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SEMA Update on Classic Cars

Collector Car Status

Recently, SEMA did a study regarding Classic Car ownership. We likely all have our ideas on who owns a classic car but there were some surprises for me. They didn’t just look at who owned classics but what they owned, where they purchased it and what there preferences were regarding originality and modifications.

One big surprise for me was that the study found it is rare for individuals to own more than one classic vehicle at a time. I don’t know about you but most of the real hard core car guys have more than one car. They may not all run but they are collectors. However, I also recognize the expense of multiple cars and the need for car storage buildings adds significantly to the ownership cost.

This large private property has several different garages to store over 200 collector cars!

The report stated 88 percent of classic owners have only one vehicle that meets the definition of classic car. For those who owned only one classic it is a prized possession that is held onto for as long as possible.

Owners like to improve their beloved classic, 30 percent of classic vehicles are in better condition than when they were purchased, 52 percent are in the same condition and only 18 percent are in worse condition.

Ownership for 20 years or longer represents 38 percent of classic vehicles, with 73 percent of the vehicles owned by the same person for at least 5 years. It appears that we hold onto what we like!

Private sale or auction?

Of all classics, 32 percent were obtained from a friend or relative, 27 percent from a dealership, 14 percent from online listings and another 10 percent from a private party. Of those collectors ages 45 or older, 44 percent got their car through a friend or relative, and 51 percent in that group show their vehicles through social media outlets.

Online auctions account for 5 percent of purchases and in-person auctions for 3 percent. All other sources, including salvage yards and swap meets, account for 9 percent of purchases.

As is or restore?

Among owners, 29 percent want their car restored to factory condition, 26 percent desire a resto-mod update with the original appearance but modern mechanicals, 7 percent prefer to go full custom or hot-rod, and 37 percent are happy just to keep their classic in running, driver condition. 

However, it was reported by the shops that work on classic cars that only 20 percent of their business is restoration, while 30 percent involves custom or hot rod builds and 50 percent is meeting the demands of the resto-mod market, which is still growing.

All of this information is very interesting, some surprising and other expected. The one important variable I would like to see provided is these percentages by age of the owner. Who is driving the resto-mod market? Is it the retired collector who now wants the look but not the pain of an old car driving experience, or the younger generation that doesn’t appreciate the experience of driving an old car?

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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