5 Surprising Cars That Could Become Classics

Will Kinton

When people think about cars appreciating in value, they often think of classic Porsches, Ferraris and other muscle cars that can price in the millions. What they often don't think about are recently built cars that could appreciate in the next few years.

These cars were not necessarily rare cars when they were new, but many of their owners used them as daily drivers or heavily modified them, meaning the available pool of lightly used cars is ever-shrinking. To catch the eye of a buyer, these cars must possess something future collectors will be nostalgic about.

Here's a list of cars we think could be worth a lot someday but are still affordable now.

1. 2000-2006 BMW E46 M3

Many think the glory days of BMW are long gone, and therefore, people may look at the third generation of the BMW M3, known among enthusiasts by its chassis code E46, as the last of an era.

The E46 M3 is powered by a naturally aspirated 333-horsepower straight-six engine that oozes character as it gets all the way to 8,000 revolutions per minute. The M3 is also very balanced and handles exactly the way you think a BMW M-car should. Furthermore, because it was usually bought as a daily-driver, low-mileage, low-issue car, collectibles are becoming harder and harder to find.

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If you plan to buy an E46 M3 with hopes that it'll appreciate, try to find a low-mileage coupe with the six-speed, not the automatic. The automatics offered with this car were clunky and more unpleasant to drive, so it's unlikely collectors will search for them. Likewise, the convertible version was slower and heavier, and the chassis was less rigid, so it's also less desirable.

The price has stabilized around $20,000 for a good, low-mileage version.

2. 2000-2009 Honda S2000

The S2000 was an anomaly for Honda even during its production. The carmaker never had a strong history of building sports cars, with its recent performance offerings limited to Si versions of the Civic. But particularly notable about this sports car was the four-cylinder VTEC engine that reached about 9,000 rpm and created 237 horsepower.

The screaming nature of this engine lifted the S2000 to the realm of myth.

The S2000's mythical status is what will make it appreciate in the future, as will its production run. Honda made the S2000 between 2000 and 2009, and unfortunately, it's unlikely Honda will build a successor that manages to capture the feel of the S2000. Furthermore, low mileage and well-maintained examples of the S2000 are becoming harder and harder to find, which will push values higher.

Expect to spend around $20,000 for a clean example with fewer than 40,000 miles.

3. 1993-1995 Mazda FD RX-7

Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful Japanese cars ever made, the FD generation of the Mazda RX-7 was a well-balanced sports car with phenomenal handling -- and an incredibly quirky engine. The RX-7 was famously powered by a turbocharged rotary Wankel engine, which managed to provide 252 horsepower.This rotary engine was notoriously unreliable, but it was an incredibly unique experience.

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The unreliability led to many owners swapping in more conventional engine options, and many other owners modified their cars extensively. This means that FD RX-7s without many modifications will be rare, and the car's value will only increase.

A few years ago, you could buy a low-mileage FD RX-7 for about $15,000; now you'll have to spend at least $20,000 for a well-maintained, unmodified specimen.

4. 1985-1991 Porsche 944 Turbo

The 944 Turbo is a bit of an oddity for Porsche, as the company has only built a handful of front-engine cars. An inline four-cylinder, 217-horsepower engine mated to a turbocharger and an intercooler, combined with advanced suspension and braking elements, made the Turbo and Turbo S the best cars you could buy in the mid-'80s.

Because the 944 Turbo has lived in the shadow of the 911 for a long time, it hasn't received the same amount of attention from collectors. Unfortunately, most classic 911s have rapidly reached the realm of the unattainable, so many Porsche enthusiasts have turned their eyes elsewhere.

It's only natural that Porsche enthusiasts will soon covet a clean, well-maintained, lightly used 944 Turbo. Another factor that will help appreciation is that there aren't many 944 Turbos in very good condition.

Prices have already started to rise on the 944 Turbo, and it's hard to find one that has been cared for with fewer than 75,000 miles for less than $20,000.

5. 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ

The Jeep Cherokee XJ is one of the most widely loved SUVs in history; it's incredibly off-road-capable but not completely out of its element on the road. When it was released, the Cherokee XJ was a resounding success for Jeep, and the combination of dependability and length of production means it continues to be a fixture on our roads.

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So how could these Jeep Cherokee XJs possibly be worth more money someday? It's simple: They've been used and abused. Many of these cars have more than 100,000 miles and an automatic transmission, so finding versions with the coveted manual transmission and fewer miles is rare.

People were surprised when the Jeep Grand Wagoneer became a classic, and a clean Cherokee will likely follow the same upward path. You can expect to pay under $10,000 for one of the more recent models.

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