Alternative Investing

Classic Car Market on Bumpy Road

Owning a classic car is often a childhood dream and in May this year the highest price ever was reached at an auction for a classic car: 9 million euros ($12.2 million) for a 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa.

But can classic cars really make you money? Throughout the financial crisis the classic car market has seen some price adjustment, particularly in makes and models that saw big gains in the years just prior to the downturn.

But overall, one index that tracks some very rare models shows an increase of nearly 10 percent in the past year. The HAGI Top Index is an overall measure for exceptional historical automobiles and has risen steadily over 30 years.

Classic cars are a great way to put your money into something safe and collectible, Robert Coucher, editor of Octane Magazine, told CNBC.

"Investing in cars has been very successful," Hardy Singh Sohanpal, co-founder of the Historic Auto Group, said when looking at a chart of the HAGI Top Index versus gold.

"It's quite a small market but nevertheless successful," Sohanpal told CNBC, adding the market has long-term potential but "definitely isn't a market for speculators."

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"The issue has been with historic cars that there's always been a lack of transparency on the transaction side and a lack of fundamental data," he said.

Different Asset

This was the reason for creating the HAGI Top Index where they use "real-life transactions" from auction data, data from dealers and data from market specialists.

But cars are different from other asset classes, experts warn.

"Of course, you've got to store it somewhere, you do have to maintain it, and if you're using it, there's obviously going to be a cost associated with that," Max Girardo, MD of RM Auctions Europe, said.

"Having said that, if you look at the price of cars over the past ten years, over the past 20 years, they still do continue to appreciate and the cost to maintain them, if stored properly, is negligible compared to the appreciation that you can get out of the price of the car," Girardo said.


The big barometer for the classic car market is Monterey Week, which is held in August, according to Coucher.

"Monterey Week this year they sold $110 million worth of cars, which is a huge number. Admittedly that was down 14 percent on the previous year," he said.

"Considering the economic climate we're in at the moment, that's a fantastic stable market."

But at this year's Automobiles of London auction, 16 percent of the vehicles failed to sell. However, some models remain popular and even defying estimates, like the 1950 Aston Martin DB2 which sold for £550,000, and a Mercedes CLK Roadster sold for over £600,000.

Investment Tips for the Classic Car Market:

  • Avoid getting ripped off by doing your homework.
  • Get yourself a price guide – which will give you all the international sales.
  • A car's history is one of the most important factors – make sure you get paperwork and photographs showing its heritage.

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