Data Dive

A Japanese car will sell for $2 million + 4 more predictions for 2022

by John Wiley
23 December 2021 3 min read
Values for Japanese enthusiast cars skyrocketed in 2021. Near the top of the heap was the Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package Photo by Lexus

The past two years have been tough on folks who forecast for a living. Even if we’d predicted that a fast-mutating virus would infect hundreds of millions of people, we’d be hard pressed to foresee the ways it would impact everything from supply chains and government policy to personal spending habits.

Nevertheless, I’m here to stick my neck out once again and predict what 2022 has in store for the classic car market – and for those keeping score at home, I’ve also revisited my 2021 predictions.

Whereas predicting specific events can be a crapshoot, one doesn’t need a crystal ball to see the broader trends. In 2021 we saw explosive growth of online auctions, an ever-expanding definition of what counts as collectible, and the emergence of cryptocurrency as a way to pay for cars. Those trends will continue to act on the market in 2022 and beyond.

1. Sales at online auctions will double (again)

Online auctions have managed to pull off the seemingly impossible combination of both selling more cars and selling them for bigger money. At some point, supply should catch up with demand, at which time prices should level off. That’s what happened to in-person auctions after the boom of 2014–15; more cars were packed into the tents each year until circa 2018/2019, when the quality of consignments slipped and buyers got picky.

That said, we don’t expect that to happen in 2022. To the contrary, we bet the online platforms will continue to offer more cars while also attracting an ever-bigger audience. Based on existing growth trends in volume and price, online auctions should sell over $2 billion worth of vehicles in 2022.

2. SUVs and analog supercars will continue to appreciate, but older American and British cars will tread water

Vintage SUVs led the charge in 2021. We predict they'll grow in value even more in 2022. (Photo by Aaron McKenzie)

More vehicles gained value in the latest release of the Hagerty Price Guide—56.2 percent—than at any point since 2014. Expect appreciation to persist in 2022 but be more narrow in scope. That means higher—maybe much higher—prices paid for analog supercars, vintage trucks, and SUVs, but stagnating values for both production American cars from the 1950s (excluding tri-5 Chevys) and budget British sports cars from the same period.

3. We'll see the return of eight-figure classics

Conspicuously absent in the recent market surge have been the eight-figure classics that appeared at premier auctions quite regularly in the middle of the last decade. Only two cars sold for more than $10 million in 2021. Even before the pandemic, the ultra-rich had become less inclined to bring their most valuable cars to auction and risk an embarrassing no-sale (think: Pebble Beach, 2019). That continued in 2021, with the growth coming mostly from newer, relatively attainable classics. But we suspect the broader appreciation in the market will draw more of these back to live auctions in 2022. That said, most eight-figure transactions will continue to be conducted privately.

4. A Japanese car will sell for more than $2 million

It could be a 007-worthy Toyota 2000GT convertible, or a winning Mazda (or Toyota) Le Mans prototype. Or, a Nissan Skyline R34 GTR NISMO Z-Tune and Lexus LFA Nürburgring might also break this threshold.

More broadly, we expect the momentum in the market for Japanese classics of all prices to continue building. Surely, values for a few of these cars will cool, as that's bound to happen in a fast-expanding, immature market. But longterm demographic trends all but assure that an ever broader swathe of Japanese enthusiast cars from Miatas on up will only increase in value.

5. Project cars will stay shelved

1953 Porsche 356 Coupe Barn Find | Photo: Teddy Pieper - @vconceptsllc

As much as we love a great barn find, the "ran-when-parked" segment of the classic car market has been declining for some time and will, we suspect, continue to do so. There are some generational trends at work; aging Baby Boomers may be less inclined to take on a restoration that will carry into their 80s, and many younger enthusiasts are after vehicles they can use and enjoy with their families. Meantime, the skilled craftspeople who can execute big restorations are themselves aging and leaving the industry faster than they're being replaced, and shops are facing the same labor and parts shortages as everyone else. This slows down projects and drives up costs, but the biggest factor is simple math. It's rather tricky to bring a rough car back to life without winding up financially underwater. As such, cars with minimal needs will continue to be the most sought after.

If that sounds depressing to you, take solace in the fact that my predictions don't always come true.

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  • Dennis Greene says:

    A Japanese car already sold for $2M in 2021. 2021 Lexus LC500, #1 of 100.

  • Richard says:

    I think as more on line buyers are disappointed from dishonest descriptions, the in person auctions will be back in favor.

    • Brian Aust says:

      Oh it’s plenty-easy to be duped in a live auction setting too. Add cocktails and beer and it can become even worse lol.

      And in the online arena, it is often actually easier to request more photos a mind to attain answers where a buyer can determine more about a cars history and authenticity..Not to mention that of the seller.

  • Richard Parrette says:

    I had my 1967 Datsun 1600 Roadster restored. I realized I was upside down but the car never showed a growth in value until now. I’m ready to sell so hopefully I can recoup some value.

  • Gary Oliver says:

    I tend to agree with the project car assessment. I’m in my 60’s and I’d sooner buy a finished car than a long-term project at this point. Affordability becomes a huge factor, though.

  • Michael Schneider says:

    Love the shot of the Baja Bronco! As the owner of one watching this market looking for the right time to sell is part of the fun. While waiting for that “right time” we are committed to driving our Baja often, all of us, so glad we have insurance options that all us to do so. Much better than trying to drive your 401K !

  • Matt Torres says:

    It appears online auction sites have been finally noticed as a haven for not so honest sellers and us more experienced collectors do our homework and if we are attracted to a car we invest and go out and see it, drive it etc! Anyone that buys online without seeing it in person (If!!! You possess the knowledge) in the first place to inspect it? you are a fool!! Do your homework go see the car, drive it the money you invest in an airplane ticket when finding your dream car will repay you by not making it a nightmare!!

  • Rick L. says:

    Everything will hinge on the inflation factor for low to mid markets. High end markets not as impacted by inflation but more so by stock market and real estate trends, so to the discussions on taxing unearned income favored by some on the left. Wait until the tax man figures out all those 1031 tax issues.
    The “barn finds” phenomenon like so many other “trends”, remember rat rods, or faking rust and clear coating, Jolly or Isetta six figure sales have about run the course. I believe that was a more high end market for those that buy based on story status or believed value.
    The younger generation (I am a boomer) are more practical and are the ones now with disposable income and are more discerning in purchases.
    Japanese cars will grow as that is what those as stated wanted as younger folks. Vintage SUV’s are an interesting market as they were really not that great when new, but many are modified with modern amenities to be more “usable”.
    Low mileage, low productions vehicles will continue to be strong again they are higher market and become status symbols for those that run in that crowd.
    But for those of us that DRIVE their cars value is based on smiles and miles per experience. Hey, that is why insure what I have with Hagerty.

  • David Goldfarb says:

    Perhaps Hagerty, through its member’s support could take a more active role in creating classic car repair shops in the vicinity of population centers of enthusiasts. I think we all could afford a 1% surcharge on our premiums to insure we have trained and qualified people to work on our cars. This will not only help us care for our current cars but encourage people to take on project cars. We would be saving history one car at a time.

  • Allen says:

    Restorations are getting more expensive and skilled, experienced craftsmen/women are getting harder to find. Buying at auction on line or in person may find some truly good deals in 2022 for completed projects I think.

  • DT says:

    Prices and auction sales are up!!! Duh, true inflation is running at 12.5%. The market is already flooded and next year the dumping of everything will come about. I’m already hearing about sales that are falling through as there are so many nice vehicles available.

  • Johnny D says:

    You’re always better off buying a car already restored if you can afford it. I’m in a tri-five car club I’ve seen members sell their cars for way less than they have in them. Or they die and the family just wants to get rid of “the old car”.

  • Jim Liberty says:

    One thing is for sure. The best restoration technicians are aging out. I’m 82 and have been restoring 356s for 30+ years and have finished my last 356. Parts are difficult to find, and expensive. Top of the line labor is the same. I find the younger generation does not want to get their hands dirty, let alone do heavy and tiring tasks. I hope I am wrong. ……Jim.

  • Jerry says:

    I think that American classic and muscle cars will suffer from a snowball effect. Boomers are leaving the market through attrition, and the next generation doesnt have the same love for those cars. A big part of the value growth has been fueled by investors, and once prices stagnate or start to fall, investors will dump what they have and look for other investments. That, coupled with the dumping of cars by family members after their Boomer owners have passed on, will only hasten to burst the bubble. The only saving grace may be demand in other countries, that seems to include a much wider range of enthusiasts.

    • John Wiley says:

      We consistently see muscle cars enjoying cross-generational appeal.

      • John Baguley says:

        Regarding the future for classic American muscle cars, I’m not convinced their popularity will fade as we Boomers “age out” (such a polite term….). We have four nice running, nice looking Triumph sports cars spanning ’62 through ’80, and a ’67 Camaro in similar condition – not a show car but still a sweet ride. Our four millennial children appreciate them all but definitely favor the Camaro over the British cousins. It will be interesting to see where the future takes us; I, for one, remain optimistic that enthusiasts will emerge to care for these classics onward. I don’t expect a financial windfall, certainly not, anything close to break even economics would be a win, but these mid-market and below cars are for driving, not for show & dough.

  • Tim Bowles says:

    I have never restored a car before. After 4 years, and over $150,000, I can attest, restoration costs are insane. What started off on my jag xk120, turned into a nightmare of expense. It’s first class, but like the article stated, I doubt there’s many buyers at $150,000. My first and last restoration.

  • Tony Z says:

    Greetings fellow car and truck guys and girls of ALL ages –

    I just want to give a shout out to those of the forgotten generations between 1900 and 1940
    who laid the groundwork for guys like me who are professional car and truck builders and by that I mean 100% of the work myself . They were real innovators especially before and after WW2 .
    I started learning before junior high building ford engines with my dad who was from that era and was 48 when I was hatched and my mother was 39 – certainly like grandparents age – talk about old school LOL . MPC , AMT Revell and so on are what I could afford to build .
    From there I began my quest into aircraft and auto upholstery and in the 80s I got into the collision industry and painted my first car in 1990 with dreams of someday being able to segway into not just a service series of businesses but a product business
    with finished machines ready to go .
    I can say as many of you know when your getting seat time in any craft or sport it isnt always glamorous thank God I was able to persevere and thrive especially in these challenging times !!
    I am a Gen Xer and we seem to be in the thick of things right now and behind us are Y and Z and so on and many of these people need direction . It isnt that they may not like the car game they just havent been exposed to it .
    Starting and continuing my journey with so many people who were younger and older and willing to share their wisdom has been super valuable in helping me to continue to sharpen my skill set .
    We ALL bring something to the table no matter our age perceived or otherwise may be and we are here but a short time and like Jay says caretakers of some cool cars and trucks .
    Let us ALL continue to encourage and help one another as we go forth in this journey and once again I am certainly greatful to ALL of the wonderful people who took the time to help me be at this point of Awareness and in this Realm of existence .
    As for the gentleman who is winding down his Porsche restorations thanks for all your work and I am indeed heading back to air cooled cars myself but boy have they gotten pricey .
    ROCK ON car guys and girls and thanks to Hagerty and their great crew .
    Tony the car and truck guy

  • Richard Lipinski says:

    In my humble opinion, 2022 will be a starting point for older Japanese sports cars. So should an individual desire to own one, buy it asap in 2022.🌲🐎🌲🐌🌲

  • NW Terry says:

    I’m a baby boomer and currently have 6 projects under construction, having completed over 250. Some national show winners and some just nice drivers. I prefer the nice drivers anymore. I do not do customer cars anymore, too much irritation and takes the fun out of it. No, they won’t bring 6, 7, or 8 figures at sale, but they are nice enough and I’ve never had an unhappy buyer come back. The big show winners end up sitting in a shop all covered up and never see any road time. And the point of this hobby is to enjoy the cars going down the road. I invest in what makes me happy. If I can’t make money on it, I’ll drive the money out of it! Online auctions are an insane way to buy a car, unless like someone else on here said, spend the money to go look at it, drive it, and know the car before you bid. You might get lucky, or you might buy a pretty pile of S***!

    • Tommy Kiedis says:

      NW Terry, “If I can’t make money on it, I’ll drive the money out of it.” Appreciate that!

      I have a few vehicles (decent drivers and a couple are on the rise monetarily, which is nice to know), but I treat my investment in them (purchase and mods) as “vacation.” No one goes on vacation expecting to get their money back. It’s the time, enjoyment, and experience that counts. I look at my cars the same way. I’m not throwing caution to the wind, but I am enjoying the ride!

      All of us need to know why we’re in this hobby. For me, a big part is the satisfaction that comes with restoration/modifications. That itself puts fuel back in my tank.

      I found my current project, a 1966 Ford Econoline Van, for sale on the side of the road. It had been without a heartbeat for years. I got it running and ugly as it is, our grandkids love it. We call it the grandhauler! Yesterday one on my grandsons (10 years old) and I worked on it for hours. We’re pulling that tired engine and going to rebuild it. That’s kind of generational investment is its own payoff!

  • Dave Strang says:

    I am in total agreement with David Goldfarb, in getting these shops more available ,and of course , this will help tremendously in keeping this hobby alive. They are needed BAD.
    Personally, I am in the process of doing my last major restoration at 71 years old but -will enjoy driving my other classics till the day I die. Keep them on the road !

  • wdb says:

    I wonder how much the reproduciton market will hurt restorations. For cars such as that Porsche pictured, it almost has to be recreated from scratch anyway. Mechanically, at the end of the day the only real difference is that the one that started out old has a cooler ID number. The reproduction is actually probably superior in mechanical quality.

    I can see a car’s history becoming more and more of its value as these types of trends continue. Steve McQueen’s actual Bullitt Mustang will always be worth more than one made from scratch.

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