Investing In The Past

By Kristen Castillo

September 2, 2015 4 min read

Classic cars are cool to look at and cool to drive, but is it worth it to own one?

"The average collector vehicle in North America is $30,000 or less," says Tabetha Hammer, Affinity communications manager for Hagerty, the world's leading insurance provider for classic vehicles, noting that "classic cars are available in all price ranges -- from the low thousands to the multimillions."

If you can afford one, buying a classic car makes sense.

"Collector cars are potentially an incredibly profitable investment from a financial standpoint," says Darin Roberge, marketing director for Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions, who explains classics are about more than money.

"The essential essence of a collector car simply breaks down to passion," he says, noting, "Above all else, they are nostalgic and thus elicit an amazing degree of emotional value."

*Budgeting for a Classic

Want to buy a classic car but don't know where to get started?

"Remember this: 'It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little,'" says Mike Gulett of My Car Quest, an online auction service for buyers and sellers of classic cars.

Gulett, who advises classic car buyers to purchase the most desirable car model they can afford, says it's common in the collector car world for buyers to exceed their budget, "where the cost of the car plus the restoration work is greater than the value when done."

In other instances, buyers purchase lower cost vehicles that don't retain their value or don't appreciate like a more expensive classic car would have.

*Smart Investments

Investing in classic cars is all about supply and demand. The formula for the most in-demand collector cars "follows production numbers, correct, available examples, and mass appeal," says Roberge, who cites in-demand vehicles such as the Lamborghini Countach, the Porsche 930 and 959s, and Ferraris such as the 288 GTO, Testarossa, F40 and the 308/328.

"What these amazing automobiles have in common is sheer and simple inspiration," he says, explaining that these cars "represent a generational shift in the market" and are a purchase "most long-term investors can muster with very little difficulty."

The bottom line for Roberge? "Get in now before they become seven-figure collectibles."

The next wave of collectibles? Roberge suggests Japanese exotics from the early 1990s such as the Toyota Supra Turbo or the R32 era Nissan Skyline GTR.

*Classic Considerations

Experts advise only purchasing a classic car if the vehicle is in good condition. Keep any documentation to make it more valuable and appealing for future buyers. You need to know the car's maintenance history and requirements. Don't forget to research storage and insurance for the car, as well.

If you want the car as a project, just make sure you have the skills and resources to repair and upgrade the vehicle. Figure out what parts you'll need and their availability, too.

"Collector cars require work, bottom line," says Roberge. "Know your laws, know your options for both sales and service, and know your limits."

*Daily Driver?

Typically classic cars aren't driven daily for commuting or getting groceries.

While some people say cars need to be driven, others view classic cars as investments and works of art.

Most classics are "driven occasionally to events like shows or rallies," says Gulett, noting that many are "trailer queens," cars that are transported to car shows and only driven on and off show fields.

Still, Hammer says, "the majority of buyers purchase classics simply as the 'fun car they don't have to have.'"

Whether you invest in a classic European sports car, an American muscle car or a Japanese import, make sure you choose a car you love, and enjoy the ride!

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