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Analysis: Classic Car Prices Fly and Falter

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

The classic car market: a place of passion, emotions and, often, irrational thinking. And that irrational thinking leads people to do some crazy things when it comes to values. Generally, though people are rational and do care about values. Anyone who says they aren't interested in their values or where the market is going is either (a) a billionaire, (b) lying or (c) both.


It's coming to the end of the year and we're not yet billionaires so let's walks through what has happened to the classic car market since 2004, price trends, behavioural changes as well as what might well happen next. Let's go...


What has happened to classic car prices over the past few years?


Classic Car Prices Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer
Classic Car Prices Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer

This graph shows the median price, by year between 2004 and 2022. There's two things to call out here:


  1. Prices have risen 38% between 2005 and 2010. This price rise although underway pre the 2008 global financial crash, was turbo-charged by two primary factors (i) the search for 'alternative investments' as the 2008 crash saw the prices of property and financial markets tumble and (ii) the extensive quantitative easing from central banks that boosted the money supply around the world post 2008

  2. Classic car prices are flat over the past 5 years. The instant conclusion some might draw here is that classic car prices haven't fluctuated much over the past few year. Wrong. Let's explore that further, but first...


How have classic cars performed compared to other asset classes?


Asset Prices vs Classic Cars Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer and The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index
Asset Prices vs Classic Cars Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer and The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index

Well, not great in all honesty.


The grey bar represents a 12 month price change for each asset and the blue bar represents the 10 year price change of each asset.


And it's a pretty sorry state of affairs at the headline investment level. There's more to it though...


What makes have delivered the best / worst return?


Price Change By Manufacturer | Source: The Classic Valuer
Price Change By Manufacturer | Source: The Classic Valuer

This graph shows the price change for the 75 most common manufacturers between 2018/19 and 2021/22.


This is where things get interesting. Underneath that flat few years at an overall market level is a huge spread of price variation between marques that are up 101% to those that are down 55%.


Question: what do you notice when you look at those marques performing strongly vs not?


What trends are we seeing in the market?


Price Change By Manufacturer Origin Country | Source: The Classic Valuer
Price Change By Manufacturer Origin Country | Source: The Classic Valuer

The answer to the what do you notice question should be: that those vehicles performing most strongly (broadly) are those from America and Japan. American marques are up 20%. Japanese marques are up 23%.


Conversely the English and European marques are struggling.


It goes without saying there are exceptions. Land Rover are up 45%, AC are up 36% and Cadillac are down 20%. However, the principle holds for the vast majority.


Now, for perhaps the most important chart when it comes to classic car prices. We call this one 'the wave&#x