Data Dive

Generation Z has already developed an eclectic taste in collector cars

by Adam Wilcox
2 December 2021 5 min read
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Gen–Z represents less than 3 percent of the people calling Hagerty for quotes on insurance—but more than 19 percent of Suzuki Cappuccino shoppers.

As Generation Z matures into adulthood, there have been no shortage of hot takes as to how they will Change Everything, from emojis to the definition of a work week. Don’t be surprised if there are also bold proclamations that these kids—the oldest of whom are now 25—will never get into cars. And don’t believe them. The half of Gen–Z who are now eligible for a driver’s license in the United States are already crazy about cars. These collectors presently account for just shy of 3 percent of Hagerty quotes, which is a a lot when you consider how many people in this period of their life have the resources (and the space) for a collector car.

Plenty of these young people love Mustangs and Camaros. But there also are a few corners of the market where the kids are already striking out on their own. According to data based on people calling Hagerty for quotes on insurance, there are several vehicles for which Gen–Z enthusiasts represent an outsized share of shoppers. Turns out, today’s kids are still crazy about lots of the same stuff you are—but they also dig stuff you don’t.

Go West East, Young Man

More than 1 in 10 enthusiasts calling us about insurance for a Hyundai are 25 or younger. For the rear-drive Hyundai Genesis coupe, that share rises to nearly 1 in 5. (Photo courtesy of Hyundai)

We all know Millennials love Japanese cars, but Gen–Z is on a different level. In fact, Gen–Z is the only generation who call Hagerty for insurance quotes on more Asian cars than European. Gen–Zers are three times more likely to quote a Japanese car compared to their Gen-X parents. On top of that, Gen–Z accounts for 11 percent of all quotes for Korean cars—which bodes well for Hyundai and Kia’s future market share.

Gen-Z especially loves Japanese cars that were never sold new in the United States. Looking at the top 20 vehicle generations ranked by Gen-Z's portion of insurance quotes, 17 are from Japan, 2 are from Korea, and 1 is from Yugoslavia—a country that dissolved five years before the first Gen-Z were born. The fact that nearly 20 percent of insurance quotes for the Yugo come from Gen-Z shows just how committed they are to driving something different.

I think that's what Gen-Z wants more than anything—to be different. Obviously, the ABC Kei cars are in the top 20 and get more than enough attention, but many more mundane JDM cars rank higher than these pint-sized supercars. It seems that today's youngest drivers specifically want cars that are exact mirror images of American versions.

For instance, Gen–Z accounts for only 7.3 percent of quotes for the 1992–2000 Lexus SC300/SC400 but more than 20 percent of quotes for the 1992–2000 Toyota Soarer, which is nearly identical aside from its badges and steering wheel placement. Furthermore, Gen–Z accounts for almost 30 percent of quotes for the 1989–2000 Toyota Celsior, which is simply the JDM version of the Lexus LS400 where their quote share is 8.8 percent.

As expected with any group who covets JDM cars, the Nissan Silvia, Skyline, and Pulsar GTI-R make the list, but those are overshadowed by the Nissan Laurel and Toyota Chaser which, aside from legendary turbo-six powerplants in the RB20DET and 1JZ-GTE, are seemingly mundane JDM sedans. Which leads us into Gen-Z's second favorite characteristic—practicality.

Hip to be square

Volvo is one of Gen–Z's favorite brands. (Photo courtesy Volvo)

Collectors of all ages seem to be shifting toward vehicles they can use more easily—witness the stunning popularity of vintage SUVs and performance cars from the 1990s and 2000s. This trend is sometimes tied to the fact that the largest cohort of collectors, Baby Boomers, are seeking more comfort as they gracefully gray. Yet Gen–Z is taking "practicality" to a whole new level.

Fourteen of Gen–Z's top 20 marques ranked by portion of quotes are from Japan or Korea—countries typically known for reliability and practicality. The highest ranked non-Asian manufacturer? Volvo. The only two American marques to crack the top 20 are Jeep and Tesla.

British manufacturers, likely due to their poor reputation in reliability, don't resonate with our youngest enthusiasts. We wouldn't expect many twentysomethings to call us about E-Types—and they don't—but they show little more interest in more recent and more attainable British cars like the Lotus Elise and Exige. In contrast, Millennials represent 29 percent and 37 percent of the people calling us about those cars.

Gen–Z's practical preferences also reveal themselves in which German cars they seek. Sports cars are out: Less than 2 percent of the people who call us about BMW Z3s and Z4s are from Gen–Z. Sedans are in. With the 2012–2019 BMW 3-Series, 13.8 percent of our callers are young people. We also get plenty of kids calling about the E36 BMW 318Ti—14.5 percent of quotes come from Gen–Z (that car also manages to scratch the "unique" itch).

Porsche, a company which only recently started making four-doors, gets little attention from young enthusiasts. They submit less than 1 percent of quotes for every single 911 generation. The only Porsches that get any love from drivers in their early twenties is the 1977–1988 Porsche 924 at 10 percent and 1982–1991 Porsche 944 at 7.1 percent. With median #3 condition values of only $7,500 and $13,900, these happen to be the two most economical classic Porsches, which leads us to Gen–Z's third "favorite" quality in a classic car—attainability.

Who wants to be a hundredaire?

1976 Ford Mustang II Mach I

It's no secret younger generations are saddled with more economic burden than their parents, which greatly restricts which cars they can buy. In 2021, Gen–Z submitted quotes for cars valued at $19,800 on average, which is less than half the value of their parent's cars (Gen–X) and 40-percent lower than Millennials.

For our hobby to stay alive, younger generations need to be able to overcome the initial investment. By collecting the cars the rest of us have been ignoring, Gen–Z has found a clever way around this.

The Ford Mustang highlights this phenomenon perfectly. Many debate over which generation of Mustang is the best but the Mustang II is never considered a real contender. It also happens to be the least expensive, though. Naturally, it's the Mustang Gen-Z has turned its gaze upon; their portion of insurance quotes for the Mustang II is three-times that of the other Mustang generations.

The Mustang II is an anomaly for Gen-Z, as they represent a sizable share of quotes for very few American classics. Only four other American cars get similar attention, and all are worth between $5000 and $11,500 in good condition and are the least desirable generation in their respective model histories; the 1949-1954 Dodge Meadowbrook, 1971-1977 Mercury Comet, 1972-1976 Mercury Montego, and 1975-1979 Chevrolet Nova. (Note that share of quotes is different than quantity of quotes. Plenty of Gen–Zers call us about more traditional American cars, but because those cars are so popular with the older and larger cohorts of collectors, the young folks barely register.)

The same is true for the Mazda RX-7. While all three generations get a fair amount of attention from Gen–Z, the least desirable 1968–1992 Mazda RX-7 FC, with a median #3 value of only $7600, is the one for which young collectors have the biggest share, at 10.6 percent of quotes. The often completely ignored 2003-2012 Mazda RX-8 is even more reliant on the youngest collectors, which Gen–Z accounting for 11.6 percent of quotes.

This is a great sign for the future of classic cars. As Gen-Z is drawn to collect what past car enthusiasts have ignored, their unique interests will help broaden the definitions of a collector car and make the market more accessible for future generations. So, the next time you're tempted to glaze over a classified for a car you find mundane, show it to your kids. Chances are, they'll love it.

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Comments

  • Hannes Tanzer says:

    No real surprise there as when you are young then more recent cars seem “ vintage “ to Gen Z.
    With limited disposable income naturally the concept of enjoyment will override investment as motivation and buying “ sensible “ cars seems the clever thing to do.
    As for Porsches and the other high end vehicles the attraction must be limited for youngsters who are more driven by sustainability then return on investment. That is probably where the Volvos find their niche and a second lease of life.
    The pleasure of owning and using high end classic cars can be spoilt by their ever increasing values. Understandably these vehicles are driven very infrequently while sending most of their time under dust covers in fully climatized storage facilities.
    Generation Z shows common sense in their classic car purchases while the older folks buy whatever they would have wished to have owned when they were in their prime. There has got to be some advantage in getting older …..

  • Scott McPherson says:

    Gen Z tend to shy away from conspicuous consumption in some areas such as cars and houses. Big, flashy and thirsty don’t work when it comes to transportation. The SUV’s with patina have garnered some favor. They will blast the radio with windows down, vape and make a statement with clothing and take photos of what they eat and selfies. Go figure. I get the Nissan Skyline on the list , and didn’t see the Acura Integra. The glamorous cars of the 50’s and early 60’s don’t have a chance. I will wait for values to further fall and snag something outrageous and thirsty.

  • Dave Johnson says:

    Interesting article. When I graduated from college in 1973 my goal was to get a Mustang II as I had some connections with Ford. Before delivery I found a 1965 Porsche 356 SC for $3,000. in Stockton where I lived. Best decision of my life. Drove it 80,000 miles and traded to Carlsen Porsche in Palo Alto for a 72 MBZ 350SL.They gave me $3,500. for the SC with a blown engine. German cars ever since! My 17 year old granddaughter in Austin just got my 2015 Audi A6 Quattro with low miles. Hope she doesn’t trade it in on a Yugo or MustangII !!!!

  • Jonathan says:

    Ya the Integra could be on the list. I’m Gen Z and I have an Integra. And two Mercedes.. 85 and 92 model years. And a Ford GPW… So I guess not every Gen Z likes boxy Volvos lol.

    • Adam Wilcox says:

      The Integra is almost on the list (Gen-Z quotes 9% of them), but they are dominated by Millennials who submit over 53% of the quotes.

  • Jerry says:

    When the desireable becomes unattainable, the undesirable becomes desireable.

  • Steve Lowen says:

    Young Adults, with preference for an Urban Lifestyle, began to lose interest in automobiles some time ago.
    This will only increase, with the sharply escalating costs of ANY vehicle ownership.

  • Avery Leffler says:

    With the turn of the next manufacturing year, I predict a huge market share going to the Nissan Stagea, they’re practically skyline wagons (though they’re more closely related to the laurel) compounded by the fact that you can get it with the full R33 GT-R powertrain, it’s definitely the next top seller.

    • Adam Wilcox says:

      Based on the few quotes we’ve seen for the Stagea so far, it appears to be a huge hit with Millennials – who provide 75% of quotes. Gen-Z sits at 10%.

  • Michelle Villmer says:

    My daugher is 18 and has her eyes set on a Mustang. Her friends are into the same types of vehicles and practicality mentioned in this piece. This article certainly has a lot of truth in it from what I see with my own eyes.

  • jane don says:

    Not unlike Any generation–everything depends on Money–

  • David Edwards says:

    In terms of Tha Integra, It’s more of a late Gen X car. Similar to the Civic SI and Honda Preludes I would assume, These are Cars that you would more likely see at a RadWood event, The Integra of yester year just comes after the Supra’s from the early 80’s and the 280zx’s. What the list above me is showing is very similar to what a certain movie franchise made popular. Being a Gen X’r My cars are more in line with classic muscle of the late 60’s and early 70’s as wheel as the Japanese Makes 280zx and Porsche 928

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