Why some 1990s cars are increasing in value

(CNN) Not too long ago, cars from the 1990s were just used cars. And indeed, most of them still are, if at all. But as millennials age, have some disposable income, and long for the cars of their own youth, many of these cars have crossed the threshold to become sought after collectibles with increasing value in the world of car collecting.

Cars from brands such as Ferrari, Bugatti and McLaren are of course highly valued, but some models from manufacturers such as Toyota, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have also seen their value jump.

“Values ​​over the past three years for cars and vehicles from the 1990s have increased the most of any decade,” said Brian Rabold, vice president of automotive intelligence at Hagerty, a company that closely tracks the collector car market. . In addition to insuring collector cars, Hagerty also owns the Broad Arrow auction company.

Values ​​of 1990s-era vintage cars have risen an average of 78% over the past three years, “which is huge,” Rabold said.

Pickup trucks from the era, like this 1993 Toyota truck, have become collectible.

Several factors raise the interest rate, Rabold et al said. First, there is simply the passage of time. Twenty-five years, plus or minus, marks the time when some special cars become collectible. On the one hand, depreciation has expired.

Usually, even if their condition remains largely the same, cars become less valuable with each passing year, but only up to a certain point.

After that, some cars, ones that are special and desirable for a reason, start to increase in value. That’s because as cars get older, so do people who were teenagers or maybe in their early twenties when these models first appeared. Maybe they wanted them back then, but couldn’t afford them. Now they’re all grown up and have the disposable income to buy that Mitsubishi 3000GT, say, just for fun.

Collectors are also often attracted to cars outside their own age range, said Randy Nonenberg, co-founder and president of online collector auction site Bring a Trailer.

“We have young people who like 70-year-old cars and we have an 80-year-old who just bought a new [Porsche 911] GT3,” he said. “So, I mean it’s all over the map.”

Also, the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st marked a turning point in automobiles themselves.

“A lot of people think the golden age of cars was in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Erik Charnholm, who owns a 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R, a car he’s been looking for for 15 years. “You could argue that the 1990s were actually the golden age.”

In that era, automakers figured out how to make small cars that met fuel economy requirements but could also be fun to drive.

This 1990 Nissan 300ZX was sold to Bring A Trailer.

“You had this combination of high power, light weight with minimal safety systems, which made them a very fun combination,” he said.

Cars of the 1990s still had a kind of raw, mechanical feel that is often lost in today’s cars full of computer-aided and drive-by-wire technology, in which cables, computers and actuators, not just gears and hydraulics, make the connection between the driver and the road, Nonenberg said.

“Modern cars are very comfortable and wonderful,” he said, “but it’s more of a ride-along kind of thing.”

Still, cars from the 1990s are far from ancient, unlike early 20th-century models, which have generally declined in value in recent years, according to Haggerty. Cars from the 90s have at least some modern comfort and safety features, and even relatively inexpensive cars can have respectable power and performance.

“They’ve got air conditioning, they’ve got power windows, they’ve got airbags, lots of them,” Nonenberg said, “but they’ve got a little more character.”

None of this is to say that all cars from the 1990s are going up in price. We are talking about “collector” cars. These are usually, but not always, sports cars or high-powered models. With some exceptions, such as the Buick Roadmasters station wagon of the 1990s, practical family cars are generally not considered collectible. (Roadmaster wagon prices are up 48% since 2019, according to Hagerty.) Just as in the new car market, pickups and SUVs are now finding fans, but not everyone gets the appeal.

“It’s the mid-’90s pickups that make me scratch my head,” said Frank Mecum, director of consignments for Mecum Auctions. “We sell some of these low-mileage pickups for fifty, sixty, seventy thousand, and they’re just normal pickups.”

Early Mazda Miatas, like this 1991 model, became popular with collectors.

Between 2015 and 2018, buyers paid an average of $13,375 for 1990 Ford Broncos on Bring a Trailer. Now these Broncos are going for almost double that amount. Prices for the Volkswagen Vanagon, a more modern version of the VW Bus, have similarly increased, according to the auction site. Toyota Land Cruisers are also in demand.

“We’re big fans of Land Cruisers in general, but this particular generation, from the early ’90s to 1997, is kind of a favorite,” said Mike Marzano, who owns Mouse Motors, a company that deals in collectibles. vehicles. “I guess it’s practical in the sense that it’s, you know, a family hauler, but they’re not very economical. They’re actually terrible.”

The 1990s was also an era when there were many attractive Japanese sports cars, thanks to this country’s economic boom in the 1980s. Robert Yeager, author of “The NextGen Guide to Car Collecting,” has owned a Lexus SC 300 since 1996. He loves the car for its design and it’s exciting to drive, he said.

“I think the ’90s is a really sweet spot for people looking for cars that are fun,” he added.

Even the inexpensive Japanese cars of that era boasted a quality unmatched by American automakers at the time, he said.

Values ​​of the early 1990s Mitsubishi Eclipse are up 40 percent as of 2020, while prices for the closely related Eagle Talon, a Mitsubishi-Chrysler product, are up nearly 45 percent, according to Hagerty.

Values ​​for the 1990s Nissan 300ZX and Mazda Miata are also on the rise, according to Bring a Trailer. But they remain relatively affordable, with early 90s Miatas going for around $14,000 and Nissan ZXs for around $26,000 on the site.

Radwood, a series of car meets for cars from the 80s and 90s, started in California and has now spread to a series of events across the country. Radwood has become a full-time job for co-founder Art Cervantes, who owns a 1998 BMW M3 and a 1987 BMW 325is. The Radwood event series, which has its own line of branded merchandise, is now owned and operated by Hagerty.

This 1991 Eagle Talon was the product of an agreement between Mitsubishi and Chrysler.

Cervantes also recently purchased a 1996 Nissan Skyline GT-R, a model better known simply as the GT-R in the United States. His purchase of the GT-R touches on another reason cars become collectible after 25 years. The GT-R was not available in the US in 1996, but regulations allowed cars that could not be owned here when new to be freely imported and driven after 25 years.

“I bought this car in March of 2022,” he said, “and it has appreciated approximately $20,000 since I bought it based on how the market has been going.”

For many of their owners, these cars aren’t just for show or weekend rides. While still desirable and collectible, they can function as everyday vehicles.

These cars are not so old and delicate that their use as a primary form of transportation is out of the question, said Bring a Trailer’s Nonnenberg.

“There are people who even want that for their everyday car, right?” he said. “They’re not that interested in driving a Tesla, they’d rather drive a car from the 90s or 2000s.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the owner of Mouse Motors. His name is Mike Marzano.

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