Millennials having surprising impact on collector car hobby

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Back off, Boomers. Ease up, Xers. It’s time to quit criticizing the Millennials and their supposed disinterest in the collector car hobby.

No only are Millennials “the fastest-growing demographic of car collectors,” according to Hagerty, but as John Wiley, senior data analyst for Hagerty Valuation Services, points out, “the oldest ones are around 40 years of age. They’re adults now. They have driver’s licenses and jobs.”

In other words, Millennials have come of age and they are buying and selling collector vehicles.

That really shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s the natural evolution as new generations enter the hobby. However, what might indeed come as a surprise is what Millennials are collecting.

“Five years ago, not very many were interested in collector cars,” Wiley says of the generation ranging in age from the mid-20s to their very late 30s, “but now they have spending money.”

So, what are they buying?

“People have a hard time believing this, but what we see with our policy core data, they really like cars and trucks from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s,” Wiley said in an interview with the ClassicCars.com Journal. “This is where 70 percent of their quotes (requests for insurance) fall, which is what a lot of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers like, too — pony cars, muscle cars, vintage trucks and SUVs.”

Wiley adds that there’s an assumption that what Millennials want are vintage imports or brand-new sporty cars, “and there certainly are pockets of interest,” he says, “but that’s still a pretty small number.”

Yes, he says, Millennials are more interested that other age-related demographic groups in Japanese Domestic Market cars but, he adds, its primarily because they are the more exotic versions of the cars Millennials could afford back when they were in high school or had just graduated, or they were the cars they were driving while playing video games.

But when it comes to collecting, it turns out Millennials are going collector-car marketplace mainstream.

“There is a lot of interest in pony cars and muscle cars,” he said, adding that Millennials do seem to have more appreciation for such cars from the late ‘70s than do earlier generations.

He also notes that the Millennials’ experience has been that when they were younger, “there weren’t as many nice ones around. After the gas crisis, they were used up and disappeared. But by the 1990s they had been restored or were starting to be restored and they came back into people’s awareness.”

Thus, if you were in high school, say in 2001, among the cars with appeal were a new BMW M3, perhaps a C5 Corvette, and vintage Mustangs and Camaros.

Hagerty says the SN-95 generation of the Ford Mustang, such as this 1997 SVT Cobra, are most popular cars of the 1990s with collectors

Hagerty says the SN-95 generation of the Ford Mustang, such as this 1997 SVT Cobra, are most popular cars of the 1990s with collectors

While Baby Boomers still comprise 55 percent of collectible car owners, according to Hagerty statistics, those figures indicate the number of Millennials in the hobby has increased 76 percent in the past 5 years.

The 1965-66 Ford Mustang ranks as the most popular collector car in terms of numbers, Hagerty statistics indicate. Looking at those stats, here are the most popular cars with collectors by decade of manufacture:

1950s — Tri-5 Chevrolets

1960s — Ford Mustang

1970s — C3 Chevrolet Corvette

1980s — C4 Chevrolet Corvette

1990s — Ford Mustang (SN-95 generation)

2000s — C5 Chevrolet Corvette

2010s — Dodge Challenger

Wiley also said that while the new and used car markets have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, collector car values have not suffered negative impact.

“Volume (of sales) fell in total dollars transacted,” he said, “but (vehicle) values haven’t changed much.”

He noted that while live collector car auctions are just starting to return, and are posting strong results, in part to pent-up demand, online auctions have shown significant sales through the pandemic period, including those conducted by such established auction houses as RM Sotheby’s and Barrett-Jackson.

He notes as well as that with online bidding, consignors don’t have to ship their vehicles to an auction venue, and auction companies don’t have to pay for huge tents or other facilities to conduct the sales.

“It has to be a lot less expensive to sell cars online,” he said.

On the other hand, he added, some live auctions have become “events” in their own right, with revenue-generating attractions beyond the buying and selling of cars.

And, he adds, while much is made of auctions, live or online, only 5 percent of collector car sales are done at auction. “Ninety-five percent sold are sold privately.”

This article, written by Larry Edsall, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.

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