The Bull Market List: How we pick ’em
We have a lot of fun putting together our annual Bull Market List, but we have even more hours put into researching our selections. Our picks appear here not because we think or feel they will appreciate; they make the cut because our data analysis tells us they will.
That’s a bold statement, especially since you might not know who “we” are. I’m referring not to the Media site’s editors (talented though they may be!—Ed) but to a team of 15 data analysts who spend all day, every day examining the collector car market for Hagerty. We personally inspect thousands of cars each year, and we look at more than a million transactions—cars that sell at auction but also a much larger pool of sales that happen privately. Private sale prices aren’t made public (unlike, say, real estate) but often get reported to us when the buyer calls Hagerty for insurance.
We do all this in order to understand what cars are worth and what impacts those values. We publish our findings four times a year in the form of the Hagerty Price Guide, which covers more than 40,000 individual cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles from the prewar era to modern collectibles.
Bull Market represents the handful of cars in that guide most likely to appreciate. We study recent sales prices, of course, but don’t rely on them exclusively—the point of this exercise is to peer ahead, not tell you what happened in the past. So, we’re most interested in data that indicate growing demand, like a big uptick in people calling us for insurance on a particular model and/or a spike in the number of people looking up car values on our website. We look at who is doing the buying, as well. In particular, although baby boomers and older collectors still spend a lot of money on collector cars, it’s the interests of younger collectors that matter most when we’re trying to predict how much cars will be worth years and decades down the road. So, strong interest from Gen Xers, millennials, and even Gen Zers is key for Bull Market picks.
Through the years, we’ve added more data to the mix. We recently began reviewing import and export data, checking how many of a given vehicle are leaving the country (a signal that they are valued higher elsewhere and that supply is shrinking), or how many are coming into the U.S. (showing there are more buyers than there is available inventory). We’ve also begun layering in an analysis of value trends relative to competitive offerings to highlight cars that appear underpriced next to their peers or look similar to cars that have experienced a surge.
OK, so we like our data. But we love cars, too. After coming up with a shortlist, the analysts hone a final selection with Hagerty Media editors. Some cars get pulled because they’re too rare or impractical to own; others because no one in the room can imagine wanting one. This is usually the part where voices get raised—on at least one occasion, someone involved has threatened to quit if a particular car made the final cut.
Our track record is pretty good. For the 61 previous selections, the average annualized return as measured by values published in the Hagerty Price Guide is 13.7 percent, and the median annualized return is 12.5 percent. Those numbers beat overall price guide returns by 10.1 percent and 9.4 percent. Translation: Bull Market picks consistently outperform the market.
Key takeaways from seven years of doing this: First, no matter which direction the market is headed, there are always cars that move ahead. Another lesson is that these opportunities exist across decades, price bands, and genres. The Bull Market List inherently skews toward younger cars that are transitioning from used to collector status, but we have featured selections from every decade going back to the 1930s, and prices ranging from mid-teens to seven figures.
At the end of the day, Bull Market or not, the best advice is to buy what you love. If it happens to be featured in our 2024 vintage, congratulations, you should lace up your spending shoes now and get prepared to act. If not, no problem, there are millions of other cars out there that will still thrill you. Either way, this list is designed to help people make smarter, more informed buying decisions to help them drive and enjoy the cars they love. Because if you aren’t enjoying them, you’re missing out on the biggest dividend of all, which is an emotional one.