Inside the Bull Market List: The data we use to make our picks
There are few guarantees in life, and that’s especially true in today’s volatile collector car market. That said, the annual Hagerty Bull Market List has eked out a pretty solid record of highlighting vehicles that appear poised for the most significant growth in value over the coming year. It takes a wealth of information, statistics, and more than a few charts to reach our conclusion.
Here’s a peek at how we do it.
We promise we aren’t just drawing from a hat, or picking what we think is cool. Our valuation analysts spend months scouring over a variety of data sources, finding vehicles that stick out among their peers, comparing picks and eliminating the weaker ones. Our industry knowledge does come into play when deciding between some picks, but data is the main driver in every decision.
When the dust settles, the analysts hand off a final list of 10 cars (and sometimes a motorcycle) for the media team to run with.
Before we dive into the specifics of how we arrive at our choices, a quick look at the record is in order. Our Bull Market picks have outperformed the yearly growth of the Hagerty Price Guide by an average of 15 percent, with 24 of our 50 Bull Market picks between 2018 and 2022 gaining more than 50 percent in value since having been selected.
One of our best-performing cars is the 1990–94 Volkswagen Corrado, a member of the 2020 list that has seen a 246 percent value increase to date (from a Hagerty Price Guide #2, or Excellent, condition value of $6500 in September 2019 to $22,500 in October 2022) and a 61.5 percent increase during its Bull Market year alone.
Sure, it might seem easy to say an underappreciated, sub-$10K car could triple in value, but many of our best predictions are vehicles from much higher price brackets. The 1968–76 Ferrari Dino 246 GT (a 2022 pick) and the 1985–91 Ferrari Testarossa (a 2021 pick) saw 71 percent and 60 percent increases in value, respectively, during their Bull Market years.
It’s significantly harder to pick “undervalued” cars above $100K, especially from such a major marque that has never gone ignored in the classic car world. So what crystal ball are we using?
The core principle behind the data that drives our picks is actually very simple. Think back to your middle-school economics class. You might remember that in a free market, price is determined by supply and demand. As demand goes up and supply goes down for a particular good, its price increases.
Most of our picks are heavily influenced by our observation of growing demand—or what we see as an increase in the buyer pool for a vehicle—as supply for most collector vehicles is only getting smaller every year.
At Hagerty, our breadth of data enables us to see the strength of demand from multiple angles, and we can track that at each step in the buying process. The earlier the event is in the process, the earlier of an indicator it is that demand is increasing—and, in turn, that value may be on the rise.
To more clearly illustrate this, we’ll take an exhaustive look at the data behind one of our more successful Bull Market picks from 2018, the 1993–98 Toyota Supra.
Compared to many of our Bull Market rides, the Supra was a late bloomer, only posting a 6.2 percent increase during its Bull Market year (2018) with steady but unremarkable growth for the next few years. But within the last year, the average #2 value for a Mk IV Supra Turbo jumped 50 percent, bringing the total increase to 127 percent since it was included in the Bull Market List.
It looks like we were a couple years early when we picked the Supra, which makes sense, as our main argument for the Supra used one of the earliest indicators we had at the time.
As people get serious about buying a classic car, one of the first things they do is call Hagerty for an insurance quote. If we see a dramatic rise in quote volume, it’s a sign that demand for a vehicle is starting to rise.
We saw that quote requests for the Mk IV Supra were up 250 percent in the 12 months before it became a Bull Market pick, indicating a huge increase in potential buyers. But there were two other early indicators of potential growth that we had not yet incorporated into our Bull Market data when the Supra was picked: searches on Hagerty Valuation Tools and maritime shipping data.
Before enthusiasts hunt for a vehicle they want to buy, they will often head to Hagerty Valuation Tools (HVT) to check the typical vehicle-condition values. If we see a large increase in the number of HVT lookups for a specific vehicle, we can reasonably conclude that there is a growing demand for it.
We demonstrated the correlation between HVT lookups and value increases in a previous article from March 2021. Notice in the chart below that there was a moment in early 2018 where HVT traffic more than doubled. This occurred just a few months before Supra values started to see moderate growth.
In that March 2021 article, we predicted that the 1993–98 Toyota Supra was due for a significant increase because there was a much larger and more recent spike in HVT traffic.
Sure enough, we were right. Less than a year after HVT traffic skyrocketed in early 2021, Supra values increased 50 percent.
Maritime import/export data
Maritime shipping data can give us a view into the attrition rate of classic cars in the U.S. market. As more vehicles are shipped overseas, the local supply diminishes, which can in turn increase values of those that remain.
Aside from decreased stateside supply, an increase in exports leaving the U.S. can be an early indicator of increased demand, as well. If more of a particular vehicle are being shipped overseas, it likely means there is a price differential that is advantageous to foreign buyers who can buy the car in the US at a discount and ship it to their garage.
We detailed this phenomenon in an article from early 2021, in which we found that the value of Mk IV Supras increased substantially a few years after a large quantity left the United States.
When we made the pick in 2018, shipping data wasn’t used in our Bull Market calculations. Now, an increase in exports has been used as justification for the Saab 900’s inclusion in this year’s Bull Market List.
Conversely, if we see imports for foreign versions of cars sold in the U.S., it is usually a sign that the domestic version will increase in value. This logic was used when picking the Land Rover Defender and Suzuki Samurai from the 2022 Bull Market List.
When an interested party eventually buys a car, that vehicle shows up on our insured database with an agreed value attached.
An abnormally high increase in policy count, especially on a car that was previously not considered very collectible aside from a strong cult following (Toyota Pickups, FJ80 Land Cruisers) is sign that fewer and fewer examples are available in non-collector hands and that “deals” are getting hard to find, a situation which will in turn raise values.
In the case of the Supra, we saw policy growth accelerating from 12 percent in 2016 to nearly 30 percent growth in 2017 leading into its Bull Market year. Then, Supra policies increased 40 percent each year in 2019 and 2020, while average policy value growth lagged. This predated a 50 percent value increase.
Demographics: Who is interested in the car?
Who is buying the car is sometimes even more important. Young enthusiasts can provide more fuel for value increases as they age into their collecting years. Supra owners are continuing to get younger. In 2017, only 15 percent of Supra owners were millennials. Just five years later, the same generation owns 37 percent of the Supras that Hagerty insures.
Future collectibility is important if you plan on owning the car for many years. Having an increasingly young collector base will provide buyers in the future.
That’s not to say we only look at next-gen enthusiasts. It’s also nice to see a wide range of interest from collectors of all ages. Several cars have been picked because an equal share of boomers, Gen X, and millennials are interested in them, like the C5 Corvette Z06, Toyota Pickup, and Audi R8 from this year’s list.
Some picks, like the Porsche 968 from the 2022 Bull Market List, rise to the top specifically because they appeal to boomers, who have more disposable income than younger enthusiasts.
Public sales greatly influence vehicle values. We have several hundred thousand auction transactions in our database at our disposal to create a picture of the current climate surrounding a vehicle.
When we were deciding on the 2018 Bull Market picks in late 2017, more Supras began showing up and selling at classic car auctions. Then, the number of Supras offered at auctions more than doubled each year between 2018 and 2019—and continued to rise.
As more Supras were sold at public actions, and especially when they began eclipsing $100,000 more frequently, they became viewed as legitimate collector cars. The next value wave followed when the Supra became as much a speculative investment as an enthusiast vehicle.
Auction sales heavily influence values in the Hagerty Price Guide, which we often use to compare vehicles to one another.
At the time of our 2018 Bull Market pick, we noticed that the Supra Turbo had recently been surpassed by the NSX after years of holding a 10 percent premium over the NSX. The rise in NSX values was justified and this was a hint to us that the market would soon correct, putting the Supra above the NSX again. The market corrected shortly after the 2018 Bull Market List was published, and Supras continued to stay above the NSX.
Then, in September 2021, the NSX supplanted the Supra again. The market responded with a 50 percent increase in Supra values.
All the attributes outlined above are applied to each of our Bull Market picks to test how strong we think that car will be.
Some picks might not shine in all of the indicators. Others might show promise outside of the data with desirable attributes like relative rarity or a manual transmission. Perhaps a vehicle is the last naturally aspirated variant in its model run. Regardless, the data tells us where these cars are in their appreciation cycle.
Some cars are gaining attention but have not yet gained value. Some have lagged behind their contemporaries and are currently at a discount (Lexus LFA, Mercedes McLaren SLR). Some cars are seeing increased interest by next-gen enthusiasts and will continue to have strong demand for years (Harley Knucklehead). At the end of the day, though, there’s strong enough data to back the selection.
There you have it. Each year’s Bull Market List involves a lot of number-crunching and analysis, but you can bet we have plenty of fun while we’re doing it.
Go check out this year’s list and tell us which cars you think we should consider for 2024.
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