5 Classic Cars for Less Than $15,000

I hate new cars. Sure, they smell nice, offer a pleasant ride, get good mileage, and feature fancy electronic bells and whistles. But they do something intolerable for something so expensive: plunge in value the instant you leave the lot.

One solution to the depreciation dilemma is to buy used, something I’ve written about many times in stories like Why I Don’t Buy New Cars. But that’s only a partial solution, because you’re still buying a depreciating asset – you’re just losing less money.

The ideal answer? Drive a car that goes up in value, not down. Also nice would be a car that’s fun to drive and – let’s be honest – makes your friends green with envy and starts conversations at every stoplight.

That’s the appeal of the classic car. More than transportation, it’s both a link to your past (or more often, the past you wish you had) and an investment for the future.

If you like cool-looking cars, you’ll love the following news story – we shot it at a private car collection belonging to a wealthy friend of a friend. See how the other half drives, then meet me on the other side for more…

When I graduated from college back in 1977, my parents gave me a used Toyota station wagon. Within weeks I’d sold it, used the money for a down payment on my first house, and gotten a loan from a credit union to finance my first classic car: a 1958 Triumph TR3. From that day to this, I’ve never been without an old car in the garage. In the video above, you saw the one I own now, currently undergoing a complete restoration: a 1968 Mercedes 280 SL. Over the years, I’ve also had an Austin-Healey 3000, a 1957 Thunderbird, and a 1972 El Dorado convertible, among others.

Not for sissies

Thus far I’ve mentioned the reasons to own a classic: They’re cool to look at, fun to drive, and can potentially go up in value. Add to that another surprising benefit: They can also be cheap to insure. If you can qualify for classic car coverage by limiting the mileage and keeping your car in a locked garage, you could pay a fraction of what it costs to insure your everyday ride.

So much for the good stuff. But there are numerous potential problems – and the older the car, the greater the potential. Buy the wrong car and you’ll be opening a can of worms the likes of which you’ve never seen. Parts can be expensive and hard to find. Mechanics familiar with the car may be few and far between and, as a result, charge a lot. In short, this is not an impulse buy.

Where to start

As with most major purchases, start with a budget. Forget traditional financing. While your dream car may be a classic to you, it’s just an old car to the bank. When I bought my Triumph right out of college – the only car I’ve ever financed – I used a signature (unsecured) loan from a credit union. While there are other ways to finance a purchase like this, from a second mortgage to credit cards, in my opinion this is something that should either be done with cash or not at all.

What to buy

Don’t approach any collectible – car or otherwise – as strictly an investment. The reason is simple: It might turn out to be a bad one. If you’re going to put money into any collectible, make sure you’ll genuinely enjoy owning it. Think of cars you’ve always wanted, or ones you’ve seen that made your heart skip a beat. And if you think it’s odd that a car could make your heart skip a beat, stop reading. You don’t belong in a classic car.

Here are the five cars from the video above. There’s no magic list of cars guaranteed to increase in value. These cars are on this list because they might.

Corvettes: There’s only two kinds of men: Those who have wanted a Vette and those who lie about it. While a fully restored mid-’60s model can easily cost more than $100,000, there are still plenty of later model cars out there for less than $15,000.

Mustangs: As with Corvettes, restored mid-’60s Mustangs, especially convertibles, are super-expensive. But late-’60s/early-’70s hardtops can be affordable. And you never know. As I showed you in the video above, in the same shop where my Mercedes is getting restored, there’s a rough ’65 Mustang convertible that someone had just bought at auction for $10,000.

Firebird Formulas: 1970-1974 Firebirds were cited in one article I read as being a potential collectible. And they’re certainly affordable.

Porsche: 1966-1969 Porsche 912s are mentioned by Popular Mechanics (link below) as being both collectible and affordable. Most 914s are also available for less than $15,000.

Mercedes 280 SL: While my car isn’t mentioned in any of the articles I found in researching this story, it’s an affordable car that’s well built and fun to drive. You can easily find a clean one in the $15,000 range.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. For more ideas, check out these articles:

What to do before you buy

As I mentioned above, a classic car is not something to be approached lightly or impulsively. Best way to go about it? If there’s a car you’re interested in, first read whatever you can find. Then find a local car club specializing in your dream car, go to a meeting or two, and start talking to people. They can tell you what to look for, what to look out for, and maybe even hook you up with a car for sale.

Another great resource for the same type of information is a mechanic familiar with the type of car you want. How do you find one? Here’s a trick I’ve used as I’ve moved around the country over the years…

When I move to a new city, I look in the paper or online and find cars for sale similar to mine. Then I call the owners, explain my situation, and ask them for a referral. Once I find a mechanic, I visit them in person and shoot the breeze. I’ve not only found cool cars this way, I’ve made a few friends as well.

One last bit of advice: This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Don’t even think of buying any used car, especially not a classic, without a detailed and complete inspection by a mechanic who’s intimately familiar with the type of car you’re buying. I don’t care if the car is free. No inspection, no deal.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

How to Prepare Your Finances for Retirement in 7 Steps
How to Prepare Your Finances for Retirement in 7 Steps

Here is how to get your finances in shape for your golden years, one step at a time.

10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest
10 U.S. Jobs That Are Disappearing Fastest

Think twice before pursuing these shrinking occupations.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

The Annuity Everyone Needs — and Anybody Can Get
The Annuity Everyone Needs — and Anybody Can Get

This simple strategy can put more money in your pocket during retirement.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.