Classic car enthusiasts rolled into Charleston and lined the state Capitol sidewalks on June 13,…
What is the premium for a low-mileage collector car?
You’ve found it. A gently-driven classic with an odometer barely out of elementary school. A car sheltered from the world, naive to its roughness, its indiscriminate tendency to wear down. So how valuable is it, exactly, compared to more seasoned steel?
According to Hagerty valuation specialists, it all depends. First, just how low are the miles? And second, how collectible is the car?
To understand the latter question, we’ll need to separate collectible cars into two groups. The first can be called “Always Collectible,” which includes cars like the 2005–06 Ford GT that were typically put away when new and driven very few miles. The second group can be called “Collectible Now,” which includes cars like the manual-equipped Cadillac CTS-V wagon that were typically used and driven when new. In this latter batch, only a select few appear with ultra-low miles under their belts.
Comparing auction results from these low-mile “like-new” cars with Hagerty Price Guidevalues corresponding to their condition, we can easily tell that a low odometer is worth a lot.
What about if the clock reads fewer than 100 miles? The “Always Collectible” cars in this realm have on average brought over 88 percent more at auction than their Hagerty Price Guide value (as determined by those condition ratings) would suggest. For “Collectible Now” vehicles with fewer than 100 miles, the final price is on average 48 percent greater than the Hagerty Price Guide condition-appropriate value. Oddly enough, an ultra-low-mile “Always Collectible” car commands a higher premium than a “Collectible Now,” even though it seems like a CTS-V wagon with barely any miles would be (relative to their respective markets) harder to come by than a 2005 Ford GT with the same low miles.
There’s more consensus around what the premium is for cars that have between 100 and 1,000 miles. The “Always Collectible” vehicles with between 100 and 1,000 miles sell for on average 67 percent more than their Hagerty Price Guide value, and the premium for “Collectible Now” vehicles sells for 60 percent more. That means that for “Collectible Now” cars like our friend the CTS-V wagon, examples with a low, but not outrageously low miles, actually command a 12 percent greater premium. Exact reasons for why buyers may be warier of such a car with fewer than 100 miles than a car with 100-1,000 miles are not clear. It’s possible, though, that the market perceives a Collectible Now car with so few miles as an accident of fate, while so few miles on an Always Collectible like the Ford GT could be seen as more intentional.
Moving up the odometer to vehicles between 1,000 and 10,000 miles, the low-mile premium seems to switch between the groups. The premium for “Always Collectible” vehicles drops from 88 percent when they have fewer than 100 miles to 24 percent when they have between 1,000 and 10,000 miles. That ’05 Ford GT that’s seen the outside of a garage a little too often pays the price.
The “Collectible Now” vehicles with between 1,000 and 10,000 miles sell for over 48 percent more on average than their Hagerty Price Guide value, which is double the premium for the “Always Collectible” cars in the same mileage range. Compared to an ’05 Ford GT, the CTS-V wagon’s premium (relative to its condition) isn’t shattered by higher mileage within this range.
After the 50,000-mile mark, the premium predictably decreases by quite a bit, and vehicles in the “Always Collectible” group also seem to suffer the most price-wise after 50,000 miles. In general, though, a vehicle in the “Always Collectible” group commands the highest premium if it has next to no miles, while “Collectible Now” vehicles command the highest premium when the odometer reads between 1,000 and 10,000.
Either way, a genuinely low odometer reading can translate to significant value.