While stocks, bonds, and real estate are all time-tested investments, they tend to lack a certain excitement. Classic cars, on the other hand, offer a more glamorous alternative to the typical well-diversified portfolio, with many models providing an excellent return on investment while allowing owners to have a little fun along the way. Classic car prices, generally, have been on the rise in the last few years as collectors, enthusiasts, and those seeking a more stable substitute for traditional investments flock to the market.
A rare 1955 Mercedes-Benz made waves in early 2022 when it sold for $142 million, making it the most expensive car ever sold at auction. Online auction house Bring-A-Trailer broke its own record in 2021 with over $828 million in sales, a 108 percent increase over its previous record set just one year before. With these sorts of marquee sales making headlines across the internet, some classic car owners might be thinking, “Is it time to sell my car?” The market might be red-hot, but that doesn’t extend to every model out there. We’ve compiled a list of some iconic cars with the best resale value in today’s market. Now all that’s left for you to do is whip off the dust cover, give your 4-wheel investment a good polish and make tracks for the auction block.
Jaguar E-Type (1961 – 1975)
1-Year Average Sale Price: $101,340
5-Year Average Sale Price: $104,152
Top Sale: $632,000 for a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series I 3.8-Litre Fixed Head Coupe
Upon its introduction in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was noted for its seamless fusion of style, performance, and (relative) affordability. Italian automotive legend Enzo Ferrari famously described the E-Type as “The most beautiful car ever made,” which is quite a platitude coming from the man behind some of the industry’s most stylish sports cars. The bold design choices first introduced on the E-Type would become part of the company’s signature style in the decades to come, but the E-Type remains the original. That’s not to say the car was all flash by any means; with a top speed of 150 mph, the E-Type was a high-performance standout by the standards of the day.
Known in the North American market as the Jaguar XKE or V-12, the E-Type is almost the prototypical collector’s car, with pristine models regularly fetching as much as $250,000 at auction. They’re also popular amongst the restoration set, who will pay some $20,000 for less well-kempt examples just for the chance to breathe new life into the classic sports car. With some luck, those restored models are then resold for as much as $395,000, as was the case with a 1967 4.2-Litre model in Carmen Red that sold in 2021. Data from industry analyst Hagerty shows that the E-Type’s value has skyrocketed over the last couple of years, making it the perfect time to unload any you might have lying around. You won’t be alone; according to Hagerty, E-Types are changing hands at a never-before-seen rate, with 65 percent currently belonging to drivers born before 1965 compared to 90 percent just five years ago.
Shelby Mustang GT350 (1965 – Present)
1-Year Average Sale Price: $61,477
5-Year Average Sale Price: $60,046
Top Sale: $215,000 for a 2015 Ford Shelby GT350 50th Anniversary Edition
When you combine a legendary, ground-breaking muscle car with a legendary, ground-breaking race car driver and automotive designer, the results are bound to draw some attention. That’s exactly the case with the Shelby Mustang, which saw Carroll Shelby team up with Ford to put his own spin on the company’s wholly-original pony car. The Mustang had been on the market since 1965, inventing the pony car segment overnight with its innovative combination of power and style distinguished by the Mustang’s unique long hood and short-deck proportions. Still, the Shelby-designed version first unlocked the car’s considerable performance potential.
The GT350 variant takes that high-performance reputation to the next level. Offered at various times over the pony car’s 40-plus years on the market, the GT350 adds a considerable number of ponies to the car’s resume. The third-generation model, introduced in 2015, features Ford’s “Voodoo” V8 engine, a 5.2-liter powerhouse that produces 526 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. While a strong cult following and classic styling ensure that almost every Shelby Mustang model will draw a considerable return on the resale market, the third-gen GT350 is a leader in return on investment vehicles. The 2017 model was recognized with the Best Resale Value Award from Kelley Blue Book, maintaining 53 percent of its original value after the first 60 months of ownership. This is a notable figure compared to the industry average of 40 percent and is even more remarkable in the sports car category.
Dodge Viper (1991 – 2010, 2013 – 2017)
1-Year Average Sale Price: $99,917
5-Year Average Sale Price: $83,570
Top Sale: $402,000 for a 2017 Dodge Viper GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR
If you’re an automaker trying to ensure that your new sports car will remain a top-shelf classic for years to come, it never hurts to get Caroll Shelby involved in the process. The storied automotive racer and designer was hired by Dodge as a consultant when it set about designing its marquee sports car. It resulted in a model with all the signature Shelby touches, including an alluring, curvaceous body packed with as much horsepower as it can muster. Public reaction was overwhelmingly positive upon the Viper’s debut. While the sports car initially debuted as a concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in 1989, it was quickly put into production owing to significant customer demand.
The Viper has been noted for its power which, while sometimes unwieldy, always provides plenty of excitement. Packed with a V10 engine designed with the help of Lamborghini, the early Viper was a true performance car with none of the bells and whistles drivers have come to expect from the segment. It was cramped and impractical, lacking door handles, locks, and air conditioning, but it passed its most important test with flying colors, providing hair-raising fun. With 400 horsepower and 630 lb-ft of torque, the Viper was a monster off the starting line with a zero to sixty time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph.
Dodge’s sports car is coming into its own on the resale market, with used models commanding almost $100,000 on average, and that’s only been trending upwards in recent months. The first Viper ever made, auto executive Lee Iacocca’s own model, sold at auction for $285,500 in 2021, and that’s not even the highest sale in recent memory, with the 2017 Dodge Viper GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACR going for $402,000. Dodge also introduced an extremely limited run of Carroll Shelby Edition Vipers in 1996, with just 19 models receiving the treatment. One version of the Shelby Edition, a 1996 model with 11,000 miles, sold for $145,000 at auction in 2022, proving that the Viper market is just as strong as ever.
Acura NSX (1990 – 2005, 2016 – Present)
1-Year Average Sale Price: $101,355
5-Year Average Sale Price: $86,521
Top Sale: $245,000 for a 2005 Acura NSX-T 6-Speed
Known as the luxury and performance division of Japanese automaker Honda, Acura has long brought its parent company’s legendary reputation for reliability to the world of high-performance sports cars. The Acura NSX debuted in 1990 and started as an attempt to beat the big names in European automotive performance at their own game. The NSX traces its lineage to a 1984 concept model known as the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental), a 3.0-liter mid-engine sports car that had its sights firmly set on the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. The NSX hit the market with 290 hp and a 0 to 60 time of just under five seconds, allowing the model to keep up with these high-performance juggernauts and do so at a much lower price point.
The NSX was produced between 1990 and 2005 and then revived in 2016 for a second run that continues to this day. The original model has all the 90s flair you might expect, with some bold style choices that make it look like every kid’s favorite Matchbox car come to life. The newer iteration has won its fair share of plaudits, being named Business Insider’s 2016 Car of the Year. The original run has seen a major bump in value in recent years, and while some models were available for as little as $30,000 in 2012, that figure has now at least doubled. This trend has been especially pronounced over the last year, with the average NSX sale ringing in at $101,355 compared to $86,521 just five years ago.
A Worthy Investment
With various market factors driving up the prices of new and used vehicles to an all-time high, it’s certainly a seller’s market out there. This is especially true when it comes to classic cars, which are creating enthusiasm among a whole new generation of buyers as previous owners divest or downsize to newer models. That’s not to say they’re an easier investment than the old-school Wall Street route. Classic cars must be lovingly maintained and sold at just the right time if owners want to ensure the maximum profit.
For those willing to put in the necessary work, classic cars provide a reliable investment that’s not only a whole lot more tangible than a stock certificate, NFT, or Beanie Baby but also a hell of a lot more fun. If you have any of the models listed above gathering dust in your garage, now could be the perfect time to pass on the keys and collect a substantial return.