Is it wise to invest in classic cars? Yes. Probably. Possibly. Okay, let’s make that ‘hopefully’, with a little crossing of fingers behind our backs.
As with any investment, there’s an element of risk involved, and market values of cars could go down as well as up. But with that little ‘don’t blame me’ disclaimer out of the way, it’s reasonable to say that classic car prices are constantly rising. So even if you factor in the cost of storage, insurance, maintenance, repair and restoration, it’s possible to own a car gently appreciating in value that you could also take out and enjoy occasionally.
The average value of affordable classic cars (leaving out the super-exotic and rare vehicles like Ferraris and Lamborghinis) is known to increase by 97% over a decade. That compares to 107% for investing in stocks and shares and only 50% when it comes to property.
Vehicle Appreciation Checklist
When trying to guestimate if a car is likely to appreciate in future keep in mind the following:
- Demand – if there’s always a steady line of buyers for it, you should bank it. For example classic Porsche 911 models.
- Topicality – when Enzo Ferrari died in 1988, values of all cars bearing the Cavallino Rampante prancing horse badge sky-rocketed.
- Scarcity – you want it even more when you realise you can’t have it. And then it’ll cost ya! Take the Citroen CX, there's only about 130 left in the UK, despite being in production for 17 years.
- Innovation - as an example the 1987 Honda Prelude was the first mass production car to offer four-wheel steering. Good examples are shooting up in value.
- Motorsport legend - cars like the Audi Ur Quattro (WRC), Volvo 850 T5 Estate (BTCC) and Ford GT40 (LeMans)
- Pop culture icon - think of the Back To The Future DeLorean, Nicolas Cage's Eleanor Mustang and James Bond's Aston Martin.
Don't worry about the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars affecting values. That doesn't apply to used cars and if anything classic car values will rise as traditional internal combustion engine cars become scarce.
Top 5 Classic Cars
So don't hesitate! Do your research, join clubs, talk to owners and specialist garages and plan on picking up your affordable classic this year. Here are some hot tips for 2021 for you to start with:
1. Porsche 968
Porsche 911 models are usually solid investments, some sporting stratospheric prices. Models like the 928, 944 and 924 have followed suit. This year it'll be the turn of the 968 which, after all, was the zenith of the marque's front engine/rear drive efforts in the 90s.
2. Land Rover Discovery Series 1
The 90s family-friendly Landy could handle everything from mud to malls. By comparison the current Disco feels like any other soft urban SUV and is unlikely to generate the cult following of the original.
3. 1980s Mercedes SEC
Arguably the last truly great Mercedes S-Class, the 80s dictator's drive was also available as a gangster coupe. There were even AMG 'wide-body' editions with extended wheelarches, values for which are now outrageous (up to £200k!). But decent, and highly desirable 500SEC or 560SEC models can be had for under £20k. These will last forever and will always be cool.
4. 1960s Original Mini Cooper
If you remember buying a Mini for the price of a toaster back in the day, you'll be shocked to find that prices for a 1960s car are around £24,000 today!
Increasingly rare, if you find one, snap it up, even if it needs substantial restoration. There are plenty of expert specialists to do the work for you, and you can even buy entire replacement body shells new, should you need to.
5. 1980s Pontiac Firebird Trans Am / Chevrolet Camaro
While 60s and 70s American musclecar values have now finally started to settle after soaring for the last couple of decades, it's time for their 80s successors to gain recognition. Rare but not impossible to find in the UK, seek out models like the Z28 and IROC Z Camaros, treasured by aficionados.
But what you really want is the Firebird Trans Am as made famous in the role of KITT from Knight Rider. Pick up good ones from £10k, keep as standard or spend another £5k or so to convert it to a KITT replica for the ultimate modern classic showstopper.