10 Classic Cars That Make Excellent Daily Drivers

Classic cars often get labeled as icons, and the rarer or more souped up they are, the more expensive they are to own. People don’t assume that they will offer exemplary performances as daily drivers.

However, there are quite a few classics that are affordable and can be fun to drive each day, showing a lot of versatility and reliability. Owning an older car might not be something you want to do, especially since you do not want to drive a clunker in need of repairs. The following 10 classic cars defy those low expectations and make for low-cost vehicles to own.

Give each of these classic cars some consideration as you go about choosing your next daily driver. They can do more than just get you from Point A to Point B, and you get bragging rights exclusive to classic car owners.

1996 Mazda MX-5 Miata

1996 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Image Editorial credit: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock.com

Up first is the Mazda MX-5 Miata – in particular, the 1996 model year. It is known for being affordable to buy and upkeep, plus it offers a sporty ride quality that makes the Miata an engaging little number to drive. Whether you’re making the daily commute or cruising around on the highway on a sunny summer day, the Miata is riveting.

With its average of 28 miles to the gallon on the highway, those with long daily commutes can enjoy a respectable fuel economy from this classic. Its 1.8-liter engine gives you 133 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, which is enough get-up-and-go power for the average driver.

Light on its feet with low curb weight and an easy-to-maneuver manual transmission, the ’96 Miata typically prices for under $10,000 even in excellent condition. There are still quite a few of them out there, so finding one close to where you live shouldn’t be a huge undertaking.

Alfa Romeo 164

Alfa Romeo 164
Image Editorial credit: luizsantanna / Shutterstock.com

Alfa Romeo has created some stunningly gorgeous cars. The 164 isn’t exactly one of them. However, it has the Italian automaker’s signature four-leaf clover badge and infusion of design elements from Pininfarina.

The 164 was designed between 1987 and 1998, marking the final car crafted by Alfa Romeo as a strictly independent manufacturer. Once the 164 launched, Alfa Romeo had already been bought out by Fiat. The Alfa Romeo 164 can sell for about $18,400 in excellent condition, but they are not the easiest vehicle to find.

1981 Porsche 924

1981 Porsche 924
Image Editorial credit: Rainer Herhaus / Shutterstock.com

Another fan favorite is the Porsche 924, especially if you snag one from the early ‘80s model years. It was on the market from 1981-1993, but drivers today are still trying to get their hands on them. They are similar to the popular BMW 3-series and were equipped with much of the same features so as to compete well on the market.

The 924 is designed as a two-door, 2+2 sports car with rear-wheel drive and a 150-hp engine. Handling on this Porsche is superb, and the 121.02-cubic-inch displacement turbo inline four-cylinder engine comes paired with a five-speed manual gearbox transmission. The 924 combines high-end performance with serious vintage vibes.

1983 Volkswagen GTI MK2

1983 Volkswagen GTI MK2
Image Editorial credit: Roman Belogorodov / Shutterstock.com

Reliable? Check. Lightweight? Check. The 1983 Volkswagen GTI MK2 was one of the very first cars to come with an automatic transmission and a fuel injection system, not to mention the fact that it has an air-cooled engine. This makes it ideal as a daily driver, but it has been used in races due to its nimbleness and swift acceleration. In fact, this car hits 60 miles per hour in just 7.2 seconds.

The GTI MK2 is laden with features, including power steering, air conditioning, and four-wheel disc brakes – all of which make this classic feel modern and easy to drive. The repair costs are low, and these classics are usually priced to sell between $5,000 and $15,000, accounting for the individual vehicle’s condition.

1996 Chevy Impala SS

1996 Chevy Impala SS
Image Editorial credit: adolf martinez soler / Shutterstock.com

Originated in the 1960s, Chevy’s Impala SS is a classic fit for just about everyone. Known for its reliability and affordability, the Impala was only recently discontinued in 2020. That means you can still find a lot of parts for it.

The mid- ‘90s were a good time for the Impala SS. Outfitted with a beefy V8 engine, the Impala SS gives off an impressive performance. There is 260 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque on tap, which is more than enough. The four-speed automatic transmission gives smooth gear shifts. Its exterior is characterized by angular lines, but inside, you get plenty of space for cargo and passengers alike.

The Impala SS isn’t a super cheap classic, but if you find something in good condition with low miles, you could get a price between $20,000 and $40,000.

1970 Nissan Datsun 240Z

1970 Nissan Datsun 240Z
Image Editorial credit: mares90 / Shutterstock.com

The Nissan Datsun 240Z is a classic with serious cult status. It looks nice and comes with a lot of features that make it a competent daily driver. A 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine delivers 151 hp, and there is a 4-speed manual transmission that works with the engine to get the vehicle up to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds.

The 240Z only has two seats, so it isn’t a vehicle meant for families. However, for a single person or a couple, it is comfy. You should be sure that you check on what kind of fuel the 240Z you find takes since a lot of vehicles in that era took lead gas. If that’s the case, you’ll need to use an additive when fueling up.

In top condition, this vehicle can cost about $40,000. This might seem high, but the Datsun 240Z is known for retaining its value.

1992 Saab 900

1992 Saab 900
Image Editorial credit: S.Candide / Shutterstock.com

Popular then and popular now, the 900 is one of Saab’s best models. With ample performance abilities and a fantastic design, this sedan was designed with turbocharged and non-turbo engines. The 900 redlines at 127 mph if you have a turbo engine under the hood. The turbo engine generates 160 hp and can hit 60 mph in 12 seconds flat.

The turbo engine delivers about 20 mpg combined, and the five-speed manual transmission makes the vehicle simple to maneuver around and sends power to the front wheels. The only big downside is that the 900 does not handle well on winter roads.

Pricewise, the lower end of the spectrum is about $500. This vehicle tops out around $3,500 in good condition.

BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series
Image Editorial credit: Roman Belogorodov / Shutterstock.com

The 3 Series is a staple of the BMW line-up. This luxury sedan launched onto the market in the 1970s and is still in production to this day. In fact, it is one of BMW’s most popular models. A new model starts off around $40,000, but a classic from the second generation E30 costs around $10,000 in good condition.

BMW is an automaker with a reputation for powerful performance and reliability. That’s why you see so many older BMWs still on the road. The E30 is one of the most well-loved 3 Series designs, and it still looks classy going down the road.

1977 Fiat X19

Fiat X19
Image Editorial credit: orso bianco / Shutterstock.com

Back in 1977, the Fiat X19 was wildly popular since it bundled a ton of features in for a reasonable price. It was also during the 1977 model year that Fiat released the largest amount of colors, trim levels, and optional design elements. A 1.3-liter engine might not seem all that powerful, but paired with the 4-speed manual transmission, this vehicle feels accurate and has secure handling capabilities.

Two passengers can comfortably fit into the X19’s cabin, sliding in through either of the two doors. Fuel economy is strong, and you can find this vehicle for $2,500 to $6,000 depending on its condition.

1991 Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2
Image Editorial credit: betto rodrigues / Shutterstock.com

If you are a fan of Toyota, then you might want to investigate buying the 1991 Toyota MR2. This affordably priced vintage vehicle was made to be a small-but-mighty sportscar for the average driver back in the early ‘90s. It sits low and has a well-adorned and all-around cozy interior.

The MR2’s engine is nothing to scoff at, producing a solid 200 hp. This makes for sharp handling and quick acceleration when you press down on the gas pedal. The engine itself is lightweight, and with the car’s low center of gravity, you can easily enjoy it on a long, winding mountain road.

The MR2 is easy to find in good condition. It normally prices around $12,000-$20,000 but plopping some customs into it will take the price tag to around $30,000.

Classic cars don’t have to be super expensive to buy and maintain, as these 10 classics show. You can get one in excellent shape for a reasonable price and use it as a daily driver for years to come.

Avatar photo

Author: Jen Chichester

Jen Chichester is a freelance writer who grew up around classic cars. She holds a M.A. in English Literature and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior. When she isn't working, she's hanging out with her twin boys and taking care of her cats and guinea pigs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *