When talk turns to investing in cars one tends to think of barn find Jaguars or Ferraris polished to within an inch of their life. However, it is perfectly possible to buy a car that has a chance of increasing in value without needing a huge stack of bank notes to start with.
That’s where today’s five contenders come in, each of which we believe is in with a solid chance of earning you a bit of money over the next decade.
How Much Could I Make?
Not millions, for sure, but perhaps enough to cover any running costs incurred with a bit left over for a holiday. Whether it’s to Central America or Centre Parcs only time will tell.
Of course if our predictions turn out to be awful then the usual caveats apply about this all being an educated guess and not advice upon which you should rely entirely. But we really don’t think you can go too far wrong with one of these five.
BMW 5 Series
Price from: £800
Some people argue that all things considered this E39 generation of BMW 5 Series is the finest car ever built. That might be stretching the point, but the fact it attracts such adoration gives you an idea of just how good this car is.
For those unfamiliar with BMW’s model hierarchy, the 5 Series is its mid-level executive saloon; think of it as a car for directors rather than CEOs and you’ve got the right idea. It has always combined ample space with beautifully balanced handling and a silky smooth ride, and no generation of 5-Series has struck that balance quite as sweetly as the E39.
At present supplies remain plentiful, but because this car is so good at covering huge distances many examples of the E39 have too many miles on the clock to be considered as potential investments. Fortunately CarGurus lets you sort search results to show low-mileage cars first (use the dropdown menu at the top of the listings), which does most of the hard work for you. Then it’s just a case of looking for cars that have clearly been well cared for (read the Dealer’s Description as well as the Vehicle Summary in the listings), prioritising the more desirable six-cylinder petrol engines, and keeping an eye out for special edition models such as the Aegean or Champagne. Prices of such cars are already on the up, but there are still good examples of the E39 5 Series around the £5000 mark that are just begging to be snapped up.
TOP TIP: The top-spec M5 model is a fabulous performance saloon but requires much deeper pockets both to buy and to maintain than other versions of the 5 Series.
Price from: £500
How could the Ford Puma not be a nailed-on future classic? After all, everything about this car from how it looks to the way it drives and even the original ad campaign (which featured none other than Lt Frank Bullitt behind the wheel) demonstrated Ford at the top of its game.
Prices these days start at less than £500, which buys you a compact coupe that’s actually based on the platform of the contemporary Fiesta. That’s no bad thing mind, because the result is a car with sweet handling and a slick five-speed gearbox. Go for the more powerful 1.7-litre engine and it’ll feel decently quick too.
The kind of Pumas you might consider as an investment start from about £1000, while the market currently peaks at £4000. Look for a mileage the right side of 70,000, one or two owners from new, a decent service history and a solid body with no evidence of rust. It’s that last point that will probably prove trickiest of all, because the Puma is as resistant to tin worm as this writer is to Skittles.
TOP TIP: Don’t be alarmed if you see cars priced at £15,000 or more, for these will be examples of the limited edition Racing Puma. This is a different beast entirely and has already experienced lift off when it comes to second-hand values.
Price from: £9000
Just look at it! Even more than a decade after production ceased it’s difficult to believe Vauxhall built and sold a car as wild as the VX220. Well, we say ‘built’ but actually the VX220 was put together by Lotus at its plant in Norfolk. The same plant, funnily enough, where the Elise is built, which is very much like a VX220 but not as good value as a used buy.
A large part of that is because the Vauxhall is based on the aluminium chassis of the Elise and has similarly brilliant unassisted steering. It is far from the same car, however; the bodywork is unique, the Vauxhall has ABS and airbags where the Lotus doesn’t, and the VX220’s engines are different too, whether you go for the entry-level 2.2-litre or the later 2.0-litre turbo. Both are genuinely fast cars, but the Turbo (including the limited edition VXR) in particular is known for its lively handling so be sure to do a full history check and take along somebody who knows what to look for.
TOP TIP: Parts such as body panels and even headlights can easily run into four figures, so don’t buy a VX220 thinking that insurance or running costs will be cheap.
Price from: £700
The Rover 75 is the perfect example of an underrated car. Launched in 1998 when Rover was owned by BMW, it was a retro-inspired saloon that aimed to tempt buyers with a clever mixture of classic British luxury and modern (for the time) technology.
What makes it interesting today is that it is still largely ignored by those outside the enthusiast community, meaning prices are temptingly low for what will surely one day be regarded as a classic car.
The 75 is also a fairly large car so your money goes a long way compared with a supermini of the same value, plus you can choose between petrol and diesel engines, the former ranging from 1.8- to 2.5 litres and the latter of 2.0-litre capacity only. All offer decent performance, but be aware that the petrol engines are prone to head gasket failures so search out an example that’s been well maintained. Spending around £2000 will give you the best chance of getting a solid 75, and there are some good clubs around that can help fix any problems as cost-effectively as possible.
TOP TIP: Rover built an estate version of the 75 if you need more boot space, and don’t overlook the faster MG ZT versions either, which can also be very good value for money.
Price from: £500
No apologies for including two Fords in this list (indeed we could have quite conceivably also added a first-generation Ka to make it three) because both the Puma and Mk1 Focus will go down as some of the finest cars the company has ever built.
For those youngsters reading, the Focus was Ford’s replacement for the legendary Escort, which by the end of the 1990s had become as stodgy as a microwave lasagne. That was certainly not an accusation you could level at the Focus, which might has well have arrived in Ford dealerships from the moon, so edgy was its styling. Time and ubiquity may have dulled that initial impact, but we’d be amazed if the original Focus wasn’t one day held up as an exemplary piece of design.
Better still it was genuinely fantastic to drive, largely on account of Ford having gone to the expense of equipping it with a ‘control blade’ multi-link rear suspension system at a time when others didn’t (indeed some still don’t even today).
As with the Puma you’ll need to watch for rust, and make sure all the engine’s belts have been changed according to the service schedule.
TOP TIP: With diesels of this age now well out of favour, not to mention somewhat noisy, our pick of the engines is the lively yet economical 1.6 petrol.
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