I’ve recently identified the biggest problem with the automotive hobby: you can’t get rich doing it. Oh, sure, there are people who make money. But they’re usually wealthy old men; the kind of wealthy old men who show up at car auctions with tons of cash and correctly pronounce the word “Bertone.” Meanwhile, you and I, the automotive enthusiast middle class, are always getting stiffed.
This is very different from, say, the art world. In the art world, you can spend $84 on a painting at a garage sale and unload it six years later for $130 million, even if it resembles a flowerpot riding a beach towel through a drive-thru. And you can rest assured that these numbers are true, since I am a well-respected art expert who once visited the museum on College Night.
But car enthusiasts never receive such handsome returns. I know this because I constantly run across Craigslist ads for cars that no one wants, such as Acuras, where the seller says he invested “over $20,000” on rims, and paint jobs, and suspension parts, and an exhaust, but he is willing to part with the car for $1,100 and a couple of dime bags.
It’s even worse if you go racing. What I have learned from my friends who race is that the cost of racing a car just a few times a month is roughly equivalent to the annual cost of operating an ocean liner, or a private jet, or Belgium. Consider all those tires, and brakes, and trips to junkyards on the sketchy side of town whenever they get some Miata parts.
But I have some good news for all you money-losing car lovers out there. Being the shrewd businessman that I am, I’ve developed a sure-fire way that you can get back all the money you spent adding neon lights to your Civic in high school. And it is: invest in SUVs.
Now, before I go into any sort of detail, I think it’s important to mention here that I’m not talking about new SUVs. On the contrary, I have a fairly recent SUV, and it loses money at roughly the same rate as a compulsive gambler with a sizable heroin addiction.
No, no: you should put all your money into old SUVs. You know the kind I’m talking about: an SUV that will roll over if you attempt any sort of crazy maneuver, such as a right turn on red; an SUV where there’s so much road noise that you can’t talk to your passenger unless you’re going through a school zone; an SUV that leaks rainwater on your face even if it isn’t a convertible, and it isn’t raining. In other words: an SUV with character.
Before I explain why this is such a good idea, I’m going to stop for a second to address your primary concern, which I imagine is something along the lines of: That sounds like the single worst idea I’ve ever heard! It’s important for any shrewd businessman to persevere in the face of such criticism, which is why I’ve developed the following reply: Shut up, you weenie, I’m trying to make you money.
Old SUVs, you see, actually are a good investment. I first learned of this a few weeks ago when a friend asked me for advice about an International Scout. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Scout, imagine, if you will, a large brick with the handling of a brick and the braking of, say, a brick. There are also seats.
Now, I remember a time, just a few years ago, when the International Scout was just a cheap old SUV primarily used by homeless people for shelter during the winter. But this particular Scout, the one my friend wanted, cost nearly thirty thousand dollars!
If you check eBay, this sort of pricing isn’t uncommon. A Scout in really nice shape can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000-plus. This is a vehicle that you and I could’ve bought, just a few short years ago, for approximately the same price as a partial set of used kitchenwear.
It’s the same story with other old SUVs. Just ten years ago, the original Ford Bronco was generally agreed to be a rustbucket that couldn’t get out of its own way. These days, it’s still a rustbucket that can’t get out of its own way, but now it sometimes costs twenty grand. And we’ve all seen what’s happened to the FJ40 Land Cruiser market, namely that if you have an FJ40 and you put it on Bring a Trailer, you’ll get $30,000, even if you’ve been using it as target practice since the hostages came home from Iran.
So I think we can all agree the message here is clear: buy old SUVs. And if the Scout, the Bronco, and the FJ40 are already outside your budget, consider slightly newer versions, which are already starting to see the same price increases as their predecessors. Sure, an old SUV may not be as fun as that lowered Acura with rims and an exhaust, but it could be worse. You could be investing in art.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.