A classic car can be a great addition to your portfolio if you are thinking about taking your love of them to the next level. However, only a relative handful of classic cars will make for a good investment. Some are perennial favorites among collectors, while some forgotten models can become tomorrow’s hot commodity. If you want to turn your hobby into an investment strategy, you’ll need to know what factors to consider when looking for the right car to add to your collection.
- Are Classic Cars a Good Investment?
- What Do the Best Appreciating Cars Have in Common?
- Classic Cars With the Best Investment Potential
Are Classic Cars a Good Investment?
There's an old adage that a car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot, but classic cars are a different story. Ultimately, the answer to this question is "it depends."
Factors such as the scarcity, brand, age, image, and desirability of a classic can can affect its value. Overall, the value of classic cars are relatively stable over time, meaning you’ll want to be careful when picking one if you’re looking for an appreciating asset. Some brands, especially Ferraris, tend to appreciate and are reliable investments, but these are often inaccessible to the typical buyer. Other brands that were ignored can suddenly spike in value, especially if they were popular during the childhood of today’s buyers.
What Do the Best Appreciating Cars Have in Common?
The best appreciating classic cars are ones that were produced in limited runs and which were aspirational vehicles even when they were new. These are the most concrete factors that can influence a classic car's value:
Scarcity is the idea that rarer cars have a higher chance of appreciating in value. This is one of the most important factors that determines the value of classic cars, but it depends on several other factors to work in your favor.
Some of the most valuable cars in existence were produced in limited runs or just a few hundred vehicles or less. However, if the car wasn’t popular even when it was new, it’s unlikely to be popular among collectors now. On the other hand, scarcity can also greatly increase the price of a car that was popular in its heyday.
Often, older cars are more valuable because they are more scarce than their newer variants, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes an older car is more valuable than its newer versions because it offers different features that are unavailable in their newer versions. This is the case with many older vehicles produced before modern emissions standards came into effect, which are generally more powerful than ones produced after this period.
Intrigue is the idea that interest often drives value; a "boring" car may not have as good a chance to appreciate. The most valuable classic cars are ones that were desirable when they were first released.
A typical sedan or family car is unlikely to be worth much more than it was when it was first released and, in all likelihood, severely depreciated in value. On the other hand, the history of a car can add to its intrigue and desirability. If a particular model was known to be owned by a celebrity or was used in Formula One racing, for example, it could be worth much more than one without such cachet.
In order for your car to appreciate in value, there has to be a demand for it in the first place. If no one wants to buy a particular car, the value just isn't there.
Classic cars can fluctuate in value depending on trends among buyers, and cars that were once unpopular could quickly appreciate in value once tastes change. As the profile of type typical classic car buyer changes, the types of cars that are popular can change as well. Demand for classic cars has also skyrocketed since 2008, which has caused even previously ignored cars to appreciate in value.
Classic Cars With the Best Investment Potential
Hagerty is one of the top sources for market information*** about classic cars and provides different suggested prices for each model based on a four-tier quality system: Concours, Excellent, Good, Fair.
1. Lamborghini Diablo
The 1990-1998 Lamborghini Diablos have proven to be hot commodities among collectors thanks in part to their reputation of being the last ”authentic” Lamborghinis. Prices for cars of all conditions have increased dramatically over the last five years.
According to data available to Hagerty, a car in Concours condition might sell for $266,000 in today’s market, a dramatic increase from $179,000 in 2013. Market prices for Excellent, Good, and Fair condition cars are currently around $209,000, $182,000 and $155,000 respectively, up from $135,000, $128,000, and $116,000 for each in 2013.
2. 1957 Ferrari 410 Superamerica SIII
The 1957 Ferrari 410 Superamerica SIII is one of the most valuable cars in the world, and collectors have driven the prices to stratospheric heights in a buying frenzy over the past few years.
Hagerty lists the value of a Concours condition vehicle at $3,700,000, compared to a price of $1,100,000 in 2013. Prices for Excellent and Good condition vehicles have also risen with Hagerty listing current values for both at $3,400,000 and $3,200,000, respectively, up from $909,000 and $772,000 in 2013. A Fair condition vehicle might also bring in $3,050,000 during a sale, another dramatic increase from its 2013 estimated market price of $700,000.
3. 1967 Volkswagen Beetle
The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the world’s most iconic cars and remains a hit among collectors worldwide. Demand for these vehicles greatly increased in recent years, and with values for Concours-condition cars at $28,600, up from $22,700 five years ago.
Prices for Excellent condition cars have similarly increased, with data showing prices for these cars to be around $19,400, up from $16,400 in 2013. Data also suggests prices for Good condition cars are now around $10,800, increasing from $8,900 in 2013 while Fair condition vehicles witnessed a modest increase to $6,200 from $4,800.
4. Mercedes-Benz 190
The 1984-1993 Mercedes-Benz 190 could be a solid addition to your portfolio if you are looking for an inexpensive model that has generally appreciated recently. Hagerty lists the value for a Concours model at $6,000, an increase of $500 from 2013. A car in excellent condition could sell for $4,500, up from $4,300 back in 2013. A car in Good condition might fetch $3,500 today, up from $2,300 in 2013, while a car in Fair condition might sell for $2,000, a modest increase from a typical market value for this car of $1,800 in 2013.
5. 1984 Pininfarina Azzurra
Originally marketed by Fiat, the 1984 Pininfarina Azzurra convertible is popular among buyers thanks to its sporty design. Based on available data, Hagerty lists the value of a Concours condition vehicle at $33,700, a significant increase from a 2013 estimated value of $18,100.
Hagerty also lists Excellent condition vehicles at $23,000, which represents a near-doubling from the estimated 2013 value of $12,600. Data also suggests Good condition vehicles nearly doubled in price with vehicles that sold for $7,700 in 2013 capable of selling for $14,100 today. Data also suggests Fair condition vehicles also significantly appreciated, rising from $3,800 in 2013 to $7,700 today.
6. 1998 Porsche 911 Turbo S
Popular among collectors thanks to their air-cooled engines, the last of their kind for Porsche, the 1998 Porsche 911 Turbo S has more than doubled in value since 2013, according to data available to Hagerty.
A Concours vehicle may have sold for $240,000 in 2013 but today could sell for $530,000 while an Excellent condition vehicle may have sold for around $167,000 in 2013 and $430,000 today. Market data also shows significant appreciation for Good condition vehicles,with prices increasing from $135,000 in 2013 to $320,000 today. Fair condition vehicles have seen similar gains, with prices in 2013 sitting at around $103,000 and rising to $227,000 today.
7. 1994 Mazda RX-7
Famous among collectors for its successful implementation of Mazda’s wankel rotary engine, the 1994 Mazda RX-7 has spiked in value over the last two years after weathering a dip in late 2014 and early 2015.
According to data available to Hagerty, a Concours-condition vehicle might sell for $34,500 today, up from $22,500 five years ago. A car in Excellent condition could reasonably sell for $22,600, compared to $16,900 five years ago, while a car in Good condition saw a modest rise from $12,400 in 2013 to $13,500 today. A vehicle in Fair condition, on the other hand, may have actually declined in value, from $8,100 in 2013 to $7,500 today.
8. 1972 BMW 2002
The 2002 helped to establish BMW’s reputation as a maker of agile, affordable, and surprisingly powerful vehicles. Data available to Hagerty suggests the price of a Concours vehicle is $42,900, an increase from $33,200 in 2013. Prices appear to have similarly risen for vehicles in Excellent and Good condition, from $19,000 and $11,100 in 2013 to $26,000 and $15,300 today, respectively. Fair condition vehicles witnessed a more modest appreciation, rising from $6,800 to about $8,700 today, according to available data.
9. 1998 Porsche Boxster
Originally conceived of as a lower-cost alternative to the more expensive 911 model, the 1998 Porsche Boxster, or the 986, has seen a renewed interest and rising prices after several years of declines. Think of the common "buy low, sell high" idea of investing: After the initial euphoria goes away, you can still see a sustainable appreciation despite recent drops since people are still interested in Porsches.
Data suggests that today a car of Concours quality can sell for $18,900, down from $19,500 in 2013. A car in Excellent condition might sell for $13,700 today, while it would have sold for $14,500 in 2013. Vehicles in Good and Fair condition have also seen similar declines, with each selling for $9,000 and $5,400 today, compared to $10,500 and $7,300 in 2013.
10. 1973 Datsun 510
The Datsun 510 helped the Japanese automaker establish itself as a bona-fide competitor with brands such as BMW, thanks in part to its performance with Brock Racing Enterprises. Demand for these vehicles skyrocketed in recent years as prices for cars in Concours condition rose from $14,500 in 2013 to $32,100 in 2018.
Cars in Excellent and Fair condition witnessed similar increases with estimated prices for both rising from $8,900 and $5,400 in 2013 to $16,900 and $10,400. Cars in Fair condition have also appreciated with price estimates now at $5,400, up from $2,800 in 2013.
11. 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera
The Porsche 911 was introduced as an upscale alternative to the less-expensive Boxster and could be poised for a break-out after declining in price for several years. Hagerty reports that according to its available data, the value of a car in Concours condition today at $38,500, compared to $39,000 in 2013.
A car in Excellent condition is also estimated to be worth about $28,200, another decline from $30,500 in 2013. Cars in Good condition have also seen similar declines from 2013 prices, falling from $21,500 to $19,700, while cars in Fair condition also slipped from $13,500 then to $11,900 today. Again: buy low, sell high.
12. 1983 DeLorean DMC-12
Famous for its role in the Back to the Future series and its majestic gulf doors, the DeLorean DMC-12 is surprisingly affordable and could be a great addition to your portfolio. Based on information available to Hagerty, prices for cars in Concours condition rose from 2013 prices of $44,700 to $51,800 after dipping in late 2015 and early 2016. Cars in Excellent and Good condition similarly rose in price from $29,900 and $19,900 in 2013 to $39,300 and $29,500 in 2016. DeLoreans in Fair condition similarly appreciated, rising from $14,700 in 2013 to $20,100 today.
13. 1975 Bricklin SV-1
This gull-winged Canadian coupe is one of the Malaise-era’s most unique vehicles and could be a good buy since prices have receded from recent highs. After a major spike beginning in later 2014 and lasting until early 2016, data shows prices for a car in Concours condition may be around $32,000, an increase from 2013’s price of $27,000.
Vehicles in Excellent increases in value from about $21,000 in 2013 to $22,700 today while those in Good condition fell in value from $12,800 to around $12,700. Vehicles in fair condition fared a little better, with prices rising from $7,000 in 2013 to $7,100 in 2018.
14. 1946 Willys-Jeep CJ-2A (Truck) 1/4 Ton
Famous for its role on WW2 battlefields, the Jeep soon became a fixture among postwar buyers looking for a rugged vehicle that handle on- and off-road driving with ease. Data shows cars in Concours condition may be priced at just $26,500, up from $25,300 in 2013. Vehicles in Excellent condition have seen similar modest gains, rising from $15,600 in 2013 to $16,000 today. Jeeps in Fair or Good condition have seen the smallest gains with examples of each increasing in price from $8,700 and $4,800 in 2013 to $9,000 and $4,900 in 2018, respectively.
15. 1999 Mercedes-Benz SL500
The Mercedes-Benz SL500 is a fun, sporty convertible popular among collectors thanks to its powerful performance and sleek body. Hagerty’s data suggests that a car in Concours condition might sell for $31,500 in 2018, up from $23,300 in 2013. A car in Excellent condition today might sell for $17,800, an increase from 2013’s price of $15,900. Cars in Good or Fair condition in 2018 might sell for $11,700 or $6,300, compared to 2013’s prices of $9,800 and $6,500 for the same vehicle.
16. 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
Famous for its futuristic gull-wing doors and racing pedigree, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL was a hit among buyers thanks to its incredible performance. One of these vehicles in Concours condition might sell for $1,550,000 today, up from 2013 prices of $1,380,000 but down about $700,000 from its 2014 peak.
A car in Excellent condition might sell for $1,450,000 in today’s market compared to $955,000 in 2013. Vehicles in Good or Fair condition might also sell for $1,350,000 and $1,200,000 each today, also down from 2014 peaks but above their 2013 prices of $855,000 and $750,000.
17. 1972 Iso Grifo IR9 Can Am
Known for their sleek design and powerful American engines, these Italo-American cars were once neglected among collectors who then began restoring many of these vehicles. Today, one of these vehicles in Concours condition might sell for $527,000, up from $356,000 in 2013. A vehicle in Excellent condition has also appreciated greatly since 2013, potentially selling for $458,000 today compared to $316,000 in 2013. Vehicles in Good condition might also sell for $385,000 compared to $254,000 in 2013 while data suggests Fair condition vehicles could sell for $207,000 in 2013 $332,000 today.
18. 1972 Triumph TR6
This spunky British roadster was the last of its kind, and remains a relatively inexpensive option for buyers who want to break into collecting. According to Hagery’s survey of market information, one of these vehicles could sell for $36,000 in Concours condition, up from $31,300 in 2013.
A vehicle in Excellent condition might be worth $22,400 in today’s market, a slight appreciation from 2013 price of $22,000. Cars in Good or Fair condition also remain affordable with current prices declining somewhat from 2013 highs of $14,100 and $8,400, respectively, to $12,700 and $6,900 each today.
19. 1976 Porsche 912 E
Porsches are more popular than ever among collectors who now seek out these long-neglected cars mainly for their superb performance. According to data available to Hagerty, in 2013, a 1976 Porsche 912 E in Concours condition could have sold for around $38,000 while today it might sell for $50,000. That same vehicle in Excellent condition may have sold for $28,200 in 2013 and about $36,500 today. Hagerty lists the value of cars in Good condition that were sold in 2013 as $19,100 whereas the same car might fetch $24,900 during a sale in 2018. Fair condition vehicles have also increased in value, with data showing prices rose from $12,400 five years ago to $15,500 today.
A classic car can be the buy of a lifetime if you pick the right model, but you should still treat it as a labor of love when selecting one to get the most for your money. Not every classic car will be a unicorn than triples or quadruples in value, but you might get lucky if you do your homework before investing. Most classic cars work better as relatively stable stores of value rather than as appreciating assets. However, if you take the time to restore and maintain the ones you do buy, you can increase the value of your investments while having fun with your hobby.
***Values based off of 2018 data from Hagerty at the time of this writing. VICCI Car Auctions offers this information for readers to draw their own conclusions/speculation and does not endorse these vehicles as ironclad investments. Buyers always assume their own risk when making investments in classic cars.