Most collector car buyers, except perhaps the super-rich, will always consider price an unavoidable constraint in their search (whether be it a maximum or minimum price).

Brand new cars are typically priced on quality – you’ll pay more the better the feature spec. Similarly in the mass used car market (modern cars) most cars are priced based on condition. Although in both cases you’ll pay a premium for respected marques (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, etc).

The collector car market encompasses similar pricing principles but new buyers to the market should be aware of the other highly emotional variables that will affect the desirability (and value) of collectible cars in the future.

Collector cars by price

Collector cars by price

Using our sales data, we’ve identified 6 broad price classifications.

At the very top is the “ultra-high price” segment above $3 million, containing some very expensive icons of the entire asset class. Our estimations indicate the size of the “ultra-high price” market was worth over $6 billion annually in 2015.

Generally, the higher-value cars are the rare racing cars, rare luxury cars and those cars produced in very limited numbers. This rarity is then supplemented in many cases by specific history, which can influence the car’s value greatly.

At the low end of the market are the mass-market cars (collectibles). Most of these are currently outside the universe of historic automobiles, although are likely see an uptake as they age (upcoming collectable). In many countries a minimum age of 25 to 30 years is required for a car to qualify as a “classic” for registration purposes.

Typically the mass-market cars are mass-produced cars, numerous in surviving numbers and represent a wide range of marques and models. This makes the mass-market segment economically important in terms of parts sales, service and repair.

The size of the mass-market cars (collectibles) has considerable breadth of marques and models. Many will never become collector cars in the eyes of many, but there are a few things that will influence the future desirability (and value) that you should be looking out for…

1. Production numbers

With road cars typically mass produced to achieve profitability they make up the majority of the collector car market, by volume. At the other end of the spectrum concept cars are often produced in single units making them very rare, and typically expensive.

Collector cars by production numbers

The reason why, for example a Jaguar XKE (“E Type”) is changing hands for a tenth of the price of a comparable Ferrari is determined by the number of cars that have been produced in period. Over 72,000 Jaguar E-Types were produced in all versions. Compare that to a Ferrari 275 GTB of which 735 examples were made in all versions plus 200 GTS models with a convertible top. Although it can be argued that the E Type and the 275 were technically on an equal level the rarity of the Ferrari determines that it exceeds the price of the Jaguar by a factor of more than 10. From that viewpoint it could be argued that the E type constitutes the better value for money proposition in this case. However from a price performance perspective the Ferrari has been the better choice over the long term.

As cars age, the supply of them in the market also decreases. Many upcoming affordable collectable will be scrapped (vs maintained) by owners before price sees a significant up-tick (when they are considered collectible). In-turn this drives up price. Even in the modern market of mass-produced cars where 100k+ of a model can be produced, the speed cars leave the market (are scrapped, etc) can be incredibly quick.

There are lots of resources available online to check the number of registered car models still on the road, How Many Left in the UK for example (note, untaxed cars are not be included).

2. Marque

The collector car market is highly emotional. Many buyers will have favourite marques from childhood creating very high demand for certain popular marques.

The top 20 car marques, a subset of which can be seen in the table below, represent 80% of all collectors’ cars in our database.

Collector cars by marque

Ferrari has the strongest public image and the highest brand recognition of all collector marques. The company has produced a very large number of collectible cars since its foundation in 1948. Many were produced in small numbers during Ferrari’s early years. Only in 1957 did it produce more than 100 cars per year and four-figure volumes were only attained in 1971.

Given the nature of the mass-produced modern car market, newer marques will probably never reach collectible status (in-part due to lower quality of production). That said, cars with certain cult following usually due to eccentric or odd characteristics tend to develop collectible status.

3. Period

As younger collectors come to the market, new periods of retrospect come into appreciation. Individual collector’s tastes change over time and the cars in their collection evolve to more sophisticated (and often more expensive) models which may be from a different period.

Collector cars by period

Collector cars by period

Veteran and pre-war cars are relatively small in number. Also most of the manufacturers have disappeared, which lowers their attractiveness as investments to many younger buyers. That said, the segment remains popular and is actively followed. In Concours activities pre-war cars have an especially large following.

Cars built within certain decades (especially the 50s and 60s) are starting to see significant price growth. This is largely due to the fact cars of these eras were childhood icons to the population that are not reaching 50+ when they are likely to have the most disposable income.

4. History

A car with a particular pedigree - perhaps a race winner, or driven by a famous figure - can have the biggest influence on price. It is not unusual to see cars once owned by racing drivers sell for at least double the typical market price for the model.

Take the most expensive auction collector car sale to date (Sept 2016), the 1962 Ferrari GTO that sold at auction for over $38 million USD – a race-winning, World Championship-winning car.

Clearly this market is very hard to predict. Such cars will exchange hands in private for large sums, often well above $1MM .

Conclusion

The collector car market has considerable depth and breadth. Encompassing more then 100 years of history, it comprises at least 264 different marques.

In fact the largest part of the collector market comprises of cars that sell for well below $10k (typically those considered “upcoming collectables”). Within this group, there are a number of economic and social factors that will impact a cars future desirability (and value) including supply, marque, period and history.

View 70k+ cars that have sold at auction below $10k and start your search for the next must-have collectible.