,000 to $5,000, now you can barely get a rolling chassis for $3,000.
And it probably won’t be stopping anytime soon, for one reason. This car is suddenly a true classic.
Think about it, the first generation Mustang has been a classic for quite a while, but the following generation isn’t particularly loved by much of anyone, leaving the proceeding third generation as the next up Mustang to become a truly loved classic car.
If you find a good clean Foxbody Mustang near you, be sure to buy it and hold onto it because I think we’ll start seeing these cars go higher than ever, particularly for low-mileage SVT Cobras and, strangely enough, the SSP variants, which are becoming quite hard to find.
I kind of hate that I’m talking about this car because it’s only going to make them more expensive, and I want one.
#4 Porsche 944
I know for a lot of us, the dream of owning a Porsche is just that: a dream. Porsches are notorious for their extremely low devaluation, and in some cases, like the Porsche 981, quite literally going up in price when the newest models roll around.
So, buying a Porsche is pretty good in terms of not losing your money, but the only problem is they’re expensive to buy in the first place. So how do you get in on a Porsche that’s increasing in value without breaking the bank? The Porsche 944.
The relatively affordable price of the 944 is partially because Porsche sold a whopping 163k of these cars, making it the best-selling Porsche of its time. And thanks to the prestige of the 911, the 944 had a unique perception as a Porsche vehicle.
On the upside, though, the 944’s unique styling looks something more akin to, say, an RX7 or Corvette, with a wide, low, and long hood, pop-up headlights, and pretty large hips to house the wheels.
The interior is pretty bad by today’s standards, but it really focuses on the driver like a proper sports car should.
Aside from the polarizing looks, the 944’s offers something few cars do: a proper 50/50 weight distribution. And you might be asking how they achieved this with a front-engine car, and the answer is simple: move the transmission to the rear of the car.
With all these things in mind and this handy dandy chart from Bring a Trailer, you can see the 944 is in fact going up quite a bit in value.
And check this one out. $135k was the selling price! Of course, this is a much rarer turbo model, but you get the point.
#5 300ZX TT
We obviously know some JDM cars have gone absolutely wild in terms of pricing in recent memory.
Cars like the MK4 Supra, NA Miata, R32 GTR, and many others. But a lesser-known JDM car that is going up in value and starting to become considered a classic is the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.
And right off the bat, this sounds weird. The 300ZX is an interesting car for sure, but it’s also kind of weird, and you don’t really see them all that often.
And most of the time, you do see these cars, they’re a naturally aspirated 2+2, which is kind of boring and kind of slow.
But for the twin-turbo models, things are much different. These models are powered by a 3.0L VG30DETT engine, spitting out 300hp and 283lb-ft of torque.
That’s a little weak by today’s standards, but at the time, this was a very quick little sports car.
This power was then complemented by Nissan’s rear-wheel steering system known as Super HICAS, which enhanced the car’s agility and handling.
Unfortunately, today, many Nissan’s installed with the HICAS system from the factory have deleted that system because it’s not particularly reliable and it can be expensive to fix.
But in recent years, the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo has become harder and harder to find in clean condition, and combined with its rarity, is making this car go up and up and up in pricing.
Again, thanks to this chart from Bring a Trailer, you can see the 300ZX is going up in general, and the most expensive examples are getting really expensive.
This car really sold for $135k. That’s supercar money for a 300hp Nissan from the 1990s.
I just don’t get it. That’s so much money for so little car that you can’t even use it because you’ll lose all your money if you rack up too many miles on it.
Of course, it’s important to consider inflation, which can make it seem like some cars are going up in value when really their true value hasn’t moved at all.
And after the whole chip shortage thing and COVID, used car pricing got really weird, really fast, with loads of used cars being posted at absurdly high prices and somehow still selling.
And because of that, we saw prices jump on basically all cheap cars. Gone are the days of decent running $1,000 cars. And considering the US dollar isn’t going to deflate any time soon, it’s likely that we will never see $1,000 used cars again.
But, if the market explodes and used cars become cheap again, I’m buying as many XJ Cherokees as I can.