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Is This a Good Time to Buy (or sell) a Classic Car?

Is This a Good Time to Buy (or sell) a Classic Car?

As many of our readers, there are a number of people on our staff who go to weekend car shows. Invariably, the topic of buying and/or selling classic cars comes up. When I say “classic cars,”  I mean anything older than 1989  Camaros, Mustangs, El Caminos, Impalas, or whatever and in particular, pre-1972 cars.

My neighbor, Vince, just sold his 69 Camaro convertible. It had been restored and upgraded back in 2007 and was well done. The interior was nice, with a period-correct set of houndstooth seats, upgraded brakes, 4-speed manual, Vintage Air system, hidden wires in the engine bay, modern suspension etc.

He paid about $24,000 for the car in 2000. He spent about $35,000 on the work.

Growing tired of just using the car on weekends, he decided that he wanted a more modern performance car – something that could be driven every day. He placed an ad asking what he thought was $15-20,000 over the fair market value.  It sold for the full asking price in two days.

I don’t think anybody reading this would be surprised, prices are inflated so immensely today, it’s definitely a seller’s market.  But here, in the Summer of 2022, with inflation at its highest point in 40 years under an administration spending money like a drunken sailor, the Fed printing it like its prop money for an action film,  and a stock market down more 20%, (and it just suffered the longest losing streak since 1923), ‘Cash is king,’ they say.

Factor in the pandemic, civil unrest, supply chain issues, and general malaise, and many markets are in uncharted territory, but the basics still hold true: they’re not making any new 1969 Camaros. Well, yes, you can buy a new reproduction body and frame for a 1969 Camaro, but you can’t buy a brand new numbers-matching COPO  Camaro with a brand new L72.

Supply and demand – surely, you’ve heard this term, unless you were sick that day when your economics teacher talked about this subject.  The smaller the supply, and the bigger demand equates to higher prices, and this is where we are right now.

So if you want to buy that car you wanted in high school, just know that you’re going to spend a lot more today than you would have 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. I was in high school in the early 1980s. Back then, you could buy a nice 69 Camaro for about $3500. Today, of course, they’re ten times that price (SEE CURRENT LISTINGS). If you’ve got the cash, have at it.

If you’re considering selling that classic car that you don’t drive often, you may want to think twice.  How many times have you heard the story about some guy who sold his classic car for peanuts and then regretted it later?  We’re all in this boat, now, right?

The Truth Is that Sometimes it’s a Good Time to Sell and Sometimes it’s a Good Time to Buy

This is NOT a good time to buy unless you’re flush with cash and you would be wise to look for cars that are being sold by people who are ready to sell their classics in search of greater liquidity.

There are some other considerations. For example, if you’ve been looking for a certain trim level, with certain options and you haven’t seen one for sale in recent years – and then such a car is posted for sale – you really have to jump on it if you can afford to. You won’t lose money on it, even if you have to sell it a few years later.

The Value of a Classic Car Might Vary in Extreme Economic Conditions

This should be obvious. With runaway inflation, prices will go up, but the currency is worth less. In an extreme recession, prices might come down but you have to remember that not all people are affected by a recession. People who have a lot of money, although they may be affected, many still have discretionary income and/or savings.  These are the people who thrive on dips in the market.

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