We love cars here at Carbitrage and, like for most young people today, it’s hard for us to maintain a hobby if you don’t monetize it in some way, or at least monetize it in your head. With that being said, a lot of us have taken to buying and selling cars that we love in hopes that we’re able to catch them before their value explodes. While a lot of us have missed the boat on some of our favorite cars such as the E30 3-series, Mk IV Supra and Integra Type-R, there are still plenty of great cars to get into before their value reaches for the moon.
We have compiled a list of what we will wager will have a bull market and what will have a bear market in 2020. For those of you who are not up to date on your investment lingo, a bull market is a market that is appreciating in value, or rather making money. A bear market is a market that isn’t making money, it is either breaking even or losing money. A bear market is not inherently a bad thing, in fact, a savvy investor can get a great deal in buying during a bear market.
While some outlets do their valuations based entirely off of analytics of market trends for the most accurate look at where the market is headed, they get it right about 80% of the time, which is extremely accurate for predicting trends. We are not doubting that mathematical analysis of the market is the correct way to predict market forecasts. What we are trying to do is attempt to mix in a metric that money cannot account for, our own personal taste.
Our logic being that, between 3 millennial car enthusiasts with completely different backgrounds, we will be able to find a selection of cars that will trend with what the market is actually doing. So we are throwing caution into the wind and there is a very high probability that we will make ourselves look like fools but, this is our Bull and Bear List of 2020.
Description of the mathematics used in pricing:
We are taking the average price of the cars sold on Bring-a-Trailer.com over the course of the last year from November 2018 to November 2019 in hopes that any other posts about Bear Market lists won’t affect our sales data. Only factory appearing cars will be counted for this metric.
Our second metric to compare average prices of non-collector models is an average price of vehicles being sold on the Los Angeles craigslist at the time this article is written. We chose Los Angeles due to the mild climate so we can account for rust free cars being sold for a premium in northern states and for population density so we can account for faster changes in market prices. The search parameters for our craigslist search was limited to non-modified operational cars being sold by owner for over $600 with under 200,000 miles on the odometer. This was an attempt to weed out as many fake ads and non-operational cars as possible. We will denote any statistic abnormalities we find.
The Carbitrage Bull Market List for 2020
1.) 2000-2006 BMW 3-series (non-M3)
2019 BaT Average Price: $10,612.00*
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $3,109.25**
The E46 generation BMW 3-series is my personal first pick for the 2020 Carbitrage Bull Market List, I should specify that I am listing the entire E46 generation. The reason being that this was the last era of the 3-series golden age before the E90 complicated everything. It is similar to the E30 and E36 but has such a massive improvement in interior quality over the E36 that it almost feels like a different car.
The E46 3-series moved the car upmarket in such a way that the higher trim levels felt like the car was designed with them in mind, what this did to the lower trim levels was profound though, suddenly a base model E46 made you feel like you had purchased something significantly more expensive. Often when a car does this, the maintenance costs and reliability take a hit, but not with the E46, it still had the stellar reliability the previous cars were known for but with just a little bit more padding.
In a world where cars such as the Infiniti G35 are replacing the spot that Honda Civics once held for the young car enthusiast, that extra luxury touch without any of the extra maintenance baggage of a modern BMW should prove to become a major boon to the popularity of the vehicle. Let’s not forget that the predecessor to the E46, the E36, has proven itself a very competent and popular platform for a project car. As a quality E36 is becoming increasingly difficult to find, I would wager that 2020 will see the E46 3-Series see a major increase in average pricing. If you’re in the market for an E46 project car, this is a great time to get in when prices are still cheap.
*Price includes ZHP models which sell for a premium compared to standard trim
**No ZHP models for sale at this point in time in marketplace
2.) 1992-2002 Mazda RX-7
2019 BaT Average Price: $28,725.97**
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $21,975.00*
My number two pick coming is the final generation of RX7, the FD chassis. This is the most exquisite road car to have ever been produced from Mazda. The car has simple elegant lines that looked great from it’s release in 1992 to it’s final production year in the Japanese market in 2002 and even today, in 2020, it continues to be a looker. The car is more than a pretty face though, unlike previous generation RX7s where you could make the mistake of specifying lower powered engines, the FD only came in one flavor, turbocharged.
Luckily for Mazda, that turbocharged engine was a hit, it’s specific output beat everything produced in the era. If factory power wasn’t enough, then the power you could coax out of these cars was unreal with cars making over 400 HP with close to factory reliability. Of course, being a rotary engine, it was a bit avant garde and reliability could be questionable if not properly maintained, so for many just putting in a V8 engine made more sense for a project car.
Today, the RX7 is already seeing a lot of interest from the collector community. North American models were available new from 1993 to 1995, and Japanese imported models don’t have a significant variance in pricing, which is good for availability. That being said, the cars that will be leading the trend will be the best examples complete with their factory equipped dorito mill. A numbers matching car will generally be worth significantly more than a V8 swapped car with a salvage title. It isn’t likely that the JDM models will be particularly more expensive due to the most sought after trim levels, the Bathurst R and Spirit R models, not being import legal yet but cars from reputable vendors like Top Rank will likely be on the high end of the valuation scale.
** Includes imported RHD models, although at this time there is very little change in value between RHD and LHD
* Two cars currently in market, not enough for accurate sample size
3.) 1990-2004 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
2019 BaT Average Price: $16,754.95
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $16,630.00
I will likely be wrong this year, like I have been every year with this car, but I’m willing to take that chance because the 3000GT VR-4 will eventually have it’s day. This car ticked every box that a 90’s era Japanese muscle car could hope to tick. It was laden bumper to bumper with computers, had active aerodynamics, functional vents and seemed to have two of everything. I’m being quite literal when I say it two of everything, it had twin turbos, DOHC heads, a dual-exit active exhaust, front and rear active spoilers, and it even had four wheel steering.
I won’t lie and say the 3000GT VR-4 is a perfect car because it’s not; it’s a bear to work on, OEM parts availability is non-existent and finding one that has been properly cared for takes some searching. That being said, if you do manage get a good one, it’s performance is absolutely stellar. For less than half the price you get Supra performance, 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and a 13.5 second 1/4 mile time as tested by Road and Track. I would gladly deal with some annoying maintenance procedures if it means I can get that performance for less than the cost of a fully loaded 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage.
The standard 3000GT is not much of an investment as it’s just a very heavy FWD 90’s GT car, however the VR-4 is such a different beast that it almost deserves a completely different nameplate. Once you get into the Spyder models you get an even more unique vehicle. As Supra, NSX, RX-7 and GT-R prices rocket away from Earth and into the stratosphere, I think people will begin to look at the 3000GT VR-4 as it has always meant to be seen as, an actual investment worth a hell of a lot more than $16,500.
1.) 2000-2006 BMW M3 Coupe (Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue, Imola Red)
2019 BaT Average Price: $27,378.24
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $27,500.00 **
Interestingly both Erik and I agreed that the E46 market is a powder keg ready to blow at this point. However, while I think that the lower end of the E46 market will be the spark that blows everything up, Erik says his sights are all over the M3 market. While E46 M3s are still exceedingly abundant in the standard-fare greyscales of most teutonic automobiles, Erik says those will likely be the last to appreciate. Erik puts his money on the more vibrant colors of Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue and Imola Red to be the choices to lead the E46 wave.
Adding to Erik’s specificity is the prediction that the coupe, in particular, will be the chassis to acquire since it’s sportier form factor will likely play a role in the overall desirability of the car. This makes sense as historically the E30 M3 and E36 M3 coupes lead the market for their respective chassis while the rest of their variants were brought along for the ride. While the E46 coupes did suffer from water intrusion problems that the sedan never had due to their pillarless windows, the more highly sought after cars will have had any leaks cared for well before they became an issue.
We would also be remiss to note that the E46 was also the last chassis of the M3 to be powered by an NA inline-6 instead of a V8 or twin turbo engine. To a sizable portion of BMW enthusiasts the driving experience of the S54 cars outweighs the extra power of the newer M3s. This is increasingly important with the trend of collector cars skewing towards an exciting driving experience over a fancy piece of technology or massive power numbers.
**Only one car for sale in market price
2.) 1990-1999 BMW 850i 6-Speed (non-CSI)
2019 BaT Average Price: $24,050.00
2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A*
Erik’s first choice is the non-CSI E31 chassis BMW 8-series with a manual transmission. We have to be very specific here because while all of the automatic 8-series cars might as well just be an Oldsmobile and all of the 8-cylinder cars have cylinder delamination issues, the 850 with a manual isn’t much of a stretch from an 850CSi.
The 8-series was BMW’s 1990’s halo car, it was a massive Grand Tourer loaded with every piece of tech that BMW had in it’s arsenal. The car was the result of $900 million dollars and a decade of BMW’s R&D time. The modern 8-series really doesn’t do the name justice as it isn’t enough of a departure from the standard BMWs we see today, the E31 was a truly spectacular car.
While the 850CSi is a great car and we are not doubting it, we are certainly doubting if it is really twice the car of an 850i given that they sell for twice the price. That’s no exaggeration, in fact the $50,000 mark is the entry level price for an 850CSi and a well sorted car can easily eclipse $70,000. For what’s effectively a bumper, intake manifold and fancy suspension, that’s quite a premium.
*Only two results found both were automatic cars being sold at an average price of $19,250.00
3.) 1991-1993 GMC Typhoon/Syclone
2019 BaT Average Price: $15,497.00*
2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A**
As the Rad era of collector cars gains steam, Erik puts his third bet on a small GMC with an automatic transmission, AWD and a turbocharger. No, it is not a GMC Terrain but rather the much radder GMC Typhoon. The Typhoon, and it’s Syclone pickup truck sibling, came completely out of left field and created the vehicle that nobody asked for but everyone wanted. Taking the 190 HP Vortec V6, that was standard in the GMC Jimmy, and adding 14 PSI of boost from a Borg Warner turbocharger, GMC was able to coax 90 extra horsepower out of the mom-mobile. This allowed the Typhoon to reach 60 MPH in 5.3 seconds and run a 14.1 second quarter mile time.
While, these numbers sound tame to the uninformed, it was all about how the power was delivered. The typical rattliness of a GM interior of the era with all the turbolag of early 90’s turbocharging made it quite an event to get one of these up to speed. Today, those who grew up in the era of minitrucking and muscle cars have fond memories of the Typhoon and the Syclone while the younger generation love the looks and story of these ridiculous little trucks.
Between these two trucks, there is more interest in them than in a subprime auto loan, and the total number of people interested in them vastly outweighs the total production numbers. That market scarcity will likely drive the value of the truck up, much like the Porsche market had a few years ago and if you are looking to get onboard before the Typhoon ship leaves port, 2020 might be the last year that they’re affordable.
*Pricing is average of Typhoon as not enough Syclones were sold in the last year to create average.
**Only one vehicle for sale in marketplace at this time at $12,500, not enough vehicles for average price.
1.) Mercedes Gelandewagen
2019 BaT Average Price: $35,242.00
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $35,400.00
There are few people living a more tragic life right now than the offroad enthusiast. While sedans and wagons are being axed in favor of various trucks, it’s not XJ Cherokees and Mercedes G-Wagens leading the wave rather its Ford Escapes and Hyundai Santa Fes, its a wave of crossovers with open differentials, extra tall springs and compact car suspension. While this is a nuisance, it is also watering down the crop real-deal off-roaders. Luckily, until 2019, the Mercedes Gelandewagen was a rare holdout.
The G-Wagen represented Mercedes at it’s best, it was bulletproof reliable, comfortable, could be driven literally anywhere and, most importantly, relied on perfecting technology instead of packing the vehicle full of widgets. The truck was originally the replacement of the Volkswagen Iltis for the German military but has extended far beyond that role proving itself as much of a capable off-roader as it is a civilized daily driver. The truck began it’s cult following during the 1980’s and 1990’s in America as a grey market import before Mercedes had even begun to import them directly in 1997.
The G-wagen lies in that sweet spot between the CJ Jeep and the Range Rover, both luxurious and reliable but still capable of winning the Paris-Dakar rally. In an era where families default to crossovers as their family cars, actual solid axle off-roaders are quickly becoming the collector car of choice for many people as they begin to wonder what they’re missing. While the vast quantities of existing G-Wagens does hurt it’s collectability, the trucks that are at the top of the auction totem pole right now are the cabriolet models and AMG models, however the grey market 3-door models are proving to be very desirable as well. If you want to get in on the Gelandwagen before the weenies do, the time is nigh!
2.) Mercedes W110/W111 Fintails
2019 BaT Average Price: $14,891.67
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $5,950**
The big body W111 Fintails are already gaining a lot of attention within the Mercedes collector community. While they’re a shoe in for collectability and are rather undervalued currently, we think that the often forgotten W110 little fintail will see its day as well. We aren’t just taking a shot in the dark by including the little fintail models, we’re including it because with millennial interest in everything vintage and European 60s era cars being the bedrock of the collector world right now, the odds are in the W110’s favor.
The W110 was the entry level of Mercedes in the mid-1960s and were all examples bulletproof Mercedes engineering from their peak of reliability. Utilizing the best technology in the world at the time to create a car that drove every bit as well as it looked. The W111 however, was something to behold, timeless 1960’s styling coupled with the drivability of Mercedes at their peak made for something truly special. Add the 3.5L V8 option in the 280SE Coupe and you have a sleeper of a bavarian autobahn missle.
One of the biggest items of note in the fintail market is the price disparity between the Fintail sedans and the W111 coupe. While the sedans all sell for around the same prices under $20,000, a decent example of a W111 coupe starts in the $50,000 range with prices ranging well over $100,000 for a V8 car. That being said, the fintail is one of the few cars that appeals to both millennials who can barely afford to eat and the pebble beach-type baby boomers.
** Not enough vehicles in marketplace for accurate average price
3.) Citroen 2CV
2019 BaT Average Price: $13,380.50
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $15,750.00*
What isn’t to love about the 2CV, it is a bizarre little French peoples car with Bauhaus styling, an aircooled 2 cylinder engine and suspension that moves front to back in lieu of up to down. This car has won the hearts of everyone from The Greatest Generation to Generation Z in a typical avant garde French fashion and it even became a Bond car. Why do we think it will appreciate in value though?
The 2CV lies in a sweet spot for millennial buyers, it is cheap, quirky and retro. Millennials are collectively reaching a point of financial stability where they can make small luxury purchases and at $13-15k average price, the 2CV has a price point that is just within reach of the average 30 year old car enthusiast. While other cars exist in that price range, the 2CV is able to attract more attention per dollar than anything else in its price range. It is more unique than an aircooled Beetle, more usable than a Fiat 500 and most importantly, with the 1920’s officially 100 years behind us, the Bauhaus styling of the 2CV allows the pre-war look but without the pre-war price point.
While there are literally millions of 2CVs in the world, there are also no shortage of special editions. The Cocorico, Perrier, SPOT, OO7 Edition, Bamboo and Charleston are just a handful of the special edition options. These special editions will likely lead the pack, as those with more money can likely spend a bit more to get a more unique 2CV. So far the trend is holding true with the top 3 prices on Bring-a-Trailer being held by a Bamboo edition and two Charlestons respectively. We may be wrong on the 2CV for 2020 but it will certainly see its day soon, so why not get it while it’s hot?
*Only 2 cars for sale in marketplace, not enough for average price
1.) 1988-2000 Honda Civic and variants
2019 BaT Average Price: $10,813.52
2019 Craigslist Average Price: $2,383.90
This is it, the one car that every one of us here at Carbitrage concurred about, this is the car that we will bet the farm on, the Golden Age Honda Civic.
The 1988 through 2000 Honda Civic and its variants are actually 3 different bodystyles known as the EF, EG and EK chassis as denoted by the VIN designation of the top trim levels. Together they account for what is often referred to as Honda’s golden age, where instead of producing automatic CUVs with questionable styling, Honda was busy making some of the best FWD cars in history.
These cars crept their way into the car enthusiast lexicon in the late 1990s where street racers began to take notice of their enormous potential as a racer. The lightweight chassis combined with indisputably the best 4 cylinder engine in the world at that time gave the car an enormous leg up in motorsport. The Civics of this era were the most successful FWD cars in quite some time and properly captured the ethos of both the hot hatch craze and, later, the sport compact movement.
The trouble in finding a golden age Civic is not in finding one but in finding one that hasn’t been robbed a dozen times, engine swapped with a hammer and slathered in bondo. The highest priced USDM models are easily the EM1 Si and CRX Si with prices well into the $30k range, however across the board they are all getting hot. A smart buy might be to get an ’88-’91 Civic Si hatchback or EX sedan, ’88-’91 RT4WD Wagovan, a ’92-’95 EH3 Civic Si hatchback or a Midori Green EJ6 Civic hatchback, as those particular cars all have their own cult followings. Average price for a collector model will be much higher than that of the average Craigslist find but that is due to the poor quality examples bringing down the average price.
The Carbitrage Bear Market List for 2020
Ryan: 1997-2006 Porsche 911 996 (non-GT3)
Ryan: Porsche 996 non-gt3
BaT Average Price: $24,896.90
Craigslist Average Price: $20,015.78
If you want to get into a Porsche 911 for as little as possible, you’re in luck because the standard 996 Porsche 911 shows no sign of going anywhere at all. This is not a bad thing by any means because the 996 is a very good car but it gets a bad wrap as it was the first generation of watercooled Porsches. It’s price point and performance are exactly why this is the default entry-level track car for many and why most cars and coffee European sections are seas of endless 996s.
Erik: 1992-1999 BMW M3 E36 (USDM-spec only)
BaT Average Price: $14,322.00
Craigslist Average Price: $11,616.67
Much like the 996, the American market E36 M3 is a perfectly fine car that is bookended by two significantly better variants. On one end the E30 M3 is beloved by all and affordable to few, on the other end the E46 M3 exists and by existing it suppresses the value of its older sibling to a price point permanently within it’s shadows. As the E46 wave starts in 2020, we bet that there will be plenty of examples for sale making you ask if an E36 is really worth $20,000 when you can just get into an E46 for the same price.
Jana: 1986-1989 Honda Accord CA Chassis
BaT Average Price: $1,900*
Craigslist Average Price:$2,450
These cars are the secret of the Honda community, it is a bargain cheap version of the golden age Hondas that doesn’t get stolen as much. That being said, it seems that even to Honda people, the CA chassis Accord is a sleeper. These are quite fun cars with just a little more space than a Civic without significantly higher curb weight. That being said, parts availability is atrocious, the aftermarket is almost entirely hand-me-downs adapted from other chassis and may god help you if you are unfortunate enough to have one of the PGM-carb models. Our advice, buy the CA Accord to love it but not to make money off it.
*only one car sold in 2018, outside of date ranges, 7/2018 sales price was $5,800.
Carbitrage Pick: 2000-2003 BMW Z8
BaT Average Price: $161,678.57
Craigslist Average Price: N/A
The BMW Z8 is another car that we all love but is still being placed on the bear market list. With the exception of a couple of very expensive sales in the last year, the Z8 has been very stagnant in recent years when viewed on Bring-a-Trailer. While this would normally pique our interests, it’s six figure price range is holding the car back with economic uncertainty becoming a factor at such lofty prices. In the long run we do expect to see the Z8 grow in price so it might not be a bad buy as a long term investment if you suddenly found yourself with $150,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
What cars do you think would be on the Bear or Bull list for 2020? Let us know and tell us why and we may talk about your answers on the Carbitrage podcast.