Owning and Enjoying Collector Cars: Making Sense Of Mobile Investments

Collector cars are seen as investment grade materials by many people, but should that keep you from driving them? We tackle the tough questions and hope you'll sit shotgun in this (sometimes heated) discussion.


Daniel Curtis

7/10/20244 min read

Collector cars evoke many emotions, personal stories and (often unsolicited) stalwart opinions. Although many people would not claim the title "expert" in their chosen make and model vehicle, we often talk with the authority that our opinions should be heeded as wise words by all. I preface our topic today with these thoughts because I think it's important to remember that in my chosen profession, my very core function is to provide "an unbiased and informed opinion". So as we tread into this discussion, please remember that this is my perspective, my opinion, and not in any way a rule of thumb or universal gold standard.

Enthusiast and collector cars, as most of us understand them, aren't at the level of a true investment grade vehicle. The vehicles that hold the title of investment grade are generally far out of reach from the general public and won't be found lurking in a garage in your neighborhood (unless Jay Leno is your neighbor). A more recent example of this in my job is a client's (?year) Ferrari Testarossa. To be clear, a Testarossa isn't a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO, but they have been gaining significant value in the last 5 years. In 2020 the high watermark was $231,000, but that value shifted significantly in 2024 to $348,750. Even if we rewound the clock to 2010, most of us wouldn't have the capital to make the sizable investment that would land a 1990s supercar that, as of recently, would be gaining the traction to become investment-grade worthy. On a broader scale for the average reader, we all felt the effects of the COVID-era vehicle inflation. This was a time marked by production issues and the eventual seizing of new car production entirely, forcing every car buyer into a massively inflated used car market. During that weird and wild time, we all experienced an increase in value to a car we already owned--but we wouldn't treat that as an investment, right? These are cars that we need to use--that we have to use--for our day-to-day activities. So where exactly does the line for investment-grade vehicles start? Is it more than a leap in value? I would argue it is. And at what point do I stop driving it and instead watch the value mature into a spectacular dividend-earning stock?

I think the answer is, as it is with most of life's questions, it depends. It depends on your intentions for the vehicle as well as your expectations for it. No one buys a clapped-out old race car intending to earn millions of dollars with it; they generally intend to use these cars. But that's a low-hanging fruit. What about the semi-expensive collector that's gone bananas in the last few years? Take the 2005 Ford GT. A car built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ford and remind the world of a time when Ford ruled the racetracks. Its purpose was undoubtably special. The car it resembled and the legacy it carried made it even more special, but brand new it cost $149,995. Though a hefty sum then, it was a steal when compared to its competition that it outpaced massively. One example that comes to mind is the 2005 Ferrari F430 with a MSRP of $163,845. The 2005 F430 in average condition, according to Hagerty valuation tools, is worth a mere $116,000 now, a losing investment especially when considering the diminishing value of the dollar and ever rising inflation. Those factors alone make that net loss greater than the immediately observed $47,845. Comparatively, the 2005 Ford GT skyrocketed from its $150,000 price tag to $353,000, bringing more than double its initial cost at face value. Some would consider it bullish to have bought the Ford when Ferraris historically have a way of appreciating with enough time, but all the factors were working in the Ford's favor. Ford announced a new generation of the GT in 2017, rekindling a fire for the old iteration. When it was announced that they would be returning to Le Mans with the GT, racing enthusiasts knew that limitations would be imposed on the production car to qualify the GT class racing variants. To be competitive, Ford would utilized their twin turbo V6 paired to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission (a far cry from the 2005 GT's supercharged 5.4 liter V8 and six-speed manual transmission). The 2005 Ford GT gained even more attention with the 2019 movie release of Ford v Ferrari which focused on the 1960s era Ford Total Performance campaign at Le Mans. All this attention placed the 2005-2006 Ford GT in league with automotive royalty and what some would call the last of the analog supercars. But this still begs the question, when is a car investment grade caliber and should I still use it when it is? Is the secret to an appreciating classic all about timing, or just driving what you enjoy and blissfully hoping for the best? I'd wager if you drive what you enjoy, and I do mean drive it (rain or shine), you'll enjoy the car for what it was built to do--chiefly, bring a smile to your face--and if it appreciates that's great. We can only hope for Ford GT levels of appreciation for our vehicles. But if you see someone smiling the biggest of grins behind the wheel of a mid-2000s F430 don't pity them. They are most likely happier than all of us since they just bought a Ferrari.

Time can only tell what the real investment grade cars are, traditionally they are historic cars that bring millions of dollars at auction houses. If you ever ask me what the best investment cars are I'll always tell you its the ones you can afford. Keep driving and don't forget, the four wheels in your garage are made for turning. So, find a road you enjoy and keep them rolling. If you ever feel shy to take your investment on the road, remember across the pond are folks who race real GT40s, Ferraris, Shelby Cobras, and Aston Martins every chance they get. If that doesn't liven your spirits to use the car in your garage then call Jay Leno, he can help you with that.