I recently updated the market trends section of my online classic car valuations based on what I’ve seen in the classic car market through 2022/23 and what we might expect to see this year. That got me thinking about which classic cars might be a good fit for new owners this year. Here are three affordable classic cars that could make great choices for a first classic car owner in 2024, along with some reasons for each. Given the ongoing interest in home-grown classics, my next post will focus on British alternatives!
1. Mazda MX-5 (1989-1997). The first-gen MX-5 is often reasonably priced in the classic car market, making it accessible for first-time buyers. Known for its nimble handling and open-top driving experience, the first MX-5 offers a fun and engaging ride, making it an ideal choice for enthusiasts. The MX-5 also has a robust community of owners and enthusiasts, providing a wealth of knowledge, support and resources for maintenance and upgrades. Make sure you check for rust in the sills and rear wheel arches; most have been repaired at least once. The 1.6- vs 1.8-litre engine debate is less important if the car is falling apart.
2. Volkswagen Beetle (1968-1979). The Beetle’s distinctive and timeless design makes it instantly recognisable and adds to its charm as a classic car. The Beetle’s simple mechanicals and widespread availability of parts make it a practical choice for those new to classic car ownership. As a symbol of the 1960s counterculture, the Beetle has historical and cultural significance, making it an interesting conversation piece. The UK community is huge, making the cars highly social for all ages.
Later Beetles from the 1970s are slightly less cutesy than the early cars, but the drivetrains are a little more powerful and ’70s Beetle colours are cool. The last of the line had comfortable interiors and make decent daily drivers, as long as your run is not too far. They are all tax exempt now, too.
3: Mercedes Benz 190E. This baby Benz from the 1980s/90s can make an excellent choice for a first classic car purchase. Known for its exceptional build quality and engineering, reflecting the brand’s commitment to luxury and durability, this bulletproof compact saloon is a well-engineered vehicle that offers a solid driving experience. The Mercedes 190E was designed with a focus on safety, comfort and longevity, making it a reliable choice for enthusiasts who appreciate a well-built and well-maintained classic.
The 190E’s simple design has aged well. The clean lines, elegant proportions, and the iconic three-pointed star emblem on the grille contribute to its enduring appeal. Choosing a car with a timeless design ensures that it remains visually appealing and maintains its classic status over the years. The 190E also has a connection to Mercedes-Benz’s rich heritage, adding to its desirability among classic car enthusiasts.
Later 190s incorporated modern amenities and technological features for the time. Features such as power windows, air conditioning, and advanced safety features were available, providing a more comfortable and enjoyable driving experience compared to some other classic cars of the same era. This can make the driving experience more accessible and enjoyable for someone transitioning into classic car ownership.
Buy your first classic car on condition
When considering any first classic car purchase, it’s important to assess the specific model’s condition, maintenance history, and potential restoration needs. Additionally, the availability of parts and a supportive community can impact the ownership experience.
Having owned an MX-5 and almost bought several Beetles, and though I would happily own any one of these three, my choice on this list for a first classic car would be the 190. The combination of build quality, timeless design and modern amenities for its time makes it a compelling option for those entering the world of classic car ownership.
Prices for most classic Mercedes have reduced in recent months and several very clean 190Es have passed through the auctions. As most buyers lean towards higher spec examples, a smaller-engined car in good order would be my choice. Buy on condition and history and you won’t go far wrong.
These are my choices – what about yours? What affordable classic car would you recommend for a first time owner?
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