The collector car market got larger and younger in 2021

by John Wiley
30 December 2021 2 min read
Photo by Aaron McKenzie

The top line story of 2021 for the collector car market has no doubt been rising values. Supply chain woes and signs of inflation, combined with strong demand, had the effect of pouring gasoline onto what had been a slow burn of the enthusiast vehicle market.  

Yet this story, while important, is also transitory. Prices rise, prices fall. Even the disruptions caused by the pandemic will recede some day (although we can’t begin to guess what day that’ll be). Taking the long view, the key trends for 2021 are who bought collector cars, and how they bought them.

More classic cars selling in more places

Let’s start with the latter point. No surprise, online auctions continued to grow. In 2021, more vehicles sold on dedicated enthusiast vehicle platforms than they did at live auctions for the first time. However, live auction also grew considerably (mostly thanks to Monterey Car Week), posting their highest sales since 2018.

Most important, the private market also posted big growth. We say most important because the private market (which we're able to observe thanks mostly to anonymized data from our insurance business) remains the place where nearly 90 percent of transactions actually happen.

Car collectors are getting younger

So, the collector car market grew in 2021. Will it keep growing, long term? We think so, largely because of who is driving the growth. Specifically, we continue to see more and more enthusiasts born after 1964 joining the fray. Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers now constitute the majority of people calling Hagerty for quotes on collector car insurance, and that majority continues to grow stronger. Much of this shift is explained by enthusiasts in their 40s and 50s entering their peak earning years, but even twentysomethings are making their presence felt.

Defining the market by generation has its limitations—namely that we tend to fixate on the areas where collectors' tastes differ when the vast majority of them like the same stuff (ie: muscle cars). Still, it doesn't surprise us that the hottest segments of the market happen to be the newer classics that these younger collectors tend to love.

Note that the entrance of younger collectors doesn't require the exodus of older ones. Baby boomers remain highly active in the market and continue to dominate its upper echelons. For the foreseeable future, that means more enthusiasts will be chasing a widening subset of cars they consider collectible. That, more than any record sale or change in the economic winds, makes us optimistic about the state of the collector car market in 2022 and well beyond.


  • Dr. Gerald Perschbacher says:

    Interesting analysis. I can add that, as logic dictates, when years progress so does the available range of collector cars. Also advancing is the rise of interest in more recent cars (1980s on up) since more entry-level (and younger) car collectors relate to said cars that were widely seen on streets when those collectors were young (hence, collecting advances with memories of youth). Still, a good many “golden age” cars (pre-WWII) and postwar cars (mainly 1946-1960s) attract buyers who, when they were young, wished they could have owned one of those…and now bolt for the chance. In some respects, the desire to own a collector car re-adapts to succeeding generations. Some dips and rises in values may occur, but the market still seems generally predictable. Rare cars, sporty cars, unique designs, and milestone models are likely to dominate.

  • Will Pena says:

    I am approaching my 50th birthday and I have been collecting cars for more than 20 years. I have to say that I am glad that I purchased my “forever cars”, cars that I dreamed of having and planned to keep for the majority of my life, when their prices were reasonable. I purchased a numbers matching 84,000 original mile ‘69 Dodge Charger SE 383HP in 2006 for $20,000. In 2009 I purchased a 1 owner, ‘85 GMC Sierra 3500 60k mile original that became a Fall Guy tribute for $5,500.00. In 2010 I purchased a 1974 Starsky &Hutch Gran Torino for $10,500. In 2013, a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am SE Bandit Edition #’s matching with full documentation for $25,000. In 2020, a 1 owner 33k mile survivor ‘72 Buick Lesabre convertible and finally in 2021 a 1 owner 13k mile survivor 1987 Oldsmobile 442. I had my fair share of Trans Ams, Mustangs, Monte Carlo SS and Corvettes that I bought, enjoyed and sold for a profit. Now, at my age most people would be buying their first collector car. All I can say, I am so happy I was able to buy all these cars, enjoy them, sell them and keep the “forever cars” 10, 15, 20 years ago because if I waited to do it now, I would not be able to afford to buy and keep 3 let alone the 10 collectible cars I currently own in this current market. I owe this a lot to my dad. He always told me, “Enjoy your life and do what you love now because tomorrow is not a guaranteed. He did not like when people use to say, “When I retire I’m going to do……” He always lived and enjoyed life in the present. He and my mom traveled to 24 different countries throughout my youth. Traveling was his passion. They retired in 2000. They traveled to Argentina and arrived home the Sunday before 9/11/2001. That was the last time they traveled. That showed me that what he always said was so true. If he would of waited until he retired to travel, he would of never saw those other 23 countries. Now, I can enjoy my “forever cars” with my family and hand them down to my daughter one day. Man, I’m glad I listened to my dad! Thanks Pop!!!!

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