You can buy the 10 cars that are sure to become classics now – before prices go up

If there’s one thing that can be guaranteed about classic cars, it’s that prices will always rise. It may take a while, or it may happen before you even realize it, but one day that old but important vehicle you have your eye on will be worth more than you can justify the expenditure.

At the moment, it is the modern classics (from the 80s and 90s) that are seeing the biggest price increases. Nostalgia sells and as those born in that era approach middle age and have disposable income to spend on such cars, they are becoming a hot property.

Despite this, there are still some choice models that have escaped rampant price inflation – and are worth keeping an eye on now, because that won’t be the case forever. Here then is our guide to the best modern classic cars to buy now – before it’s too late.

Saab 900 (1978-1994)

Saab 900 (1978-1994)

A Saab 900 in good condition can be found for as little as £3000 – Heritage Images

Arguably Saab’s pinnacle, the original 900 combined the space, safety and idiosyncratic style of its predecessor, the 99. It added to its predecessor the pragmatism of the hatchback body styles, as well as better aerodynamics and a smarter interior, which makes it incredibly popular. Turbo versions were legendarily fast; convertibles combined open-top glamor with winter practicality. Nowadays you can buy a good 900 for as little as £3,000, while even the best examples don’t top £15,000

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 900 T16 Turbo Aero, 195,000 miles, huge history, recent gearbox overhaul, £9,500

Beware of: Rust underneath, as well as on wheel arches; smoky turbos, especially on earlier oil-cooled versions; noisy manual transmissions; defunct electric roofs on convertibles

BMW M3 (E36) (1992-1999)

BMW M3 (E36) (1992-1999)BMW M3 (E36) (1992-1999)

The BMW M3 is a perfect driver’s car in every respect

The second-generation BMW M3 is often viewed with a hint of disappointment, but don’t let that fool you. It’s not as sharp as its racing predecessor, but the combination of tight body control, plenty of grip, a smooth six-speed gearbox and that vibrant, raspy six-cylinder engine make it a perfect driver’s car in every respect. Add perfectly proportioned retro style with just the right amount of muted aggression and it’s a brilliant mix. Prices for coupe models are already sky-high – but opt ​​for a sedan or a convertible and you can still pick up a (relative) bargain.

Price to pay: from £12,000

We found: 1999 M3 Evolution Convertible, 85,000 miles, full service history, £15,995

Beware of: Rattling variable valve timing units; Overheating; glitching semi-automatic gearboxes from SMG; rusty exhausts; sloppy suspension; rusting wings and trunk floors

AudiTT Mk1 (1999-2006)

AudiTT Mk1 (1999-2006)AudiTT Mk1 (1999-2006)

The Audi TT Mk1 is a stylish car that can be bought for under £5,000 – Heritage Images

The Golf-based TT was never the most exciting driving machine in the world, but given its reputation, choosing a Mk1 TT and expecting it to be the pinnacle of dynamic excellence is the definition of misplaced optimism. What the TT has always offered is pure style: a combination of concept car looks and a beautifully detailed, beautifully finished interior. And given the stir it caused when it came out, it’s destined for classic status – so the fact that you can currently pick up a good copy for less than £5,000 is somewhat incredible.

Price to pay: from £1,500

We found: 2002 TT Quattro 225, 73,000 miles, full service history, £4,995

Beware of: Jerky DSG semi-automatic gearboxes; troublesome fuel and water meters; bumps and pops from the suspension; oil leaks

Jaguar XK8 (1996-2005)

Jaguar XK8 (1996-2005)Jaguar XK8 (1996-2005)

The Jaguar XK8 has aged gracefully thanks to its unique design – Heritage Images

Catch a glimpse of an XK8 in traffic these days and it’s impossible not to be at least somewhat impressed. Where once the The XK8’s interior is no less attractive, with a glorious ‘Spitfire wing’ panel of wood and stylish, form-fitting seats. On the road it’s also the archetypal grand tourer, with a smooth, burbling V8, aided – if you opt for the powerful XKR version – by a supercharger.

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 1999 XK8 Convertible, 61,000 miles, full service history, £7,995

Beware of: Rust everywhere – especially the front underbody, chassis legs and rear suspension mounting points; defunct central locking; slipping automatic gearboxes; creaking auxiliary belts

Peugeot 306 GTi-6/Rallye (1996-2001)

Peugeot 306 GTi-6 (1996-2001)Peugeot 306 GTi-6 (1996-2001)

The Peugeot 306 GTi-6 is faster and more practical than its predecessor – Alamy

Buyers have gone crazy for the Peugeot 205 GTi, and with good reason given its status as a hot hatch idol. But relatively little attention seems to have been paid to its successor in that role, the 306 GTi-6. Both this and the stripped-down Rallye derivative are just as fun to drive, as well as faster and more practical; In fact, the 306 was the hot hatch for most of the 1990s. So don’t be surprised if prices skyrocket from their current low levels in the coming years.

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 1998 306 GTi-6, 185,000 miles, recent light refurbishment, £6,500

Beware of: Lack of a recent timing belt replacement; Overheating; defunct air conditioning; rusty sills and front wheel arches; fuel smell in car

Mazda MX-5 (1990-1997)

Mazda MX-5Mazda MX-5

The Mazda MX-5 is a “perfect, affordable classic,” Robbins said

With rust claiming the worst-maintained cars and clean, low-mileage examples now reaching five figures, now’s a good time to dig up a reasonably priced first-generation MX-5. Mazda’s little masterpiece is known for its ability to combine pure, beautiful styling with easily accessible thrills and everyday usability – and as long as you avoid buying a crappy example, little can go wrong, making it a perfect affordable classic.

Price to pay: from £1,500

We found: MX-5 1.8, 99,000 miles, extensive service history, £4,995

Beware of: Rusty sills and front fenders; oil leaks; ABS warning lights; leaking power steering (if equipped); tatty chairs; split plastic rear windows

Lotus Elise Mk1 (1996-2001)

Lotus Elise Mk1Lotus Elise Mk1

The pert styling of the Lotus Elise Mk1 means it has retained its iconic status: Heritage Images

Julian Thomson’s quirky styling made the Lotus Elise an icon, but what made it an instant classic was how it felt when you got it on the road. The Elise’s hardcore way of doing things – you didn’t even get a carpet – was about as true to Colin Chapman’s guiding principle of simplifying and adding lightness as you can get. The result was a car that danced beneath you and responded to all your input as if it were telepathy. Be quick, because prices are rising quickly.

Price to pay: from £14,000

We found: 1999 Elise 1.8, 59,000 miles, full service history, £14,999

Beware of: Cracked/cracked GRP bodywork; rust of the chassis; defective head gasket on Rover K-Series engine versions; worn steering racks; rigid windows

Mercedes-Benz 190 (1982-1993)

Mercedes-Benz 190 (1982-1993)Mercedes-Benz 190 (1982-1993)

Mercedes-Benz 190 is one of the more reliable cars of its generation: Mercedes-Benz AG

If you’re looking for a practical, comfortable, usable modern classic with a strong hint of affluence, the 190 is pretty hard to beat. The 190 is just as solidly built as any other Mercedes of its generation and is generally quite reliable. It’s not exactly exciting to drive, but it’s smooth on the road, especially when fitted with the brilliant 2.6-litre six-cylinder engine. Despite all this, prices have not deviated from the lower end of the spectrum for years – but that won’t stay that way forever.

Price to pay: from £1,000

We found: 1992 190E 2.6 automatic, 182,000 miles, lots of history, £4,000

Beware of: Defective head gaskets; rattling timing chains on pre-1988 engines; rust on interior wings and trunk floors; shared door trim

Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI (1985-1992)

Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTIVolkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI

The eight-valve version of the Volkswagen Golf Mk2 GTI costs much less than comparable models – Heritage Images

It may seem bizarre that the celebrated Golf GTI is on this list, the reason being that we are presenting the less desirable eight-valve model. While some dealers are now charging ridiculous amounts of money for the slightly more powerful 16-valve versions, the eight-valve version is (somewhat unfairly) overlooked – and can still be had for a bargain price. This is still a fun car to drive, too, with plenty of low-end urge from the torquey engine and the same chassis magic that makes the 16-valve car so desirable. And of course the Golf GTI is an icon that will become increasingly popular.

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 1990 Golf GTI, 233,000km, recent timing belt, £4,600

Beware of: Rust behind plastic body kit; rough running due to clogged fuel injection; soggy gear changes caused by worn clutches; grinding in second gear

Renault Sport Clio 172 (1998-2004)

Renault Sport Clio 172 (1998-2004)Renault Sport Clio 172 (1998-2004)

The Renault Sport Clio 172 has a surprisingly high equipment level

The Clio 172 became an icon in the early 2000s thanks to its sublime handling, its urgent 2.0-liter engine and its surprisingly high equipment level, with standard cruise control and soft Alcantara sports seats. That made it a favorite among boy racers, but there are still neat, well-maintained examples worth checking out. Examples of post-facelift models are the most common, but a word to the wise: the relative rarity of a pre-facelift model will guarantee its future desirability.

Price to pay: from £2,500

We found: 2001 Clio 172 Exclusive, 170,000km, lots of recent work, £3,750

Beware of: Expensive changes to the timing belt and valves; knocking gearbox mounts; worn drive shafts; worn rear wheel bearings; rust around fuel cap and sills

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