Tips and advice

Best classic cars to buy in 2022

We take a look at some of the best classic cars to buy in 2022

Classic cars to buy in 2022

Choosing the best classic car to buy involves more research than buying a brand-new one. Buy a car in demand and there’s potential to make a profit when it’s time to sell if you make the right choice. Fortunately, there are plenty of interesting, fun and usable classic cars for sale in 2022. The market is forever changing, so classic car values can fluctuate and climb permanently.

The prices of many classic cars have skyrocketed in recent years. For example, a decade ago, a 1984 Ford Escort RS Turbo could be picked up for less than £5,000. However, now lower-mileage examples can cost in excess of £25,000. Other seemingly ‘ordinary’ cars of a similar era such as the E30 BMW 3 Series can fetch around the same money - or even more.

Top 9 best sports cars 2022

To avoid these price hikes, this list focuses on cars from the late 90s and 2000s. These cars haven’t yet seen their prices inflate too much. While we can’t guarantee that any of these cars will be worth a mint in a few years time, we can see that prices are slowly beginning to rise and now is the time to buy before they become unattainable.

We’ll admit that we’re following our hearts as much as our heads with some of these suggestions but we don’t think you can blame us. After all, you’d buy a newer, cheaper-to-run car if you were buying solely with your head! Read on to see our top picks.

Porsche Boxster 986

Porsche 968 Boxster - n/s static

Some will tell you the only true Porsche has its engine over the rear axle, but just like its spiritual front-engined predecessor, the 924, the mid-engined Boxster that was launched in 1996 isn’t just a proper Porsche but also saved the company from financial ruin. It was a cracking sports car in its own right. These days it’s also a spectacular bargain, with the cheapest examples coming in at under £7,000. Rather than searching quite this low, we’d be tempted to spend a few grand more on a really good one with a long service history from a conscientious seller.

The low price ceiling means even spotless cars are under £12k, and you’ll struggle to find a better sports car for that money. Servicing can be expensive but Boxsters are very usable thanks to luggage areas at the front and the rear, and there really is no substitute for that distinctive six-cylinder engine (the original 2.5, plus later 2.7 and 3.2) and the car’s beautifully balanced handling.

Volkswagen Scirocco (Mk2)

MK2 Volkswagen Scirocco - O/S static

The Mk2 Volkswagen Scirocco is something of a hidden gem. As the price of old Golf GTIs continue to skyrocket, the Scirocco offers much of the same performance and quality but in a sleeker and arguably more eye-catching package. The rarest and best-kept special editions might now command more than £10k but it’s still possible to find examples in good condition for under £7,000. Early cars were offered with 1.5 and 1.6-litre engines but most remaining models use 1.8-litre four-cylinders much like the GTI of the time – particularly those using fuel injection.

The wedge-like styling is pure 1980s, as is the rubbery plastic spoiler fitted to the back of most cars, but despite the age and the usual maladies that come along with that – usually corrosion and worn components – they’re stout little cars, fun to drive (albeit with poor brakes!) and, thanks to a pair of rear seats and a decent boot, practical too.

Honda Insight

MK1 Honda Insight - front

A hybrid in a classic cars buying guide? Absolutely – not only is Honda’s first hybrid now comfortably over 20 years old, having been launched in 1999, but given the way the industry has moved since its introduction, it’s as important to automotive culture as any hot hatch or sports car. The space-age styling is an acquired taste but despite its age, the Insight’s tech still works brilliantly, allowing you to achieve more than 70mpg with little effort – modern classics don’t get much cheaper to run.

The car’s reliable too and early battery fears are mostly unfounded; many are still running happily around with their original packs. Budget around £7,000 for a good one and you’re unlikely to lose much when you come to sell it.

Alfa Romeo GTV

1999 Alfa Romeo GTV - front

1995’s Alfa Romeo GTV offers a compelling combination of attributes. It’s one of the most distinctive shapes of the 1990s for a start, a Pininfarina-penned wedge packed with exquisite details. It was also highly rated when new, often emerging victorious from group tests, and while the model isn’t without a few unique issues, it’s also relatively easy to keep running and doesn’t suffer from rust as much as some of its forebears - or indeed many of its contemporary rivals.

Best of all, it’s affordable, with a couple of grand still enough to secure one and £6,000-plus will buy you a seriously nice car, potentially one with Alfa’s sonorous V6 engine under the bonnet. The rear seats and boot are largely useless, so treat it as a 2+2, but quick steering makes it fun to drive and while the V6 sounds great, serious drivers often prefer the lighter (and still fun) 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine.

MINI (R50/R53)

2001 Mini Cooper S - front O/S tracking

BMW PressGroup

We all know the Mini launched in 1959 is a classic but its spiritual replacement, launched under BMW ownership in 2000, is now being warmly embraced by those seeking a fun-to-drive modern classic too. There are plenty of strings to the R50-generation MINI’s bow: it starts cheap, around a grand for a MINI “One” or a Cooper and only a couple of thousand for an early supercharged Cooper S.

We’d naturally advise you to spend more to find one that’s been well looked-after, as they can quickly turn into money pits. But the huge variety out there means they’re still affordable and you can really be picky. They’re fab to drive too – even the 90bhp One has a playful chassis with steering that feeds plenty of information to your fingertips, while the retro design of the classy cabin can still bring a smile to your face.

BMW 5-Series (E39)

BMW 5 Series E39

If refinement is what you seek from a classic car, then a BMW 5-Series should tick all the right boxes. We’ve opted for the E39 generation on this list as prices are generally low due to the number of examples still on the road. Naturally, the powerful M5 version commands a vast premium over the rest. 

As many of these cars served as fleet vehicles when new, there are a lot of high-mileage examples on the market that are a bit worse for wear but as the heavily used examples succumb to wear and tear, the lesser-used ones will very soon start to gain a lot more attention from enthusiasts and collectors.

E39s are still rather easy to find at the moment and the options are plentiful - a choice of straight-six or V8 petrol engines are available or, alternatively, four or six-cylinder diesels. The 525i is a particularly good option, as it offers plenty of equipment and a smooth six-cylinder petrol engine that is less thirsty than the V8 but still offers plenty of enjoyment. Clean, low-mileage examples of the E39 525i can be found for around £9,000, with other E39s with over 100,000 miles costing even less.

Lexus LS400

1997 Lexus LS400 - front N/S static

The title of “best car in the world” is somewhat subjective, but in the early 1990s you could have made a pretty strong case for the Lexus LS400 deserving it. Impeccably built, astonishingly quiet, supremely comfortable and surprisingly good to drive, all some reviewers could really find to criticise was the car’s play-it-safe styling and an interior that didn’t quite feel special enough compared to the Mercedes and Jaguar it was competing against. Three decades on you can bet a lot more of it works than those Mercs and Jags though, giving the LS400 enduring appeal.

Even the styling doesn’t seem so bad now; what was once bland now looks pleasingly understated. Running a 4.0-litre petrol V8 has never been cheap though, so high fuel prices go some way to explaining why you can now pay as little as £3,000 for an LS400, with excellent examples for little more than £7,000 in most cases.

Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8

You may have noticed that Japanese sports cars have experienced a surge in popularity over the last few years. Cars such as the first-generation Subaru Impreza WRX can regularly be found online at around £30,000 while Nissan R34 Skyline models have famously been fetching over £100,000 at auction. One car that has (so far) avoided such price hikes is the Mazda RX-8. Built in the early to late 2000s, the RX-8 combines the stylish looks of a coupe with the practicality of a four-door saloon, thanks to its unusual rear-hinged back doors.

The RX-8 followed on from its predecessor, the RX-7, by using a rotary engine. This unique type of powertrain is inherently lightweight and compact and foregoes traditional pistons for a design that incorporates a triangular ‘rotor’ to force combustion. Here, it produced 228bhp with the six-speed manual gearbox, while other setups saw similar power outputs. Good, mid-production examples with the six-speed manual can be found for around £4,000. Make sure the car you are looking at has undergone a recent compression test for the rotary engine, as to avoid having to pay out for any nasty (and expensive) repairs. The RX-8 is also known for heavy oil consumption, so bear that in mind as well.

Citroen XM

Classic Citroen XM golf course advert - credit: Media Citroen International

You have to admire Citroen’s persistence. By the 1980s it was already becoming clear that buyers of executive cars were being lured in towards German offerings, but as CX sales dwindled in the face of the E-Class and 5 Series, the French brand still pressed ahead with the CX’s replacement, the XM. We’re glad they did, because the large Bertone-penned Citroen is looking rather handsome these days and offers a driving experience you’ll not really find outside of other Citroens themselves.

A computer-controlled version of the brand’s famous hydropneumatic suspension helped the XM stay flat in corners yet deal admirably with bumps, and engine choice was wide. We’d opt for the V6 if you want the full luxury experience but the diesels are usable and surprisingly reliable everyday classics. Prices still begin under £2,000 too.

Land Rover Freelander

MK1 Land Rover Freelander driving through muddy river

Toyota’s RAV4 might have kicked off the “soft-roader” boom in the 1990s but perhaps the best proponent was Land Rover’s first Freelander, which sold over half a million units by the time it was replaced in 2006. Launched in 1997, it took the RAV4’s road-going ability but also mixed in proper off-road ability – it was a Land Rover, after all.

That’s still true today, thanks to a wide range of engines initially on offer (a 1.8 petrol, 2-litre diesel and a 2.5 V6 petrol), plus three- and five-door body styles, so you can choose a Freelander to meet your needs. The chunky styling has aged well too – we can actually see a hint of Freelander in the all-new Defender. Pricing starts very low at around £1,000 but triple that and you can find a very tidy one, which may also sidestep some common Freelander maladies, such as 4x4 system issues and tired engines.

Fiat Panda

MK1 Fiat Panda 4x4 driving through mud

Plenty of brands make small cars but Fiat has long had the knack of making truly iconic small cars. It was the case for the Nuova 500 of the 1950s, the 126 of the 1970s, and it can equally be applied to the Panda that arrived in 1980. Unlike the 500 and 126, the Panda was front-engined and front-wheel drive but its Giorgetto Giugiaro design, while resolutely utilitarian inside and out, is still more stylish than virtually any small car before or since. Fiat toned it down with a 1986 facelift and these models are most common and also most affordable, with prices starting at only a few grand.

The 4x4 version is special in its own right too - budget for around £5,000 and up for the true mountain goat of classics, usable all year round provided you ensure it’s suitably rustproofed. Maintenance is a doddle on these Fiats too.

Audi TT

Audi TT Mk1

The Audi TT blew people away when it first debuted as a concept in 1995. Its sleek and curvy styling was unlike the boxy cars that populated the roads in the 90s and still looks relatively modern today, 20 years later. Available as both a fixed-roof coupe and a convertible, the TT boasts a premium interior and sports car driving experience in a package that is easy to live with every day.

Under the bonnet, first-generation TTs are powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine that produces either 176 or 225bhp. These are available with front-wheel-drive or Audi’s trademark ‘quattro’ all-wheel-drive system. There is also a more powerful 3.2-litre V6 petrol that produces 244bhp, although these models are much rarer and thirstier. You can pick up an Audi TT from just over £3,000; however, we recommend stretching to a model with the higher-powered 1.8-litre engine and four-wheel-drive. This will cost you around £6,000.

Saab 9-3

Saab 9-3 saloon

Gone, but sorely missed; Saab was a Swedish car manufacturer that went bust in 2011 and the 9-3 is widely considered to be the brand’s last hurrah before their downfall in the 21st century. The Saab 9-3 was the brand���s answer to the variety of compact executive cars available at the time, such as the Lexus IS. But, being a Saab, the 9-3 was full of unique trinkets and quirks such as the fighter-jet inspired ‘night panel’ instrument cluster.

Yet, if you peel back all the Saab-ness, you’ll find that the 9-3 shares many of its parts with the Vauxhall Vectra. Power comes from a variety of four-cylinder petrol engines that make between 125 and 225bhp, depending on specification. A 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel engine from the larger Saab 9-5 was also available.

Saabs are not well known for faults, so just keep an eye out for well-loved cars that have received regular servicing. These can be found for around £3,000. Plus, despite having stopped trading years ago, there are plenty of websites that specialise in spare parts for Saabs; finding replacements if something goes wrong shouldn’t be an issue.

Ford Focus

Ford Focus Mk1

There are few cars on the road as instantly recognisable as a Ford Focus. The Mk1 was introduced in 1998 as a replacement for the ageing Ford Escort and quickly became the UK’s best-selling car the year after. Built for the ‘everyman’, the Focus is and was a car that is practical, safe, good to drive and, most importantly, affordable.

Given that the Focus was so immensely popular, there are plenty of examples to choose from on the used market. We recommend looking for a car with the nippy 113bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine. Its simplicity should make it reliable and the standard manual gearbox feels great to use. These can be found in good condition for less than £2,000. If you fancy more poke, Ford also released a sporty Focus RS model. Reminiscent of Colin Mcrae’s rally car of the time, the RS used a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 213bhp. These cars have typically been driven hard and fast so finding a clean, low-mileage example can be difficult. Expect to pay upwards of £20,000 for one of these.

Looking to get just as much fun out of a modern car? Check out our list of the best hot hatchbacks.

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