Most classic car owners will have a great set-up that includes a personal workshop space, dry storage, a multitude of tools and detailing products plus a super reliable car for daily duties so that their beloved classic can sit pretty just waiting for those hot summer days.
That’s all well and good, but for many, it’s also a currently unattainable pipe dream – so, does that mean we should just forget about classic car ownership until we’ve all made some extra money? Absolutely not – vintage cars are not just for collectors and should also be enjoyed by enthusiasts at every level.
Below, we have compiled a top ten list of classic cars that are reliable enough for daily use, simple to maintain up to a reliable standard, and what’s more – you can get your hands on all of them for less than $10,000 each.
10 The VW Beetle Is A Worldwide FavoriteBring a Trailer
Many will argue that there’s no better starter classic than an original Volkswagen Beetle – with millions sold and masses of aftermarket support, you’ll certainly never struggle to find spare parts or service items.
What’s more, the Beetle has a truly simplistic air-cooled engine which is very low-stress indeed (even the larger 1.6-liter variants only produce a measly 54 hp) – so if looked after well with simple and regular maintenance, these engines can run forever, and will likely cost even less than a boring modern commuter car to keep going.
9 A Chevrolet Corvair Offers Classic Americana
If however you’re after something a little bigger or want a bit more style with your new-to-you classic car, then you could do much worse than to step into a Chevrolet Corvair.
You’d be hard-pushed to find many Corvairs selling for under $10,000, but they certainly are still out there, and even more so if you don’t mind picking up a project.
This is another air-cooled classic and should be just as easy to work on as the Beetle above – if not more so, with easier access to work on the engine, when needed. Chevrolet has always been successful at making cheap cars that are reliable and simple to work on; that sentiment still echoes through the Corvair today, and that makes this a great and approachable choice when shopping around for a cheap and reliable classic.
8 Enjoy Budget Drop-Top Motoring In A Triumph Spitfire
For some however, if you’re going down the classic car route, you may as well do it properly and bag yourself a classic sports car – after all, there’s nothing better than that wind-in-your-hair feeling on a hot summer day!
While the stylish British sports car isn’t renowned for reliability, it is another extremely easy car to maintain – even down the bodywork repairs in this case, as the Triumph makes use of a separate chassis design, so all panels simply bolt on and off.
Later (and cheaper) Spitfire models make use of either a 1300cc or 1500cc 4-cylinder engine, which offer modest power but bags of character and reasonable economy too – perfect then, for running on a budget.
7 The Retro Mercedes-Benz 190E Will Go Forever
If you’re more focused on the reliability side of things though, this seriously may be the perfect choice for you. The Mercedes-Benz 190E is famously one of the most reliable and over-engineered cars of all time – no wonder Germany chose to use them for taxis for decades, and some examples have been known to rack up millions of miles, literally!
The robust nature of a 190E then is perfect if you plan on completing some serious miles in your classic, and will make a more reliable daily car than many brand-new cars in the showrooms today, regardless of the brand or price.
Don’t expect to find the sporty 2.3-liter Cosworth model for cheap though, while they may make a cool weekend sports car, you’re much better off going for a cheaper model if it’s a frugal daily you need on a budget.
6 Could The Volvo Amazon Be The Perfect Daily?
Similar in many ways to the aforementioned 190E is the rather handsome Volvo Amazon – think of it as the Mercedes’ 1960s counterpart, and you won’t be far wrong.
Reliable engines, solid dependable construction, and four-door four-seat sedan designs are what the Volvo has in common with the 190E, it just does it with so much more style thanks to the smooth lines and chrome fixtures. Volvo cars are also well known for being excellent at racking up the miles without any serious issues, and with some Amazons still around for sub-$10,000, that makes it a strong candidate indeed for a cheap reliable classic.
5 The MG Midget Is A Firm Favorite
That’s enough sensible choices though, let’s take another look at a classic British sports car, this time in the shape of the diminutive MG Midget.
The humble little sports car shares a very similar 1500cc unit as the Triumph Spitfire, this time pushing out an almighty 66 hp; not one to break any local track records then, but still more than fun enough to dart about in, thanks to the low-slung seating position and feather-light weight.
Simple mechanicals means most jobs are easy enough to try on your own, especially if you join a local MG car club, to share in the wealth of knowledge that long-standing members will have.
4 A Porsche 924 Is Cheaper Than You’d Think
Part of the fun when shopping around for a bargain classic car, is you get to consider certain makes and models that you’d never usually be able to afford – who would ever think a classic Porsche coupe would feature in a budget list?
As unusual as it is, the Porsche 924 certainly does feature here, and for good reason too. While it’s been mocked for years due to the Volkswagen engine and un-Porsche-like performance, the 924 is admired by many now simply for what it is – a cheap and cheerful stylish coupe with great handling and typical Porsche quality.
The VW connections are actually helpful here, as it makes maintaining the Porsche 928 relatively cheap, with only Porshce-specific parts costing a touch more (but still never bank-breaking). Grab a well-maintained and smartly presented example, use it daily, and never look back!
3 The Fox-Body Mustang Would Make An Awesome Daily
While we are on the topic of ugly ducklings, here’s another classic coupe that’s fast becoming a swan – it is of course the fox-body Ford Mustang.
Being all-American, parts are always super easy to get hold of, and the chances are your local mechanic has been working on them for years – everybody knows somebody who can rebuild a Mustang in their sleep! The fox body then will be easy to keep on top of and therefore should prove plenty reliable if maintenance is kept on top of.
There’s also a huge aftermarket scene for Mustangs, so these make a great candidate for tuning and further personalization if that’s your thing.
2 A Fiery Fiero Is Simple To Maintain And Run
The best things always come in three, so let’s go for one more un-loved and under-appreciated classic, with the Pontiac Fiero. The humble Fiero is now a relatively rare beast, especially in standard and un-modified form, which is probably why gearheads and now starting to appreciate them more.
These cool and quirky coupes are readily available on the used car market for sub-$10,000, with more desirable later models fetching over that figure, and limited edition models like the Indy Pace Car Edition fetching similarly higher figures also.
1 An Original Mini Makes For The Perfect Classic Car
The original and charming classic Mini surely must have a mention here. No list of cheap and reliable classic cars is complete without its presence.
Alec Issigonis designed the car back in 1959 to combat rising fuel prices, and his clever design ensured there was enough room inside to accommodate 4 adults in comfort – little did he know, it would later become a world-famous motorsport icon.
These mighty little cars then were literally designed to be cheap and efficient to run, and there’s a huge international scene for these compact heroes so parts and service work will never be an issue. Early Austin or Morris models will normally always be more expensive unless you opt for a project, so seek out a later 1990s Rover Mini model and enjoy the nimble characteristics of these charming little cars.