Data Dive

One year on. Or: How classic car enthusiasts learned to stop worrying and love the quarantine

by Adam Wilcox
6 May 2021 4 min read
Many enthusiasts discovered (or rediscovered) their love for collector cars during the pandemic, and that's had a noticeable effect on prices. Photo by Sabrina Hyde

Last year, the world as we knew it changed forever.

Although it seems much further in the past, the last live auction to take place prior to lockdown was only fourteen months ago. Amelia Island was held in early March 2020 with no masks or social distancing, although many cautious attendees replaced handshakes with elbow bumps. Amelia Island was also the last major event to influence our May 2020 release of the Hagerty Price Guide. This means, as far as the price guide is concerned, the release of the May 2021 edition marks a full year with the classic car market under quarantine.

As we published that price guide, we knew the global disaster unfolding around us would have a notable effect on car values. We might not have predicted that effect would be to make the market stronger. We at Insider were able to spot rises in buyer activity via our insurance data, and it’s been impossible to miss the wild prices on online auction platforms. Yet through most of 2020, the direction of car values overall remained unclear. The latest price guide, which takes into account the above factors along with input from trusted industry sources, confirms that the last twelve months have undoubtedly pushed classic car prices higher.

In fact, according to the Hagerty Price Guide, it was one of the best years on record.

Median condition values increased an average of 10.26 percent during quarantine (from May 2020 to May 2021). This was the largest single year increase since the September 2011 price guide, when the average increase was 12.53 percent, and the third largest increase since the Hagerty Price Guide began.

Values for cars in all conditions increased heavily from May 2020 to May 2021, but poorer condition cars saw a slightly larger value increase. Median value for the best-of-the-best (#1 condition) increased 9.03 percent. Cars in excellent and good condition (#2 and #3) increased 9.95 percent and 9.92 percent, respectively. Cars that could use a restoration (#4 condition) saw the largest gain with a value increase of 12.12 percent in the last year. This suggests that collectors might have been looking for a new quarantine project.

May 2021 had the third largest portion of vehicle generations seeing a yearly increase for all historical May price guides—852 of the 1427 (59.7 percent) vehicle generations we currently track in the price guide increased in value during the pandemic. In fact, it was the largest portion of generations to see a yearly increase for any price guide since January 2012, when 65.6 percent of the then 1259 generations increased in value.

It’s becoming clear that 2020 was one of the best years in the classic car market in recent history,

So who were the big winners?

Affordable classics accounted for the majority of growth. Two-thirds of generations with a median good (#3) condition value less than $25,000 increased in value during the pandemic. Similar story for vehicles in the $25k–$50k price bracket.

Some of the biggest gains during the pandemic also occurred in the affordable classics category. The 1988–1990 Merkur Scorpio, an often forgotten car, more than tripled in value with an average increase of 278 percent, with good (#3) condition values moving from $1700 in May 2020 to $6800 in May 2021. The biggest winner overall was the 1958–1971 Subaru 360, which increased an average of 319 percent. Value for a good (#3) condition Subaru 360 went from $6150 to $28,150.

In line with the Subaru 360, marques from Japan had a great year. The 1999–2000 Honda Civic Si increased an average of 44.9 percent, the 1982–1986 Toyota Supra Mk II increased 41.5 percent, and the 2004–2009 Honda S2000 AP2 increased 25.5 percent during the pandemic. Every single generation of Nissan Z increased in value during quarantine. Yes, 240Z values have long been trending upward, but previously overlooked Z-Cars saw the largest price jumps, with the 1978-1983 Datsun 280ZX increasing an average 85.8 percent, the 1984–1989 Nissan 300ZX increasing 96.4 percent, and the 1990–1996 Nissan 300ZX increasing 38.2 percent.

Classic trucks and SUVs continue to be hot. The 1972–1980 Dodge D/W Series Pickups increased an average of 53.8 percent and the 1970–1995 Range Rover Classic increased an average of 39.1 percent last year. Every single Toyota truck in the price guide increased in value during the pandemic, with Toyota trucks from the 1980s performing exceptionally. The 1981–1990 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60/62 increased an average of 24 percent while the first generation 4Runner (1984-1989) increased 22 percent.

American Trucks weren’t left out of the frenzy. Literally every single Ford Bronco and Ford F-Series saw growth during the pandemic. The biggest gainers of the two groups were the 1980–1986 Ford Bronco at 48.3% and 1980–1986 Ford F-Series at 56.8 percent. Even the smallest increases were above the average value change for the whole price guide, with the 1978–1979 Ford Bronco at 9.3 percent and the 1961–1966 Ford F-Series at 12.2 percent.

Not all collectible cars got the pandemic bump. Modern supercars, for instance, had a rough year. The 2017–Present Ford GT dropped an average of -25.9 percent across all condition values—one of the largest drops of the year. Most modern Ferraris stumbled as well, with the exception of the 2004–2009 Ferrari F430–the last Ferrari regularly offered with a gated manual transmission. The biggest losers of the group were the front-engine V-12 models. The 2011–2016 Ferrari FF, dropped an average of -12.7 percent. The 2007–2011 Ferrari 599 was down -10.7 percent. Although we are seeing the naturally-aspirated 458 surpass the turbocharged 488, the -9.3 percent drop in value last year suggests the 458 is still in the depreciation curve.

Meanwhile, analog Ferraris from the 1990s had a great year. The 1985–1996 Ferrari Testarossa/512, a 2021 Bull Market pick, increased an average of 61.6 percent. Proving we aren’t always right, the 1999–2005 Ferrari 360, a Bull Market pick in 2020, stands out from the group as the only car showing a loss during the pandemic.

To be clear, we don’t necessarily cheer on higher prices, which can lock enthusiasts—younger ones in particular—out of the hobby. Yet when we look back to where we were last May, worrying that the pandemic would, in addition to everything else, wipe out the classic car market, we have to say we’re relieved to see that the opposite has happened. It seems that as people were forced to cancel vacations and focus on their home-based hobbies, they discovered—or rediscovered—their love of classic cars.

Comments

  • Ken Sousa says:

    As the owner of a ’95 Bronco XLT I was gratified to see the growth in the value of my truck during the pandemic. I bought mine three and a half years ago for $5,000. It had 164K miles on the clock and looked like it had just rolled out of the showroom in its Tobago Green finish trimmed in white. The truck turns more heads and draws more comments than either my ’69 Meadowlark Yellow Mustang convertible, a multiple show winner, or my ’09 Victory Red Corvette.

  • David says:

    Anyone have any insights to the restomod market? I have a unique Mustang I am considering selling this year.

  • Pedro Freyre says:

    I recently bought a 2007 Aston Martin db9, black on black, 22k miles, #2 condition. Very clean with just a few minor issue ie fuel cap release had to changed and the nav screen would not open reliably. Strong engine, good brakes, no error codes. What is your value expectation on this car? There aren’t that many great looking V12’s available at reasonable prices and the Db9, while not perfect is a looker.

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