As a basic rule, the more iconic and critically acclaimed the car is, the better, but if you can also find one that was produced in low numbers or is generally thought to be undervalued, then you may be onto a winner.
We've chosen an eclectic mix of 20 cars from six decades which are likely to appreciate. Some already have classic car status; others could well join the list in 10-20 years.
As ever, with any collector car, thoroughly research the model you’re planning to buy, insist on a full service history, get a prospective purchase inspected by an expert – and don't let your heart rule your head.
If you do take the plunge, join the relevant owner's club and make sure you have some budget left because there may always be an expensive surprise lurking. And don't forget your classic car insurance.
Most of all – enjoy your classic. It's not just an appreciating asset, it should be driven on the road too.
Produced between 1984 and 2007 over three generations, this mid-engined sports car was one of the most entertaining vehicles ever made by Toyota.
The final version is probably your safest bet if you want a daily driver, but the boxy, wedge-shaped Mk 1 with pop-up headlights (built until 1989) is arguably the most iconic and is already considered a classic.
Go for an original UK-spec car, but remember, rust and accident damage will be the biggest concerns. You can buy a perfectly useable Mk 1 MR2 for £3,500, but double that will secure one with a lower mileage in great condition that should be worth holding onto.
The Volvo P1800 coupe (1961-1973) may have been The Saint’s car of choice, but the sleek P1800ES estate (produced in far fewer numbers from 1971-1973) was much prettier with its frameless, all-glass tailgate.
Restoration projects can be found for as little as £3,000, but expect to pay at least £10,000 for a presentable car and £15,000-£25,000 for a cherished/restored example
The limited edition ST200 was the last hurrah for the Mk6 Ford Fiesta when it was launched in 2016. Ford saved the best till last with the ST200 – a near perfect hot hatch, powered by a 1.6-litre 197bhp turbocharged petrol engine and priced from £23,145 new.
You can now snap up second-hand examples for £14,000 to £15,000 and they may be worth looking after. Choose carefully, some have been thrashed
Jaguar bought Daimler in 1960 and the V8 250 was produced between 1962-1969. Almost identical to the Jaguar Mk 2 saloon, the Daimler version may not be as popular or as prized as the iconic Jag, but it's still a cracking car and sports a glorious 2.5-litre V8 first used in the Daimler SP250 sports car.
It's also something of a bargain compared to Mk 2s, which start at £12,000 for runners and go all the way up to £100,000 for immaculate examples. Daimler V8 250s, however, start at closer to £10,000 and £20,000 will buy you a beauty, while a show standard car will cost double that
Built between 1989 and 1995, the second-generation BMW M5 (E34) was another sharply-styled cracker. Under the bonnet was a 3.5-litre, 24-valve straight-six capable of propelling this awesome performance saloon from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds.
Runners can be found for as little as £10,000, but double that should secure an example that will appreciate in time. As with any high performance car, a lot can go wrong, so make sure you get expert advice before signing on the dotted line
The last original Land Rover Defender left the assembly line at Solihull in 2016, ending 68 years of continuous production. A year before that fateful day, Land Rover launched three limited edition Defenders – Heritage, Adventure and Autobiography – and it's this rare trio that could prove to be an especially good investment.
The Heritage in classic Grasmere Green was originally priced from £30,900 and asking prices for incredibly low mileage examples are already closer to £60,000
The limited edition 1499GT was launched in 2018. Inspired by the 1275GT original Mini first seen in 1969, just 1,499 examples were built.
Based on a basic MINI, it was available in Pepper White or Midnight Black and featured distinctive side stripes and decals, a John Cooper Works Sport Pack, sports seats part-trimmed in leather, red stitching on the steering wheel and anthracite roof lining.
Priced from £15,900 new, it was a touch of nostalgia. You can now buy used low mileage examples for around £12,000, and because of its rarity, it's an affordable MINI worth cherishing
The acclaimed S2000 was launched in 1999 to celebrate Honda’s 50th anniversary. It enjoyed a 10-year production run and more than 110,000 cars were sold in all. It went as well as it looked and it's still a great drive.
Now highly collectable, S2000s can be bought for as little as £7,000, but cherished, low milers are at least double that. We've also seen a rare GT Edition 100 on sale for nearly £25,000
Built between 1998 and 2009, the Bentley Arnage (almost identical to its Rolls-Royce-branded sibling, the Silver Seraph), was powered by a Cosworth-tweaked BMW V8 engine and was priced from £145,025 to £193,038 new.
It's remarkable to think that you can now buy one of these opulent, beautifully crafted saloons for around £16,000 on Auto Trader. A late, low miler in good condition will cost closer to £50,000, however. Of course, buying a Bentley is not without risk, so choose one with a full service history and get it checked over by an expert.
Just for fun, here's an example of a car (built between 1994 and 1999) that could prove to be a good investment at the less affordable end of the market. We asked Tom Hartley Jnr, whose Derbyshire-based company specialises in high-end classic cars, to look into his crystal ball.
"The car to watch between £100-150,000 would be a low mileage, manual Ferrari 355. This is a fantastic car – one of my favourite contemporary Ferraris. Wind the clock forward 20 years, and the next generation may well prefer one over a Dino!"
Recently voted the top hot hatch of the last two decades by readers of PistonHeads, the UK’s largest online motoring community, only 500 right-hand drive examples of the Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy were produced in 2005.
Originally sporting bright Capsicum Red paint, it also featured a rear spoiler courtesy of the Clio V6, a 2.0-litre engine producing 182bhp and a five-speed manual gearbox. Most of all, it was lively, fun and quick on the road. If you're lucky enough to find a cosseted example, expect to pay £6,000 to £8,000.
Produced between 1983-1993, the 190 was the baby of the Mercedes-Benz family, introduced to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series. Known internally as the W201, the most desirable performance variants were the sporty 190 E 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 models, developed with Cosworth.
Durable, but with the potential to be a money pit unless you buy carefully, you can snap up a useable 190 for less than £2,000, but a stunner will cost at least £7,000 and a Cosworth closer to £20,000.
Built since 2002 over three generations, the Z4 is a handsome rear-wheel drive sports car with an impressive engine choice. Arguably not as dynamic to drive as it looked, it still makes a great daily driver, even if the engines are a little thirsty.
You can buy a high-mileage Mk 1 (2002-2008 and available as a roadster or coupe) for less than £2,000, but you’ll need to spend at least £6,000 for one with low miles that's been well looked after.
VW’s flagship executive saloon was produced between 2002-2016 and was meant to challenge Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the premium sector. Available with a solid range of big petrol and diesel engines, it could even be specified with the 6.0-litre W12 out of the Bentley Continental!
Sadly, it wasn't a commercial success, but Volkswagen's loss is our gain because you get a lot of bang for your buck now and a Phaeton can be bought for less than £3,000. Most have done big miles, so expect to pay £6,000 for a more recent low mileage example with a full service history.
Originally launched in 1968, the Jaguar XJ saloon was the car that kept Jaguar afloat for many years, but arguably the best came last because the model produced between 2003-2007 featured an all-aluminium body, a wide variety of engines, including a 2.7-litre V6 diesel, and still looks the business today.
High mileage examples can be bought for less than £2,000, but cherished low milers will set you back more than £6,000. Just one note of caution – the XJ is thirsty, especially the V8 petrol.
Boasting lightweight aluminium construction and an aerodynamic, practical design, the Audi A2 (1999-2005) was years ahead of its time and blessed with a range of economical petrol and diesel engines.
However, sales were disappointing. The good news is that they can be snapped up for less than £1,000. Go for a 1.4 (diesel or petrol) and pay at least £2,500 for a car that is sure to appreciate in years to come.
Crowned European Car of the Year in 1977, the SD1 was built between 1976-86 and was the last true Rover. Featuring a front end inspired by the Ferrari Daytona and a radical five door hatchback design, 303,345 cars were built.
Sadly, like so many BL cars, it was blighted by reliability and build quality issues. However, the surviving cars are now established classics. Late V8 Vanden Plas and Vitesses are the most desirable models. At £6,000 upwards for a loved SD1, it's a good time to buy.
The beautiful 4C only went out of production in 2019 after just six years, but it's a sure-fire modern classic. Mid-engined, lightweight and rear-wheel drive, it was blessed with a 1750 turbo engine capable of 155mph and a 0-62mph time of just 4.5 seconds.
Priced just over £50,000 new, you're unlikely to find a second-hand example for less than £30,000 and it should prove to be a sound investment. Most of all, you'll have superb fun owning one.
The original Land Rover is now a much sought after classic and you'll have to pay at least £10,000 for a decent one, so why not look at the first-generation Discovery (1989-1998) instead?
Choose carefully and you'll have a dependable 4x4 just as capable as its classic stablemate. You can pick one up for under £1,000, but we've seen asking prices as high as £12,000 for pampered cars. Split the difference and go for a V8 around the £6,000-£7,000 mark.
The first generation Ford Focus broke the mould when it was introduced in 1998. Many still survive and they still look good and drive well today.
The RS hot hatch version was launched in 2002 and was an instant hit. Steer clear of anything priced below £10,000 and expect to pay at least £15,000 for a fine investment that's still rewarding to drive.
I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.