Why are some 1990s cars going up in price?


It wasn’t that long ago that 1990s cars were just used cars. And, indeed, most of them are still working. But as millennials get older, get disposable income and spark for the cars of their youth, many of these cars have crossed the threshold of becoming sought after collectibles with increasing values ​​in the car collecting world.

Cars from marques such as Ferrari, Bugatti and McLaren are of course appreciated, but some models from manufacturers such as Toyota, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have also seen their values ​​rise..

“The past three years have seen the largest increase in values ​​for cars and vehicles in any decade since the 1990s,” said Brian Rabold, vice president of automotive intelligence at Hagerty, which closely follows the collector car market. In addition to insuring collector cars, Hagerty also owns the Broad Arrow auction company.

Values ​​of 1990s vintage cars have increased by an average of 78% in the past. three years, “that’s huge,” Rabold said.

Several factors increase the interest rate Said Rabold et al. First, there is the simple passage of time. Twenty-five years marks the time when some special cars become collectibles. First, depreciation has run its course.

Usually, even if their condition remains largely the same, cars become less and less valuable with each passing year, but only up to a point.

Then some cars that are special and desirable for whatever reason begin to gain value. That’s because as cars get older, so do people who were teenagers or maybe in their twenties when these models first came out. Maybe they wanted them back then but couldn’t afford them. Now they’re all grown up and have the disposable income to buy a Mitsubishi 3000GT just for fun.

Randy Nonnenberg, co-founder and president of the online collector car auction site Bring a Trailer, says collectors are often attracted to cars outside their age range.

“We have young people who like 70-year-old cars, and an 80-year-old guy bought a new car. [Porsche 911] GT3,” he said. “So, I mean, it’s all over the map.”

Also, the late 20th and early 21st centuries marked a turning point for automobiles themselves.

“A lot of people think the golden age of the car was the ’50s and ’60s,” says Eric Charnholm, owner of a 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R he’s been chasing for 15 years. “There’s an argument to be made that the ’90s were actually a golden age.”

At that time, automakers figured out how to make small cars that met fuel economy requirements, but that could also be fun to drive.

This 1990 Nissan 300ZX was sold at Bring A Trailer.

“You had a mixture of high horsepower, light weight with minimal safety systems, which made them a very fun combination,” he said.

Cars of the 1990s still had a bit of a raw, mechanical feel that is often lost in modern cars full of computer support. and “drive-by-wire” technology, where the connection between the driver and the road is created not just by gears and hydraulics, but by cables, computers and actuators, Nonnenberg said.

“Modern cars are very comfortable and beautiful,” he said, “but it’s more of a ride experience.”

According to Hagerty, cars from the 1990s are far from ancient, having lost value on average in recent years, unlike models from the early 20th century. Cars from the 90s had at least some modern comfort and safety features, and even relatively inexpensive cars could have respectable power and performance.

“They’ve got air conditioning, they’ve got power windows, they’ve got airbags, they’ve got a lot,” he said, “but they’re a bit more characterful.”

None of this is to say that all 1990s cars are gaining value. We are talking about “collector” cars. These are usually, but not always, sports cars or performance models. Practical family cars are generally not considered collectible, with a few exceptions like 90s Buick Roadmasters wagons. (Prices for Roadmaster wagons are up 48% since 2019, according to Hagerty.) As in the new car market, pickups and SUVs are finding their fans, but not everyone accepts the application.

“It’s the mid-’90s trucks that make me scratch my head,” said Frank Mecum, director of consignment at Mecum Auctions. “We sell some of these low-mileage pickup trucks for fifty, sixty, seventy grand, and they’re just regular trucks.”

Early Mazda Miatas, like this 1991 model, became popular with collectors.

Between 2015 and 2018, buyers paid an average of $13,375 for Bring a Trailer 1990s Ford Broncos. Now these Broncos are almost doubling that amount. Prices for Volkswagen Vanagons, a more modern version of the VW Bus, have similarly increased, according to the auction site. Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles are also required.

“We’re big fans of the Land Cruiser in general, but this particular generation, from the early ’90s through the ’97s, is kind of a favorite,” said Kevin Marzano, owner of Mouse Motors, a collector car company. “I think it’s practical in the sense that it’s a family hauler, but they’re not very fuel efficient. They are actually terrible.”

The 1990s were also a time of very attractive Japanese sports cars, Thanks to the economic boom of this country in the 1980s. Robert Yeager, author of The NextGen Guide to Car Collecting, owns a 1996 Lexus SC 300. He loves the car because of its design and it’s a thrill to drive, he said.

“I think the ’90s is a really sweet spot for people looking for fun cars.” he added.

According to him, even the cheap Japanese cars of the time boasted a quality that American automakers at the time couldn’t match.

Values ​​of the early 90s Mitsubishi Eclipse are up 40% since 2020, and the closely related Eagle Talon, a product of Mitsubishi and Chrysler, is up almost 45%, according to Hagerty.

According to Bring a Trailer, Nissan 300ZX models and Mazda Miatas from the 90s are also increasing in value. But with early ’90s Miatas around $14,000 and Nissan ZXs around $26,000, they remain quite affordable.

Radwood, a series of car meets for cars of the 1980s and 90s, started in California and has now expanded to a number of events across the country. Radwood has become a full-time job for co-founder Art Cervantes, who owns a 1998 BMW M3 and a 1987 BMW 325is. The Radwood event series, with its own brand of merchandise, is now owned and operated by Hagerty.

This 1991 Eagle Talon was the product of a deal between Mitsubishi and Chrysler.

Cervantes also recently purchased a 1996 Nissan Skyline GT-R, better known in the US as just the GT-R. His purchase of the GT-R touches on another reason why cars become collectible after 25 years. The GT-R wasn’t available in the US in 1996, but the rules allow cars that couldn’t be owned here when new to be freely imported and driven after 25 years.

“I bought this car in March of 2022,” he said, “based on how the market is going, it was valued at about $20,000 when I bought it.”

For many owners, these cars aren’t just for weekend getaways. While they are still desirable and collectable, they can function as a means of transportation for everyday use.

Bring a Trailer’s Nonnenberg said these vehicles aren’t so old and shabby that they’re out of the question as primary vehicles.

“There are some people who want that even for their everyday car, right?” he said. “They’re not that interested in driving a Tesla, they’d rather drive a car from the 90s or 2000s.”

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