Why Are Collectors Scrambling to Get Their Hands on One of the Worst SUVs Ever?

Sometimes the collector car market even miffs those of us who watch it regularly. Sure, it makes sense that a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am should increase in value alongside a vintage Dodge Challenger. But, sometimes we’re surprised when we see a terrible SUV that was once labeled “Not Acceptable” by Consumer Reports and called “The world’s most dangerous car” by Top Gear, topping a list of rare classics increasing in value. Maybe the tiny, turbulent, terrible Suzuki Samurai has finally come into its own?

The Suzuki Samurai (!?) has increased in price by 34%

1988 Suzuki Samurai in blakc
1988 Suzuki Samurai | Bring a Trailer

The little Jeep Wrangler knockoff SUV from Suzuki owns a fanbase like few other 1990s vehicles. Sure, there are catfish Camaro fans and those that love Fox Body Mustangs. But, the 1986 to 1995 Samurai?

A friend of mine in college had a Samurai. It was terrible. It was slow, clunky, and felt unsafe at any speed. But, it was fun because it was simple, rugged, and could go anywhere a Jeep could go.

Well, according to classic car insurance company (and magazine publisher) Hagerty, the Samurai is one of the top classic vehicles gaining in value right now. Hagerty says it has increased by 34%, and it’s listed alongside other classics like Pontiac Trans Ams, Alfa Romeos, and Nissan Skyline GT-R sports cars.

What is boosting the Samurai’s value?

Haggerty surmises that the Suzuki Samurai is reaching peak cool right now because of the growth of the 1990s Japanese market segment. It’s also one of the few SUVs from that era that’s still affordable. But, of course, those of us who were alive when the Samurai was new remember it fondly for its go-anywhere personality and its mini-Wrangler looks. <any of us who wanted one in the 1990s can now afford one of these.

How much should a Suzuki Samurai cost?

1988 Suzuki Samurai interior in black and white
Suzuki Samurai interior | Bring a Trailer

Haggerty assesses vehicles based on their condition, form #1 for a mint condition version, to #5, which is nearly a parts car. A #1 condition 1988 Samurai sells for nearly $20,000, while a #2 driver is now worth about $17,100 or a 1995 version. Data at Bring a Trailer seems to confirm what Haggerty says. The auction site tracks collector vehicle sales prices and the Samurai has gone from selling in the $8,000 range in 2019 to more than $20,000 for those in good condition.

That newfound hipness is also one factor behind the new Jimny’s popularity.

Is the Suzuki Samurai a good car?

The Suzuki Samurai is a beloved vehicle, if an unreliable one. However these were made at the peak of the malaise era, and quality control was not the best during these years. That being said, many of the issues the Samurai had initially should have (hopefully) been fixed by now. But, don’t forget these came with a 66-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder, and had acceleration times similar to glaciers.

Ohh, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that it’s dangerous. In the 1990s, it was the subject of a series of videos from Consumer Reports that showed it could tip over and roll during everyday driving. Even Top Gear hated it. Though explaining the scandal would take a lot here, let’s just say that the little Samurai has overcome the scandal and is now earning classic status.

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