For years, Supra has been the king of the streets. Its body lines are some of the best in the automotive world. Many people think Ferrari themselves copied it. In the later generation, it came with an engine that today is seen as one of the best in the world.
Toyota didn’t mess around with the Supra. They threw everything they had at it. The suspension was co-designed by Lotus. The sound system was insanely detailed. There was an option for leather seats. Finally, they went all out with the digital dash. Its highest output model was the later 85 and 86 years, with 160 horsepower out of the 5G engine. Outside Japan, the output got a bump, making it 180 horsepower.
A Mark 4 Toyota Supra Turbo was sold at the Barrett-Jackson Auction for $176,000. My friend bought a Supra Turbo for $15,000. Fourth-Generation Supra values in the US have increased exponentially in the last decade, but why? Will regular people ever be able to afford Supras again? Let’s talk about that.
Why are Supras so expensive price?
Everyone knows about the legend of the 4th generation Toyota Supra. It was a Japanese sports car from the mid-90s that punched well above its weight and became a huge icon of car culture. But the Supra today plays a very different role in car culture than it did in the early 2000s. Supras are in the news for only one thing, their sale prices.
The Barrett Jackson Supra I mentioned was one of a handful of Supras that sold for over 100,000 dollars. Brand new, the most expensive Supra retailed for about 50,000 bucks or about 85 grand in today’s money. So how did Supras become more valuable than their original retail price? Let’s go back in time to when they weren’t.
In 2001, the Supra was out of production in the US market and was winding down for good in Japan. Sales were poor in its final years as the car was too expensive in a shrinking sports car market. By the end of production, only about 45,000 Supras were made worldwide, with about 12,000 sold in the United States.
From then on, the Supra commanded a premium for being the poster boy of tuner car culture. While many claims that Fast and Furious was the sole reason for the Supra’s success was only a piece of the puzzle. In 2001, you could get a low mileage Turbo Supra in the US for about 25-30,000 dollars.
1997-98 cars commanded a premium and sold in the $35,000 range. At that point, the cars were only a few years old. So most of them were in good condition and new. Few of them were modified beyond wheels and bolt-ons like exhausts and intakes. From 2001 to about 2005, Supra prices dipped as depreciation worked.
Owners put more miles on them, and there were cheaper and cheaper examples on the market, with Non-turbo and automatic cars being even cheaper than their turbo and manual counterparts. Finding a non-turbo Supra for 8-10,000 dollars wasn’t outlandish.
Many of you are probably wondering which versions of the Mk4 Supra were the most and least valuable. It’s not straightforward, but it comes down to 3 things.
First, there are the trim levels. There’s:
- Turbo and NonTurbo
Turbo is better.
- Manual and Automatic.
Manual is better.
- Hardtop and Targa Top.
This one is a little tricky.
The Hardtop is worth a premium, and while they are rarer, the Targa was a value-added option. So it’s hard to say which may be more valuable to a collector.
Second, on the list is a rarity.
Over the years, the Mk4 Supra came in various colors across all its trim levels. As production slowed, the 96-98 models introduced some very cool low-volume colors like Quicksilver, Imperial Jade Mica, Deep Jewel Green, and the unofficial king of the hill, Royal Sapphire Pearl. It is often considered the most coveted Supra to have.
Some random color combinations are far rarer than others. For example, if you owned a 1995 Turbo Supra 6-speed manual with the Hardtop, you had one of about 21 cars that existed in the US.
- The Mileage and Condition is the third and final factor determining an Mk4’s value.
The fewer miles and the cleaner the car, the better. Collectors aren’t looking for your tube-framed 3.4L stroker drag pig to add to their Concours collection. As the 2000s wore on, the tuning potential of these cars came into full swing, and many of them were torn apart and turned popular.
By 2008, a 1994 turbo manual car with about 60k miles fetched about 35,000 dollars. It is about what they were worth at the turn of the century. Not bad. They were going back up in value.
By 2012, not much had changed. Clean low-mile turbo Supras still fetched about 35-40k, with your average turbo car running about $25,000. Non-turbo cars at about 15k. But in 2013, things started to take a bit of a turn. Prices across the board started to creep up, first for turbo cars, then even non-turbo cars.
It was catalyzed by the fact that parts were getting harder and harder to find. At this point, the Supra was out of production for 15 years, well past the mark of Toyota discontinuing various replacement parts. Add to that the fact that Getrag, the transmission supplier for the Supra, wasn’t producing parts for the legendary V160 6-speed manual. Supra owners were busy converting horsepower into destroyed synchros on their highway racecars. It led to standalone transmissions skyrocketing in price, with new-in-box V160s costing over 10,000 dollars.
In turn, turbo Supras that came with the 6-speed manuals began fetching premiums in the market. All this meant that even high-mileage cars were listed for $30,000 or more. So long as they were turbo and manual, people wanted them and were willing to pay above market value.
In 2014 the prices further increased, and in 2015, even more so. By 2016, dealers and collectors holding onto low mileage examples of Supras began listing them for prices nobody had ever seen.
These headlining sales caused a tidal wave that took Supra prices across the board to places many people thought unimaginable. By 2017, collectors started getting slightly defensive in this extremely bullish Supra market and listing cars well into the 80s. They hoped that it was a matter of time, even if nobody would buy them at that price now.
Through 2018, the average Turbo car with plenty of miles fetched around 40,000 dollars. Manual turbos cars with under 60k miles were quickly a 50k proposition. Supras became 25-year legal in the US, and Supras began to get imported into the US from Japan.
Many people thought that this influx of supply from the Japanese market would dilute the US market and bring prices down across the board. But they were wrong! Low mileage JDM cars hit US ports and were snatched up immediately for 40-50,000 dollars. They were slightly cheaper than their USDM counterparts, but JDM sales had almost no effect on the exploding US market.
In January 2019, something happened that nobody was prepared for. A supra broke the 6-figure mark. A 7000-mile 1994 Twin Turbo 6-Speed Supra sold for $121,000.
It set a precedent for Supra prices to get launched into the stratosphere. Two months later, the record was broken again at an RM Sotheby’s Auction with an 11,000-mile 1994 turbo going for 173,600 dollars. Then one month later, a 10,000-mile 1993 turbo sold for 128,000 dollars. Nearly 50,000 dollars LESS than the previous car. So Supra prices had peaked in March and were finally on the decline.
In June of that same year, the now-famous Barrett-Jackson car made its way across the auction block and set the 176,000 dollar record that still stands today. That car may have been a one-off, a fluke of an auction that went far higher than it should have. It was a nearly 70,000-mile example and wasn’t even totally stock. In one year, the average market value of a Supra went up 25%, and low mileage examples were comfortably in the 70,000-dollar range.
Despite a global pandemic and economic crisis, the Supra train kept chugging along in 2020, with another 15,000-mile car selling for 126,000 and the average Supra selling for 60,000+. Even the JDM cars being shipped over here a couple of years ago for 40 grand were now selling for $70,000.
At this point in 2021, the Supra market is the highest it’s ever been, representing a nearly 300% increase over the last decade and a half. It’s only a matter before another barely-driven Supra surfaces and breaks the $200,000 mark.
At this point, the least valuable version of a Supra, a Non-Turbo Automatic from Japan, will still cost you about 30,000 dollars, depending on the condition. Turbo models are double that. Prices look to only be increasing from here. It’s easy to say that Supras aren’t worth their price. Those prices have to come down at some point, and the market continues to defy expectations and trend upwards.
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