Tips, Tricks & Trends

Is There Such a Thing as a Cheap Rolls-Royce?

When even a diecast model of a Rolls-Royce costs more than some new cars, it’s difficult to imagine ever owning one. However, the British carmaker isn’t terribly different from any other high-end luxury brand. While that does mean repair costs can be high, it also means depreciation drastically lowers the barrier to entry. And just like it’s possible to find cheap Porsche Caymans and reliable used BMWs, it’s possible to find a reasonably-affordable Rolls-Royce. Even a modern one like the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

The modern choice: the Rolls-Royce Phantom

Gray 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom VII side view, in front of a rocky cliff
2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom VII side | Rolls-Royce

The 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom was the first car produced after the company was purchased by BMW in the late 90s. Technically, that model is the 7th car to bear the Phantom name, and production was split in two ‘series,’ Autocar reports. The 2003-2012 models are called ‘Series 1’; 2013-2016 facelifted models are ‘Series 2.’

The Phantom VII was replaced in 2017 by the similar-looking Phantom VIII. And as is often the case with luxury cars, that means the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII has dropped significantly in value.

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Originally, a Rolls-Royce Phantom VII would’ve set you back $320k, CarBuzz reports. A 2020 model, Car and Driver reports, starts at just under $458,000. But now, it’s possible to find Series 1 models going for under $80,000 on Bring a Trailer. Some are even cheaper. Motor1 reports one YouTuber was able to buy a Phantom previously used as a wedding car for $65,000.

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And it’s not like you’re missing out on anything by buying an earlier example. Series 1 Rolls-Royce Phantom VIIs have a 6.75-liter V12 making 453 hp and 531 lb-ft, linked to a 6-speed automatic. Series 2 cars, Classic Driver reports, got an 8-speed. Each has air suspension, delivering the much-lauded Rolls-Royce ‘magic carpet’ ride. The interior is full of high-quality leather, wood, and metal.

Dashboard, center console, and front seats of a 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom VII
2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom VII front interior | Rolls-Royce

The Phantom was also very customizable. Owners could spec their cars with folding tray tables, a refrigerator, and basically any interior and exterior color. But the umbrellas in the doors are standard. And although outdated, the Phantom VII also came with BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. Plus, you can close the rear doors with the touch of a button.

The classic Rolls-Royce models

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Going for a classic Rolls-Royce does mean putting up with classic car quirks and limitations. But that also means getting something even cheaper than a Phantom VII.

Perhaps the cheapest used Rolls-Royce is the 1965-1980 Silver Shadow, Hagerty reports. Even the best-condition examples rarely go above $35,000. And on BaT, it’s possible to find ones for $10k-$20k, if not cheaper.

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And in many ways, it’s the first truly modern Rolls-Royce, Gear Patrol explains. It was the company’s first unibody car, for one, giving more interior room. In addition, it was the first Rolls-Royce to offer a V8 from the start, Hemmings reports. Plus, it had 4-wheel disc brakes, power windows, and Citroen-designed hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension. The Drive recommends the 1977-1980 ‘Silver Shadow II’ models, which came with updated suspension and better steering.

But if that’s a little too vintage, there’s also the 1980-1999 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and Silver Spur. The latter is basically an extended-length version of the former, Classic & Sports Car reports. These cars are separated into 4 ‘Marks’: 1980-1989 Mark 1; 1990-1993 Mark II;1994-1996 Mark III; and 1997-1999 Mark IV.

All 4 used versions of a 6.75-liter V8, with the later Mark IIs swapping the 3-speed automatic for a 4-speed. Fuel injection was added in 1987. ABS came with the Mark II, as did automatically-adjusting suspension. This system was improved in the Mark III. The Mark IV, meanwhile, gained a turbocharger, as well as optional traction control.

Tan leather and wood-trimmed interior of a red 1996 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur
1996 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur interior | Bring a Trailer

Of the 4 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit/Spur Marks, The Drive recommends the 1987-1989 Mark I and 1997-1999 Mark IV. It’s possible to find the former for less than $10,000 on BaT. The latter, meanwhile, usually goes for $25,000-$30,000.

What to watch out for

The Rolls-Royce Phantom VII is based on the contemporary BMW 7-Series platform, which, according to CarComplaints, is a fairly-reliable car. Nevertheless, there are some issues to keep in mind.

Pre-2008 models’ radiators have been known to fail, Autocar reports. And the Phantom VII is a heavy car, which can put a strain on the air suspension and brakes. Additionally, some models’ coolant pipes can fail, which is an expensive repair if done with OEM parts. However, there are cheaper OEM-quality parts available. In addition, be aware the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII has 2 batteries.

Parts expense is something to keep in mind even outside the engine. The YouTuber who bought the $65,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom came with non-original tires and wheels. That’s because the original run-flat system was too expensive for the previous owner to repair, Motor1 reports.

Red 1996 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur
1996 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur | Bring a Trailer

And for classic models like the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit/Spur, maintenance costs can be an even bigger headache. Sometimes the repair bill is more than you paid for the car. Besides rust, the biggest problems with the Silver Shadow are brakes and failing suspension, ClassicCarMag.net reports. The suspension can also be a problem with the Spirit/Spur, as well as the A/C and brakes. Luckily, the GM-derived V8 is fairly robust, as long as it’s received regular service.

Even if nothing goes wrong, a Rolls-Royce is still a very high-end luxury car, with maintenance costs to match. But if you’re aware of that, and look carefully, it’s still possible to find a relative bargain.

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