January 30, 2023

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5 Cheap Classic Cars That’ll Last You A Lifetime (5 That Break Down Constantly)

In the automotive world, few things can evoke the feeling one gets when driving a classic car. Beyond the nostalgic feeling they provide, classic cars also provide a unique, more hands-on driving experience that’s hard to find in modern cars. Thanks to depreciation, classic cars are also affordable and make great purchases for budget-minded gearheads or those looking for the best project cars.


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There are multiple cheap classic cars in the used market today that gearheads can buy and enjoy. However, before rushing to the nearest used car lot, keep in mind that some classic cars are so unreliable that the money you saved on the purchase price will all be spent on repairs. With that said, let’s explore five cheap classic cars with bulletproof reliability versus five that will bankrupt you with repair and maintenance costs.,

10 Cheap Reliable Classic Car: Lexus LS400 (1994-1997) ($15,000)

1990 Lexus LS400 front
Via Lexus 

Lexus has built many cars since it was established decades ago, but none of them are as important as the LS has to the marque. As one of the best luxury sedans money can buy, the LS has helped establish Lexus as one of the top luxury brands in the world, which is why it’s still going strong.

The first generation of the LS debuted in the ’90s and impressed everyone with its sophistication, excellent build quality, and affordability compared to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class it was trying to compete with. On top of that, it had Toyota’s famous reliability which was hard to find in most other luxury cars.

9 Cheap Unreliable Classic Car: BMW 8-Series E31 ($25,000)

BMW-E31-850CSi
Via BMW Blog

In the late ’80s, BMW needed to add a new sports car to its sedan-dominated lineup, so it built the 8-Series. The 8-Series was a revolutionary car for BMW as it was the first production car to be designed using computers and had lots of advanced technologies for the day.

The first-generation 8-Series was also sold with various powerful engine options, including a mighty V12 that made it super fast. While the 8-Series was a fantastic purchase three decades ago, you should probably avoid it today as it will likely break down.

8 Cheap Reliable Classic Car: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R129 ($25,000)

Navy 1998 SL500 R129 parked
via Bring A Trailer

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is one of the longest-running models in history, having debuted almost seven decades ago. Mercedes-Benz has built multiple generations of the SL, and to many gearheads, the R129 is the greatest.

The R129 debuted in 1989 and impressed gearheads with its boxy but elegant design, comfortable and luxurious interior, and advanced technologies like seat-integrated seat belts. The R129 was sold with a variety of powerful and over-engineered engines, including a mighty V12.

7 Cheap Unreliable Classic Car: Aston Martin DB7 ($27,000)

Aston Martin DB7
Via Aston Martin

When Ford purchased Aston Martin in the ’90s, one of the first things it did to try and make the British brand profitable was building the DB7. Ford wanted the DB7 to be an entry-level Aston Martin, and the idea worked great as the DB7 became the automaker’s best-selling car.

RELATED: Here’s How An Aston Martin DB7 Might Bankrupt You

The DB7 impressed many with its beauty, luxury, and monstrous V12 engine. However, this engine is also why you should probably avoid the DB7 today as it can be hard to maintain.

6 Cheap Reliable Classic Car: 1965-1993 Ford Mustang ($15,000)

1965 FORD MUSTANG K-CODE, front quarter view, red
Via: Mecum

In the mid-60s, Ford introduced a car that would change its fortunes and the automotive industry as a whole – the Mustang. The Mustang was among the vehicles that established the now-popular muscle car industry and was such a hit that it’s been around ever since.

First-generation Mustangs are almost six decades old, but they can still be reliable daily drivers today. They’re reliable and easy to work on, and if anything breaks down, the parts are affordable and readily available.

5 Cheap Unreliable Classic Car: Jaguar XJS ($19,000)

Jaguar XJS
Via RM Sotheby’s

When the legendary E-Type went out of production in the ’70s, Jaguar knew it had to replace the icon with an equally special vehicle. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out as the E-Type’s successor – the XJS – was a huge disappointment.

The thing gearheads disliked most about the XJS was its design – it wasn’t as good-looking as the E-Type. Not even close! The XJS did have a V12 engine that gave it excellent performance, but after four decades, it’s bound to break down.

4 Cheap Reliable Classic Car: Datsun 280Z ($18,000)

1978 Datsun 280Z 5-Speed-
via BaT

In the late ’60s, Nissan – then going by Datsun – introduced a car that would change its fortunes forever. Dubbed the 240Z, this fantastic grand tourer immediately impressed gearheads with its European-rivaling design, fun-to-drive nature, reliability, and affordability. The 240Z was so good that it kicked off the Nissan Z Series that’s still going strong today.

Since it was the pioneer, the 240Z’s prices have skyrocketed in recent years to the point where it’s no longer affordable. Thankfully, its successor – the 280Z – is still within reach and most gearheads can’t tell them apart.

3 Cheap Unreliable Classic Car: Lotus Esprit ($28,000)

Yellow 1976 Lotus Esprit Series I on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

Lotus has been quiet for most of the 21st century, but it’s still one of the top British automakers of the last century. Of all the vehicles Lotus has built, the Esprit is arguably the most iconic. Introduced in 1976, the Esprit wowed gearheads with its stunning wedge-shaped design which was penned by the renowned Giorgetto Giugiaro in Italy.

RELATED: These Are The 10 Coolest Cars Built By Lotus

The Esprit also had great performance, especially the turbocharged versions. The Esprit was so good that it was featured in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. As time went by, though, gearheads started realizing the Esprit’s biggest problem – reliability. Timing belt damage, oil leaks, corrosion, and gearbox issues are some of the common problems with Esprits, and they can be costly to repair.

2 Cheap Reliable Classic Car: BMW 3-Series (E30) ($11,000)

Black 1988 BMW 320is E30 Looks Stunning
BMW

The 3-Series is arguably BMW’s most important model of the last half-century as it has been a reliable cash cow for the brand since the ’70s. As one of the best compact luxury cars money can buy, the 3-Series offers refined style and performance that’s hard to find in other cars, which is why so many love it.

There are many fantastic generations of the 3-Series to choose from, but if you’re looking for an affordable and reliable classic model, the E30 is your best bet. The E30 is an icon to BMW fans thanks to its design, crisp handling, solid build quality, and the fact that it was the first 3-Series to offer an M3 version. The E30 makes a superb daily driver since parts are still affordable and readily available.

1 Cheap Unreliable Classic Car: Pontiac Fiero ($6,000)

Red 1988 Pontiac Fiero
Via Bring a Trailer

Pontiac was one of the best American car brands of the 20th century, but it made a series of errors that eventually led to its discontinuation about a decade ago. One of those errors was the Fiero.

The Fiero was supposed to be a cheap, stylish, mid-engined sports car that gearheads could comfortably choose over the Japanese options that were flooding the market in the ’80s. Unfortunately, GM cut some corners in the Fiero’s development, leading to serious build quality issues in the final product. The Fiero was extremely unreliable and would even catch fire sometimes, which is why it failed.