Today, we are examining one of the most popular and desirable Japanese vehicles of all time to answer the following question:
Just why are Toyota Supras so expensive?
When I was finishing up high school around 2009, I remember looking at Toyota Supras for sale on TradeMe (New Zealand’s version of eBay). You could get a decent SZ/non-turbo for not much over $10,000 “Kiwibucks”. Even turbo Supras were moderately affordable, although you really needed to look at spending closer to $20k. Not cheap, especially for a school student, but not a king’s ransom either.
Fast-forward to December 2020, and the cheapest MK4 Supra I can find is listed for $42,500 NZD.
The crazy bit? It’s a non-turbo “SZ” model. Not even the twin turbo we all desire so much. At that money, you want to make sure you are buying a good Supra, so check out our Toyota Supra buyer’s guide here.
Admittedly this particular example has had a lot of restoration work done according to the owner, but it’s still crazy to see a near-as-makes-no-difference 4x increase in price in the space of just over 10 years!
The cheapest turbo Supra on TradeMe at the time of writing? Yours for a mere $75,000 NZD. At listed dealer prices, I could have a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 for half the price, and with far fewer miles on the clock.
So what’s the deal. Why are Supras rapidly becoming the reserve of people with “I got into Bitcoin early” budgets?
Let’s find out!
The Toyota Supra needs no introduction (especially the MK4 Supra, which we will be focusing on in this article as that is generally what most people are referring to when they talk about the Supra).
It is one of the most legendary Japanese cars of all time, and was even the feature piece of the first (and let’s face it, best) Fast & Furious movie:
But why are MK4 Supras so expensive now?
Here are the top reasons why you need deep pockets these days to buy a Supra:
Table of Contents
The Toyota Supra Was Expensive New
In a recent article we looked at how much the Toyota Supra Mk4 cost new.
You can read that for all the information and key details, but the turbo MK4 Supra sold for around $40,000 USD in the 1990s.
Let’s look at the final year of sale in 1998. In that year, the Supra cost $40,500 USD, which works out around $64,000 in 2020 money.
The current Supra GR sells for around $50,000 USD, which in 1998 money would be $32,000.
Therefore, the MK4 Supra turbo was actually more expensive when factoring in inflation.
In the words of the great boxer (and occasional rapper), Roy Jones Jr, ‘y’all must’ve forgot’ that the MK4 Supra was an expensive car when it was new; more expensive than the new, replacement model in inflation-adjusted dollars.
In fact, the Supra GR seems like a veritable bargain in comparison … if you can live with the fact that people will accuse you of driving around in a re-badged BMW.
Supply & Demand
As we covered in our Supra Mk4 buyer’s guide, this vehicle is becoming increasingly popular and desirable.
Prices are climbing like crazy, with some examples in the United States selling into the six figures, depending on condition and spec. There are some outlier auction results with specific examples reaching truly astronomical money.
If you want a turbo Mk4 Supra, then you will probably need to be prepared to spend upwards of $40-50k, depending on where you live and the sort of condition/spec you are going after.
Simple economics – the law of supply and demand – has resulted in prices climbing drastically.
In our view, there has actually been a bit of an evolution to the demand of the Supra.
Firstly, in the 1990s we have to remember that this was an expensive vehicle. While well-regarded, there were many great options a cashed-up buyer could enjoy from competing Japanese manufacturers. Many of us may have lusted over a Supra – especially once it appeared in Gran Turismo – but it remained the preserve of the affluent (or those who didn’t mind big car payments).
However, many of us who were younger in this era grew up yearning for a Supra. The seed had been planted, and the tree had started to grow. As the 90s gave way to the 2000s, the Gran Turismo generation started to find themselves at ages and career stages where purchasing a Supra was now a possibility.
The presence of the MK4 Supra in the first Fast & The Furious film was another shot in the arm of the street cred and desirability of the vehicle. A whole new audience was introduced to the Supra, and the concept of “overnight parts from Japan”.
Therefore, demand started to grow in the 2000s from enthusiasts who had wanted a Supra but had been either too young or of insufficient means earlier on in life to be able to buy one.
As we entered the 2010s and moved towards the 2020s, the Supra remained desirable from an enthusiast standpoint (one of the biggest reasons being tunability, which we cover below). As new cars became more and more boring and mundane – especially from Toyota who went through a period of making cars that generally were more boring than watching paint dry – the enthusiast community increasingly yearned for older, more exciting and involving cars … and the Supra fits the bill perfectly being both fun and rewarding to drive but also modern enough to have some creature comforts like AC, airbags on some models, and so on.
This “perfect storm” of increased enthusiast demand over time combined with decreased supply – due to vehicles being crashed/written-off, dying of old age and neglect, blowing up due to incompetent and excessive modification, or being put into storage by shrewd investors and collectors – meant that prices started climbing even faster.
From our research, there were only around 48,000 MK4s produced for the global market. It’s hard to get a gauge on how many are left, but surely there have been plenty of casualties in that time.
Increased demand = decreased supply equals higher prices, it really is that simple.
Finally, we have to consider collectors/investors. In particular, we are referring to people who look to buy cars in the view that the next purchaser will pay even more (i.e. they aren’t necessarily collecting because they are interested in the car itself but more interested in what it might do to their bank account).
Once prices started climbing on the MK4 Supra, investors became increasingly interested. Owners with good examples realized they could sell to investor-collectors for more money than a “using” owner, and investor-collectors are often willing to pay over the odds because their biggest concern is that they perceive the next buyer will pay more than their purchase price.
In a climbing classic car market (see our section below on the rising tide lifting all boats … or case in this case) it’s not hard to see how Supras have become so expensive.
Original owners purchased an expensive car. Enthusiasts were able to get their hands on second hand examples as depreciation took its toll and original owners sold out to replace with something newer (and ostensibly better). Supply started shrinking, and therefore prices increased further. This caught the attention of “mainstream” car investors and collectors who started paying over the odds because they hope the next buyer will pay more.
And that – kids – is perhaps the biggest reason why Supras are so pricey now.
Another reason for the high demand for the Supra (and therefore increased prices) is the infamous tunability of the car.
Even on stock internals, the Supra’s 2JZ is notorious for being able to crank out incredible amounts of power.
According to Real Street Performance, a stock 2JZ-GTE should be able to run at 600 wheel horsepower for longer than the average owner would care to keep their car, and should be able to be driven regularly at this kind of HP level.
They raise an interesting point, however. Most of us have probably heard claims that a “stock 2JZ is good for 1000hp, bro” or words to that effect.
It may well be the case that you can tune a stock 2JZ to insane-o, Bugatti-embarrassing levels of horsepower for a reasonable cost. However, the chances of your stock internals lasting decrease substantially the more you ramp up the power.
Unless you want a “one hitter quitter” car that can do a fast quarter mile once before exploding like the Death Star, it’s probably better to look at running a more modest tune.
The good news is that the Supra community is large (both online and offline) and there are many talented individuals and companies that can advise and assist in helping you to extract more power than is probably usable on the road from your Mk4.
This incredible tunability and performance potential helps to make the 2JZ-GTE equipped Supra very desirable, in turn making it more expensive.
Rising Tide Lifting All Boats
Another factor that cannot be overlooked is the rising tide in the classic (and even “modern classic”) market in recent years.
Money chases returns, and cars have become another vehicle of speculation – pun intended.
Even junior league Japanese performance cars from the 1990s, such as Levins/Truenos, non-turbo Celicas etc have all climbed in price.
This rising tide effect has meant that Supras have climbed as well – even if they were less legendary and desirable than they are, prices would probably have gone in one direction only as more and more money enters the classic/modern classic market and has an inflationary effect.
Will this continue? Our crystal ball isn’t working at the time of writing, so we cannot predict.
However, with interest rates at all-time lows, and an uncertain geopolitical climate, many want investments that are more tangible. You can’t see or touch a bank deposit beyond numbers on a screen (and you’d lose money, adjusted for inflation anyway).
You can touch it, feel it, and if society does descend into some kind of Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland, you can always jump in your Supra and get the Hell out of town.
Another factor we feel helps to explain the increasingly exorbitant price of Mk4 Supras is what we call the “pinnacle tax”.
To many who grew up in the 1990s Gran Turismo era, the Mk4 Supra really was the pinnacle of Japanese performance motoring.
The only other close contenders being the GTR Skylines, Honda NSX and Mazda RX7.
In our view, there is always a premium associated with a vehicle that was seen (and continues to be seen by many) as the leader in its class.
The Supra sits at the top of the Japanese performance motoring summit, with few serious challengers – you’ll have to pay extra to be part of this exclusive club!
Conclusion – Why Is The Toyota Supra So Expensive
As you can see above, there a variety of reasons why the Toyota Supra is so expensive to buy.
The new Supra GR is expensive for obvious reasons – it is a brand new performance car with a legendary badge attached (however, as we established above, compared to what the Mk4 Supra cost new it is actually a rather good deal, all things being considered).
MK4 prices have been climbing faster than a Nasa space rocket in recent years.
To recap, some of the key reasons are:
- It was an expensive car when new
- Relatively low supply and increasing demand from enthusiasts, and now collectors/investors
- The rising tide in the classic car market is lifting all boats
- There is a premium attached to getting yourself into a true icon of Japanese motoring performance
If you’re thinking of buying a MK4 Supra, then make sue you read our buyer’s guide first. We have put together the most detailed guide on the Internet to getting yourself in to one of these amazing vehicles. Because the price of admission is so high, you want to make sure that you are getting yourself a good example. Don’t spend too much on a lemon, and then spend even more keeping it running!
We welcome your comments and feedback as well. Why do you think the Supra is so expensive?