Market analysis

Charting changes in the classic car market

by John Mayhead
5 April 2023 5 min read
Charting changes in the classic car market
Photo: Dean Smith

In a world that has felt a little topsy turvy of late, there is no shortage of external influencing factors buffeting the classic and specialist car market. Like a yacht out in the Atlantic ocean faced with a storm on the horizon, dark clouds and dramatic thunder have been rolling in, but our car hobby, like the best sailors, has steered a path away from trouble and proved itself resilient in the face of stormy conditions.

That much is clear from the latest update to the UK edition of the Hagerty Price Guide. It shows that the world’s most valuable cars continue to become – guess what – more valuable, and that the young drivers of the ‘80s and ‘90s are reliving their youth and snapping up hot hatchbacks.

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Launched in 2012, the Hagerty Price Guide has been tracking the values of cars that range in price, from multi-million pound exotics to humble hatchbacks worth hundreds of pounds, collating the results of auction sales, dealer sales and in some cases private sales, to help build a true picture of the financial value of a car.

The emotional value, of course, is far more difficult to measure. But if Hagerty can at least ensure casual car enthusiasts and committed collectors of the very rarest vehicles alike are armed with as much market knowledge as possible, they will buy with their head as much as their heart, and pay (or sell for) a fair and current market rate. There’s also the matter of avoiding being under-insured when compared with the current market value, should the worst ever happen to your prized car.

Each quarter, the latest valuation data is applied to the cherished cars already in the Hagerty Price Guide, and at the same time new vehicles are added to the ever-growing number tracked by the guide. And we make the results freely available to all those who’d like to immerse themselves in the numbers – through our straightforward online valuation tool. There are now 15,000 makes, models and year of vehicles listed in the guide.

From the wealth of information that comes from tracking those 15,000 data sets, Hagerty has formed seven bespoke indices which chart the performance of types of car. Leading the way is the representative Classic Index, which is a group of 50 cars selected by Hagerty to best reflect the average UK classic car market and includes cars as diverse as the Ford Capri, Datsun 240Z and the Daimler 250 Dart.

Then there’s the perennial favourite, which we call Best of British Index. All those classic British icons, from the Austin Seven and Land Rover Series I through to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, are monitored and their movements in the market are shared with the car enthusiast community. But if the ‘80s or ‘90s are more of your era, then the Hot Hatch Index should get your rev counter buzzing near to the red line. This group includes all the hot hatches you’d expect, from the iconic Volkswagen Golf GTI MkI and Peugeot 205 GTI to the Renault Clio Williams, the latter a former star of the 2022 Hagerty Bull Market List.

There are a couple of brands that enjoy a following unlike others and warrant their own index – Ferrari and Porsche. The Italian marque index tracks everything from the 250 GTO, one of the world’s most valuable cars, right through to the 400i and Mondial. As for the Porsche Index, it includes all the Porsche models Hagerty lists, from the true collector cars such as the Carrera GT and 911 2.7 RS, which turned 50 last year, through to the 944 and Boxster (another one to appear in the 2022 Bull Market List).

Then there’s the Gold Index. Featuring absolute top collector cars, such as the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, Ferrari F40 and the very earliest examples of the Jaguar E-type, it contains cars that have global appeal.

Oh, and before we get stuck into analysing the trends from the latest Hagerty Price Guide update, let’s not forget the final index that gives us a funny, warm feeling every time we revisit it – the Festival of the Unexceptional Index. Hagerty’s famous festival celebrates the everyday cars that have gone on to become engendered classics, and includes once household names from the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier to the Austin Montego.

Each of the Hagerty indices tracks the average values of a group of cars, linked according to type. Values are updated quarterly and published according to four conditions: fair, good, excellent and concours. The average (mean) of these is then entered into the respective index.

The graphs show percentage growth, with 100 per cent being our February 2018 update. Plots after that are the average percentage rise or fall. Here are the key takeaways from the 31st update of the Hagerty UK Price Guide.

Top collector cars flourish in post-Covid world – but so do everyman classics.

A detailed analysis of the last five years of the classic and collector car market by Hagerty has shown that the absolute top cars on the market have outperformed everything else in percentage terms. Seven indices, covering everything from Ferrari to Fiestas, have been tracked using the Hagerty Price Guide which uses data from auctions, dealers and its own insured values, with some surprising results.

The market was dipping before Covid… then picked up

Each of the seven different groups of cars followed a similar pattern at first, dipping in value at the end of 2019 but then almost every type of car peaked in value after the lockdown lifted. The only exception were the lowly Festival of the Unexceptional (FOTU) cars like the Ford Cortina and Austin Metro that actually peaked earlier, during the lockdown.

The top cars did best

Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing values
Photo: Sandon Voelker

Hagerty’s Gold Index cars have risen most in percentage terms, but only took the lead after a really strong performance in 2022 when some of the cars on that list – including such icons as the Ferrari F40 and Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing – soared in value.

Hot hatchbacks were just behind

Hot hatchbacks were the top gainers throughout 2021, and still retain second place. Such cars as the Ford Escort XR3i, the Vauxhall HS Chevette and the MG Maestro Turbo all made big gains.

The Classic Index was in a strong third place

Hagerty’s index of 50 cars that are chosen to represent the enthusiast’s classic car market in the UK performed well, rising 18 per cent on average in the five years. The Classic Index’s post-Covid dip was the least pronounced of all our indices and shows consistent growth. Those are signs of a healthy, thriving market.

Best of British cars had a poor 2022, but bounced back

Jaguar XK120 values

The Best of British Index had a hard time in 2022 because a few key cars on the list reduced in value, such as the Austin-Healey 100, the Sunbeam Tiger and the Jaguar XK120, while the value of other key cars, like the Aston Martin DB5, remained relatively flat. But over the past 12 months, the list was pulled up by a handful of cars that soared in value, including the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth that rose 41 per cent in the last year alone, propelled by this headline-grabbing sale.

Ferrari dipped last year

A whole-marque index containing cars that are very expensive is going to be disproportionately affected by the top cars changing a little in value and also other influences like exchange rates. In 2021, Hagerty added the 348, F355 and California models to the Guide, all lower values in Ferrari terms, then in the last 12 months, we’ve added the F50 and Enzo which brought averages back up again. The ‘up swing’ was also aided by big changes in exchange rates.

Porsche peaked, then dipped

The Porsche Index peaked in late 2021, with big rises pretty much across the board but then dipped. This happened for different reasons to the Ferraris: Hagerty added a huge number of lower-valued models to the guide including 996 and 997 Porsche 911s and some generations of the Boxster. Even so, the average value has climbed back and continues to rise, and Porsche generally remain strong sellers.

Unexceptional classics are slow and unsteady

Leyland Princess festival FOTU
Photo: Charlie Magee

The Festival of the Unexceptional Index of those cars that used to be the workhorses – saloons, hatchbacks and estates that took us to school and work each day – have struggled a little in overall terms, with the index now at about 90 per cent of its value of 2018. That said, every car in the Index rose or remained static in the last year, with some, such as the Vauxhall Viva HB, the Citroën CX S2 and the British Leyland Princess 1800, all rising over 10 per cent in the same period.

Check out the Hagerty Media homepage for daily news, features, interviews and buying guides, or better still, bookmark it. Or sign up for stories straight to your inbox, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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