The Subaru WRX STI is one of the most popular Japanese performance cars ever.
Although the current WRX STI is a big improvement on the STIs of the 1990s/2000s from the perspective of creature comforts and safety features, the formula hasn’t really changed much in almost three decades – and we think that the STI is all the better for it.
You get a legendary combination of everyday practicality, strong AWD grip, and powerful turbocharged engine – all mated to a proper manual gearbox.
If this type of car were an animal, it would certainly be on the critically endangered list!
If you’ve tried to buy a second hand WRX STI, then you’ll probably be aware that prices tend to be high.
In fact, for the new/current generation WRX STI, used vehicles sell for not much less than brand new examples.
So why does the WRX STI hold its value so well?
In this article we take a look and explore the reasons why it costs an arm and a leg to pick up a WRX STI on the used market.
Subaru’s Generally Have Low Depreciation To Begin With
One of the reasons for the WRX STI retaining its value well is that Subarus as a rule tend to be some of the best cars (or worst, from a second hand buyer wanting to save money perspective) when it comes to depreciation.
Subarus just don’t depreciate that quickly compared to other brands of car.
Whether it’s the Outback, the Forester or the WRX/STI, Subaru may not sell in the largest of volumes but their cars have a loyal following that appreciates the combination of build quality, features and excellent all-weather capability.
This, in turn means lower depreciation and stronger used values.
Here are a couple of examples:
- In a 2020 iSeeCars study, Subaru was the sixth lowest depreciation car brand.
- In this same study, the WRX and WRX STI ranked in the top 10 lowest depreciation cars. In fact, the WRX was second behind the Porsche 911 with 5-year depreciation of 39.8% when looking at depreciation for sports cars (see full study here).
- According to a 2020 report by Kelly Blue Book, Subaru has the lowest overall depreciation rate of any carmaker.
- JD Power reported Subaru as one of the least depreciating car brands in 2019 (more details here).
There are a few reasons why Subarus in general don’t tend to depreciate as much as other car brands, but we won’t focus on those for this article as we are particularly interested in the WRX STI.
The WRX STI Has A Cult Following – It Is A True Enthusiast’s Car
To understand why the WRX STI holds value, it’s also important to remember that it really is a “cult car”.
The WRX STI has been an icon since the mid 1990s, especially thanks to its legendary rivalry with the Mitsubishi Evo and presence in popular culture (particularly video games like the Gran Turismo series).
Across its various generations, it’s a car that many enthusiasts long to own; an attainable dream car that does almost everything in a single package.
Some can afford to buy the latest model brand new, but many who desire to own a WRX STI can’t pay the price of admission for a new model. As such, the used market is very robust and this helps to keep prices inflated.
At every level of the WRX STI market – from brand new 2021 models down to the earliest examples from the 1990s, and across all conditions and mileages – there are many punters looking to buy.
Combined with the relatively low supply of WRX STIs on the used market, and this results in a perfect storm for strong used values.
The WRX STI Is A “Unicorn” Car
Another reason the WRX STI holds its value well is that in some respects it represents the last of its kind.
If you think back to the 1990s and early 2000s, there were a number of competitors to the WRX STI, the most legendary of these being the Mitsubishi Evo (read our Mitsubishi Evo buyer’s guide here) as well as the likes of the Nissan Pulsar GTI-R and Toyota Celica GT4.
All of these were (somewhat) practical, daily-drivable “rally reps” that featured AWD systems, powerful turbocharged engines and manual gearboxes.
The WRX STI is the last man standing … all of these other cars are long gone, and Mitsubishi has no plans to bring back the Evo.
As such, the “unicorn” status of the WRX STI makes it all the more popular and capable of holding value.
Rising Car Market Tide Lifting All Boats
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ll surely have noticed that classic car prices (and now even the prices of more mundane/normal cars) have been soaring of late.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to very desirable cars like the WRX STI, as well as other Japanese legends like the Nissan Skyline.
Car prices in general are skyrocketing across all sorts of different sectors and segments. From genuine classics to everyday commuter cars, a combination of pumped-in financial liquidity designed to combat the economic effects of Covid-19 along with reduced supply have combined to create a rising tide in the vehicle market that is lifting all boats
As such, boats that floated well anyway in normal times (like the WRX STI) are floating even faster at the moment.
Conclusion – Why Does The WRX STI Hold Value?
To recap this article, here are the key reasons why the WRX STI tends to hold its value well (and in the case of older STIs, actually increase in value in the current market).
- Subaru as a wider brand tends to have some of the lowest depreciation (at least in the American market, but we see a similar phenomenon in the Australian and New Zealand markets as well). As the flagship Subaru model, it stands to reason that the WRX STI will perform fairly well in the value retention stakes!
- The WRX STI has a loyal following, and many of the people who are most likely to buy the car (younger car enthusiasts) are not able to afford to buy new but can afford used, meaning demand on the resale market is higher.
- In some respects, it is a bit of a “unicorn” car (at least the current model is). There just aren’t that many options out there when it comes to a fast, AWD, manual sedan for a reasonable price. This unicorn status along with the cult following of the WRX STI help to keep used prices high.
- Relatively few new cars are sold, and this means a tight supply of used cars. As older WRX STIs start to exit the market (due to mechanical failure, accidents and examples being kept in storage for collection purposes) this also places even more upward pressure on used prices.
For these reasons, the WRX STI remains a car that will cost you whether you buy a new example or a used one,
One thing to bear in mind is the old investing adage that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Although classic car prices (and used car prices in general) are on the rise at the moment, you can’t bank on this continuing forever.
At some stage, the classic car bubble may even burst.
With that in mind, it’s critical to ensure that if you’re buying a used WRX STI that you get a good example.
Make sure you read our WRX STI buyer’s guide here for more information on scoring yourself a great example of this ever-popular Japanese performance car.