It’s very clear at the moment that the used car market is all over the place: JDM cars are skyrocketing, nobody seems to want a luxury sedan, and the price of classic cars is yo-yoing from day to day. Because of this, it makes buying a classic car feel a little like playing roulette, dreading the day it puts you in the red.
It’s why so many people are now looking to own a more reliable classic car, something that will just start and drive on the weekend, is easy to repair, and might not mind being tossed under a sheet when winter rolls round.
This list compiles some of the most reliable classic cars ever built, cars that still have a big heart, but won’t break your bank.
10 1989 BMW 325is (E30) – $25,900
The BMW E30 Series is considered one of the best generations of car ever built by the German manufacture, and it’s hard to argue against it when cars like the 325is are still around in such strong numbers, and in such good conditions. While the E30 M3 is an icon of German engineering, their prices have risen to incredible sums in recent years, the 325is, on the other hand, can provide that driving quality at a slice of the price.
Powered by a 2.5-liter straight-6, the 325is is able to produce a cool 168 hp and reach speeds of 135 mph. The E30 is known for being a greatly reliable car, with many owners on Edmunds mentioning the low maintenance costs and little breakdowns over the years. Prices have sadly risen for a 325is in recent years, and now cost around $26,000 for one in good condition, a big investment, but a good valued one.
9 1962 Volvo P1800 – $35,900
Known for being the car with the most mileage ever (for a private vehicle driven by the original owner in non-commercial service), the Volvo P1800’s record for reliability speaks for itself. Introduced as Volvo’s second attempt at tackling the European and US sports car market, the P1800 is one of the best classic sports cars of the 1960s.
While the P1800 were not fast nor powerful cars, compared to the powerful cars of the US in the 60s period, the Volvo was beautifully styled and brilliantly built. Volvo put a great emphasis on the build quality of the P1800, and it shows in the car today. With stories such as Irv Gordon’s 3 million-mile run on the same transmission, it’s hard to deny the reliability of the Volvo. Estimates sit at around $36,000 for the P1800, and if one lasts for a tenth of as long as Gordon’s did, it’s certainly a worthy investment.
8 1993 Mazda MX5 Miata (NA) – $9,200
The Mazda MX5 is one of the most well known, and well-loved, sports cars ever made, and no generation have ever managed to recreate the magic that was the Miata NA. The little roadster wasn’t just known for being bags of fun, but also for its low maintenance fees and great reliability.
The Miata originally contained a nippy 120 hp 1.6-liter engine, capable of 60 mph in about 9 seconds. Combined with a beautifully balanced chassis, the first generation Miata has firmly cemented itself in the classic car hall of fame. Additionally, the MX5 has a stellar reliability rating from owners on Edmunds, which combined with an estimated price of around just $9,000, leaves little reason not to grab one of Mazda’s finest.
7 1988 Saab 900 Turbo 16s – $11,329
The death of Saab in 2014 still saddens car enthusiasts around the world, as the little Swedish manufacture made some of the most sturdy and reliable classic cars over the years, none more so than the Saab 900 Turbo. The 900 Turbo was a front-engined, front-wheel drive sports car of the late ’70s into the mid 90s that took the world by storm, having both great reliability, and a fantastic suspension system.
The late 80s Turbo 16s model featured a 158 hp inline 4 combined with a double wishbone setup, which created both a quick and comfortable car to drive. The 900 is praised as been a greatly reliable car, with many good reviews from owners listed on Edmunds. A good condition 16s is estimated to cost around $11,000 dollars in the current market, a small price to pay, for one of the coolest European cars on this list.
6 1990 Porsche 944 S2 – $30,000
The Porsche 944 has always been considered as a bit of an ugly duckling in comparison to its classic 911 brothers of the time. So it’s not the looks of the 944 that keep it around today, it’s the car’s great reliability, and low maintenance costs, and general inability to die. The S2 is one of the more punchy 944s that Porsche ever built, with a 16-valve 3.0-liter engine producing 208 hp. The results of the S2s engine were a top speed of around 150 mph and a 0-60 mph time of just under 7 seconds.
As well as the great performance figures, the 944s are generally considered very reliable machines, owners have flocked to Edmunds over the years to share their surprise at the car’s efficiency and reliability. Sadly, as the car only gets older, the prices of good condition S2s have only risen, with recent estimates sitting around $30,000 according to Hagerty. The 944 is a staple car of any gearheads history, so it should be a no-brainer to buy one now before it’s too late.
5 1998 Lexus LS 400 – $3,760
There are a lot of big statements that get thrown at the Lexus LS 400, with lots of chatter about it being one of the best American luxury cars ever made, if not the best. It’s not hard to see why either, the LS 400 perfectly sandwiches the best of reliability and performance into one meaty, meaty car.
The second generation model is an especially exceptional classic car. Featuring a luxurious interior, fantastic ride, and a 4.0-liter, 280 hp, 1UZ-FE V8 engine, the late 90s LS 400 is a gem. Not only is the car everything you could want in your luxury car, but, if bought with a low mileage, you’ll probably not have to buy another one for a very long time. The reliability is raved about on Edmunds as being second to none, and with a price tag of around just $4,000, there’s no reason one shouldn’t be sitting in your drive. As one reviewer on Edmunds puts it:
“If you ever have the opportunity to own one, do it, but hold on to it, they last forever.”
4 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280CE (W123) – $8,000
Speaking of cars that last forever, there’s a good case to be made that the Mercedes W123 is the most reliable European luxury car of all time. Any model of this car is bound to put a smile on your face without burning a hole in your pocket, but the 280CE (C123) is definitely the crème de la crème of W123s.
Not only was the 280CE beautifully styled and did it contain a luxurious interior, the C123 was also powerful and reliable. The 2.8-liter fuel injected straight-six pushed out 140 hp and was no slug in accelerating. Reliability wise, the C123s seem to last forever, with many great reviews mentioning reliability across classic car sites. Hagerty estimate that the 280CE in good condition will cost around $8,000 to buy today If you buy one, please look after it, the W123 deserves a good home.
3 1978 Datsun 280Z – $10,800
There’s something about the Datsun 280Z that is just very, very likable. A two door, small Japanese sports car that packed a mighty punch with great reliability, there’s not much to not like. With being as cheap as they still are today too, there are many great reasons to pick one up.
As a direct successor to the 260Z, the 280Z was a more powerful, slightly updated model. Powered by the 176 hp L28E straight-six engine, the 280Z was capable of 127 mph and 0-60 mph in around 8 seconds. The car featured the signature Datsun styling of the era, and a great interior. As it’s an older car, it can be difficult to find lots of reliability reviews, but the general consensus online is that the 280Z is not one to let you down often. With a valuation of around $10,000, the Datsun 280Z is a great value for money retro Japanese sports car.
2 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS – $15,900
The 1990s Chevrolet Impala SS is the perfect example that a reboot can work, if done correctly. The newer SS was the perfect homage to the classic ’60s car, and while packing a great deal performance wise, also gained a great reputation for reliability.
Believe it or not, the SS actually contained a de-tuned version of the engine from the fourth generation corvette: a 260 hp 5.7-liter V8. The SS was quite the 90s sleeper car, having a top speed of 145mph and being able to go from 0-60 mph in around 7 seconds. Combining this with great reliability means that the reviews on Edmunds are generally positive towards the SS’ maintenance prices. Hagerty values the Impala SS at around $16,000 currently, meaning now is the time to buy this future classic.
1 1978 Porsche 911SC – $47,000
If looking at buying a magical air-cooled classic Porsche, look no further than the 911SC: everything a classic Porsche offers, put into one reliable rear-engined classic sports car. Beautifully styled, brilliantly engineered, there are so many reasons to think about the 911SC
The 911SC is seen as one of the best air-cooled Porsches for a variety of reasons, and the sales of the car itself is one of the reasons that Porsche still makes the 911 today. The SC featured a 3.0-liter aluminum engine with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, which all in all lead to a top speed of 146 mph. It was that very change to an aluminum engine that caused the SC to be more reliable than it’s predecessors, which is why there are so many still around today. With a Hagerty valuation of $47,000, the 911SC must be one to add to the classic car wish list.