Cars today have never been better, but if you want to stand out from the crowd and drive something with a little more character, there are plenty of options – and some might even prove to be a wise investment.
There’s a huge choice if you fancy using an older car as your daily driver because many relatively recent vehicles are now considered to be classics.
We’ve chosen 10 affordable examples (listed below in alphabetical order) of modern classics from the last 30 years which might be worth considering, ranging from sports cars to 4x4s.
Of course, there are many others including:
- Honda S200
- Volkswagen Corrado
- BMW M3 (E46)
- Audi TT (Mk1)
Many of the cars selected have already bottomed out and are already appreciating in value, or they’re about to turn the corner, so where you might lose out in reliability and fuel consumption, you’ll win when it comes to depreciation.
Alfa Romeo Brera
Some say you're not a proper petrolhead until you've owned an Alfa Romeo. Back in the day, owning an Alfa was more a labour of love, but all that has changed now. However, if you want to own one of the prettiest Alfa Romeos ever (and have a lot of fun in the process), then the Brera might be worth considering.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and built by Pininfarina from 2005, the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe not only looked stunning, but you could also opt for the glorious 3.2-litre V6 version. It may not be the sweetest handling Alfa ever, but that didn't stop 12,488 Spiders and 21,786 coupes being built before production ended in late 2010.
The most desirable limited edition 3.2 S Prodrive could set you back as much as £15,000, while smaller-engined, low mileage petrol and diesels can be bought for as little as £5,000.
Produced between 1997-2001, the Ford Puma was a fine-handling small sports coupe based on the Mk4 Ford Fiesta. The most popular engine was a 1.7-litre 16v four-cylinder which was capable of 0-60mph in just 8.8 seconds.
Best remembered by some because a Puma TV ad campaign featured Steve McQueen appearing to drive a Puma through the streets of San Francisco, these are real bargains and examples from 2001 can be found for less than £1,000.
However, a really genuine example with low miles and a full service history will probably be priced closer to £2,000, while the most desirable Racing Puma of 1999 costs significantly more. Top tip: go for the 'Thunder' limited edition with cool alloys.
First produced in 1989, the iconic MX-5 is now in its fourth generation and still the world’s most popular roadster. Fun to drive, affordable open-top motoring at its best, the MX-5 is a great everyday choice.
Mk1s and Mk2s are fairly common and cheap, though watch out for rust. A safer bet would be to go for a solid Mk 3 (2005-2016) which still looks fresh and offers superb driving dynamics. There's a choice between 124bhp 1.8-litre or 159bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines and they’re generally well equipped and affordable to run on a daily basis.
A mint Mk3 could cost north of £10,000, but £3,500-£5,000 should buy a respectable, low mileage example.
Peugeot 406 Coupe
Designed by Pininfarina, the 406 Coupe (1997-2003) is one of the best-looking cars of the 1990s. Most were powered by 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines, but it's the top-of-the-range 3.0-litre V6 that’s the most desirable.
Built more for comfort than outright speed and driving thrills, it makes sense as a daily driver and still turns heads. But here's the thing – the 406 Coupe costs peanuts. We've seen low mileage examples on sale for as little as £1,295, and even an immaculate V6 was under £2,500.
Investing in a used Boxster (986) is one of the most affordable ways to become a Porsche owner. Available for less than £5,000, you could end up with a bargain, but being a thoroughbred it could also go very wrong, so choose carefully and get expert advice.
The Mk 1 (1996-2004, with a minor facelift in 2002) is your best option and go for a later model with one of the faster 2.7 or 3.2-litre engines. We'd recommend paying closer to £10,000 for a good one with low miles and a full Porsche service history.
The Boxster is mid-engined fun at its best, without breaking the bank.
Launched in 2001, the Avantime was a bold design statement from the French car giant. With divisive looks, you either love it or hate it.
Effectively a four-seat coupe based on the third-generation Renault Espace, it wasn’t a great success and just 8,557 examples were made until production ceased in 2003. If you want to stand out from the crowd, this is a rare car and still looks avantgarde today.
Expect to pay at least £5,000 for a good one – considerably more for the flagship 3.0-litre V6 Privilege.
It's perhaps early days to hail the Rover 75 (1998-2005) a classic, but this once common car is fast disappearing from our roads, and it won't be long before it's collectible just like its immediate predecessors, the SD1 and P6.
This executive saloon was launched in 1998, four years after BMW bought the Rover Group. It was well received and boasted some BMW engineering, but many critics labelled its styling too “retro”, suggesting it had been designed with an older buyer in mind. An estate and MG versions were later introduced and it was still selling well at the time of MG Rover’s bankruptcy in April 2005.
A cherished, low mileage Rover 75 could be yours for as little as £2,000, but if you want the flagship V8 Connoisseur, we've seen an exceptional example with just 20 miles on the clock for a whopping £29,995!
The late, lamented Saab 9-3 (1998-2014) was a handsome hatchback, saloon and convertible, which was also available as a distinctive estate from 2005 (variously known as the SportWagon, SportCombi or Sport-Hatch).
Sadly, super Swedish brand Saab is no longer with us, but its safe, sporty and durable models live on. If you’re lucky enough to find a well looked after 9-3 with low mileage, it could well be a good investment, but you’ll have to pay as much as £5,000.
The petrol turbos are a bit thirsty, so a diesel might be better as a daily driver, while the four-wheel drive (badged Turbo X) and Viggen (very fast) models are the most collectible.
Now in its fourth incarnation since the first model in 1970, the Jimny is a living legend. The new version just launched is better than ever, but the previous generation car (1998-2018) is worth considering.
It may not be a sophisticated drive, but this dinky 4x4 is remarkably capable off road – a real mountain goat of a vehicle. It's also durable, reliable, cheeky and cheap to run. Late examples from 2017 are on sale for as much as £16,000, but £5,000 should buy you a tidy 10-year-old.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
With prices for Mk1 and Mk2 Golf GTIs going through the roof, the Mk5 (2003–09) is looking like a good buy and it's a future classic if ever there was one. Powered by a 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it handles better than its illustrious hot hatch ancestors and it definitely feels faster.
The most desirable Mk5 Golf of all is the powerful six-cylinder Golf R32 introduced in 2005. A good low mileage Mk5 Golf GTI could be yours for as little as £5,000, but stunning examples are on sale for as much as £12,000.