State of the Union: The guard is changing … and flourishing
Each January, somewhere in the president’s address to Congress, you will hear the words, “The State of the Union is strong.” If I assessed the collector car market, I would be even bolder and say, “My friends, our beloved pastime is not just strong—it is, in fact, flourishing.”
Mine is certainly not an unbiased assessment, so I would enter into evidence the website you are currently reading. Last month, Hagerty Media announced the sixth annual Hagerty Bull Market List, highlighting vehicles from six different decades, including everything from bolts of lightning (2003 Corvette Z06) and beasts (2002 Hummer H1 and 1969 AMC AMX) to a curiously named motorcycle (the 1938 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead).
This year’s Bull Market List truly is a microcosm of today’s collectible market, which is seeing buyers who are younger and more diverse than ever before. The SUV and pickup on the list, for instance, are favored by millennials and Gen Xers, as are the Japanese makes. Those generations, incidentally, have sought more quotes from Hagerty than boomers four years running. The guard is both changing and growing.
From time to time, I hear the old saw about how people aren’t as interested in cars as they were in the past. Nonsense. According to a Hagerty poll last year, about 69 million Americans self-describe as car enthusiasts, which I take to mean people who get that tickle of excitement just thinking about their next car, their next drive, or their next afternoon under the hood. On average, each of those enthusiasts spends more than $10,000 annually on the hobby. A chunk of that, I would wager, is spent at online auctions, including Hagerty’s brand-new Marketplace. (Our goal: Be the most trusted platform for browsing, buying, selling, and financing cool older vehicles.)
Why did we get into digital auctions? Because modern humans are shopping animals, and online auctions are becoming the preferred way to buy. How big is the potential market? Of the 2.5 million vehicles that Hagerty protects, about 300,000—worth an estimated $12 billion—traded hands within the past year. And those are merely the ones on our books. Globally, the value of insured collector vehicles measures into the trillions.
That doesn’t sound like disinterest to me. In fact, it sounds like flourishing.
But raw numbers and car values aren’t why I’m so optimistic about the state of our beloved pastime. What has me jazzed is that owners today, especially younger ones, aren’t so much interested in amassing large collections of investment cars that sit unused in garages or storage facilities. They’re using them—whether that means doing laps at the local racetrack, or organizing a road rally with friends, or attending GridLife or one of the other weekend car-centric festivals that millennials are flocking to. Individualized experiences are where it’s at for today’s collector. And I love it. Cars are meant to be driven and enjoyed for what they are—vehicles to the best things in life. It doesn’t matter what car or era you favor. Hagerty Media ran a story recently about a guy who collects Ford Escorts. I’ve personally witnessed a gaggle of Pontiac Azteks tooling the picturesque peninsula near my home, their drivers happy as larks.
There’s no right, wrong, or better in today’s automotive pastime. Buy what you like. Drive what you want. Go have fun. That’s all there is to it.
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