As the collector car market evolves and different generations age into and out of their time in the hobby, plenty of theories have popped up that attempt to tie certain habits and preferences to age. Sure, they may have anecdotal evidence going for them, or even a strong kernel of truth, but what do the data show? We took a look at a couple of these ideas to find out.
One of the prevailing theories of the classic car market is that enthusiasts chase their “poster cars.” That is to say, enthusiasts primarily want the cars they pined for—and maybe had hanging as posters on their bedroom walls—in their youth.
It’s a reasonable concept, but it’s unsupported by data. Every day, Hagerty fields thousands of calls from enthusiasts looking for a quote on insurance for a collector car. Since we will naturally ask for the age of the car and of the caller, we are able to track who is interested in what. Check out the typical difference between the age of the person and the age of the vehicle on the chart below.
The oldest enthusiasts are looking for vehicles typically 41 years younger than they are, while the youngest enthusiasts are looking for vehicles 24 years older. Let's say it again: enthusiasts aren't looking for the *new* cars of their youth. Remember that the next time you watch American Graffiti.
Collector age and value
Another prevailing theory is that young car collectors are primarily motivated by budget. Though it might seem counterintuitive, this is also untrue. There is no correlation between older buyers and high values, and younger demographics and more affordable cars.
To understand how that's so, it might help to recall the old line about logical fallacies: Just because all cats have four legs doesn't mean that all four-legged animals are cats.
It is true, in the macro sense, that older enthusiasts tend to have more money and spend more of it on collector cars. However, that does not necessarily mean the reverse is true—that more expensive cars always appeal to a higher share of older collectors.
Ferrari and Nissan are two brands that paint this picture well.
Ferrari's many valuable collector vehicles appeal to an array of buyers. For instance, both the 1964-1967 Ferrari 330 GT (2+2) and 2020-Present Ferrari SF90 are $700K+ vehicles with a similar number of quotes. However, only 42% of the people calling us about insurance for the SF90 are older enthusiasts, compared to 65% of those calling about the 330 GT. The SF90 may appeal to appreciation for modern technology and contemporary use habits, whereas the 330 GT 2+2 likely resonates someone who digs a set of Webers and a manual transmission.
Zooming out and looking at all Ferraris, we do see some correlation between a collector's age and a Ferrari's value, but it's a weak one at 0.32 (a perfect correlation would be 1). In other words, just because a Mondial is comparatively affordable doesn't mean that younger buyers are flocking to it for that reason.
For Nissans, the correlation is actually negative, meaning the brand's more expensive vehicles (read: Skyline GT-Rs) are slightly more likely to get interest from younger collectors. Only five percent of our policy quotes for the most valuable model, the 1998–2004 Nissan Skyline R34, come from older enthusiasts.
Zoom out and you'll see that the relationship between vehicle value and age varies greatly across the market:
(Vehicle) age is nothing but a number
In essence, we are not arguing here that the age and value of a vehicle don't matter. The facts that today's thirty-somethings weren't alive during the British Invasion and typically don't have $100k to spend on a classic certainly helps explain why relatively few of them own E-Types.
Rather, we're pointing out that these are just two of many variables. Consider, for instance, scale of production over time: Older Mustangs get a lot more interest than newer ones from young collectors. It'd be easy to conclude that young collectors don't care about newer Mustangs (in fact, it'd make a great headline), but that would miss the fact that older Mustangs were produced in much higher numbers than the newer ones. For a brand like for Ferrari or Aston Martin, it's just the opposite—production numbers have grown greatly over time, so interest as measured by insurance quotes naturally skew toward newer vehicles.
If nothing else, our data can serve as a helpful reminder to treat stereotypes with extreme skepticism. The next time you see a desirable classic roll by, about the only thing you can safely assume of its owner is that they have great taste.