Classic car heroes from the 1970s are riding the crest of a popularity wave, as new reports reveal the decade has seen the largest rise in classic car values in the past four years.
Some 1970s classics have witnessed a 65% increase in values between the first half of 2019 and the same period in 2023, according to research by Footman James partner The Classic Valuer. During the same period, values of classic cars from the 1960s also rose by 51% to make these two decades the best performers for climbing prices.
Cars from the 1950s also showed strong growth as values rose by 29%, with the 1980s following close behind with an increase of 25% and the 1940s on 21%. Contrary to popular belief, cars from the 1990s and 2000s have not seen the large uptick in average values commonly thought to be gripping the market. However, both decades have enjoyed steady growth, with the value of classic cars from the 1990s going up by 17% over the same four-year period. In that time, values of cars now considered classics from the 2000s have increased by 10%.
This is good news for owners of post-war classic cars, but there is less encouraging news for anyone who owns a classic from the 1920s or 1930s. The former of these two decades has seen classic car values slip by 10%, while cars from the 1930s have also decreased by 9%.
The Classic Valuer describes these patterns in values separated by decade as forming a wave, which begins with the negative shift in pre-war cars that then swells to a peak with classics from the 1970s before it dips back down towards those cars from the 2000s.
Giles Gunning, CEO of The Classic Valuer, says: “The Wave graph represents the demographic shifts occurring in the market. There's a clear shift over the past 10 years of running this graph that the biggest price rises are gradually moving to the right and later decades with the more modern cars. In other words, the next cars to rise significantly in value are those from the 80s and 90s. There are plenty of exceptions to these principals so don't be blinkered.”
Giles is quick to point out that classic car enthusiasts should always buy the car they love rather than trying to guess which one will be the next to shoot up in value. He says: “Too many people purchase cars because they think they're going to make money on them. The reality is unless you're playing at the top end of the market, the costs of maintaining, storing and running these vehicles rarely makes the numbers stack up to a profit even for the best performing of cars.
“When vehicle values start to top over £250,000, it's much easier to do this for financial reasons. The servicing labour rates are higher, parts more expensive, but your upside is potentially great enough to offset those higher costs. Buy with your heart and a drop of data. Don't buy a car you don't like because you want to make a buck unless you have very deep pockets.”
However, there are other trends that The Classic Valuer has identified that can help enthusiasts narrow down their choice of make and model to help offset the cost of buying and running the car. Right now, in the global classic car market that is assessed by the research carried out by The Classic Valuer, it’s clear that Japanese and American models are in demand, while those more traditional makes and models from European manufacturers are struggling to find buyers or achieve the best prices so readily.
Giles says: “The vehicles that are performing most strongly at present are those from America and Japan. The average vehicle price of cars from marques based in those countries are both up by around 20% over the last 12-month period. Cars from the UK and Europe are struggling with negative price movements in the current market climate.
"If you can buy a car you love from the 1980s or 1990s, that's Japanese or American you're on a good foundation to see price rises into the future. However, we try to avoid picking future cars to invest in from a risk perspective. Instead, we’ve have highlighted three trends we can see through the billions of sales we see to help your readers be directed towards the car for them. These trends are to pick you decade wisely, Japanese classics are on the rise, and always buy with your heart.”
As well as the gentle movement in the demographic of classic car buyers and owners, another influence on which cars are being bought and used are increased number of events open to classic car drivers. As well as the established shows and race meetings such as the Goodwood Revival, there are many relaxed and family-friendly meetings such as the Footman James Coffee and Chrome gatherings at venues such as Prescott Hillclimb and the Impney Estate. These events bring together a huge variety of owners of different classics at places across the country. There are also other events such as the Scramblers meetings at Bicester Heritage supported by Footman James that combine this classic car business hub with an easy-going atmosphere.
Giles Gunning sums up: “Buyers tend to favour cars they idolised growing up, the cars they had on their bedroom wall or saw in films. It is often misunderstood that there is some radical shift of buyers going on. It’s not. It’s a gradual progression where the buyer demographic is becoming younger over time. We’ve seen it for years and will continue to. Regardless of price fluctuations or speculators in the market, the most important thing is to buy a car you love and consider the future value as secondary.”
Do you buy a classic with your heart or your head? Let us know in the comments!
The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.