Eager for Their Inheritance: Gen Xers and millennials are ready to carry the collectible-car torch.

AuthorGuilfoyle, Mike

We are surrounded by stuff that will outlast us. The house and the furniture will go to someone else when you're gone, and because common ceramics are the man-made thing lasting the longest, that coffee mug that says "Grumpy Old Fart" will still be around in thousands of years. Chances are your vintage vehicle has already outlived at least one or two owners, and if those former caretakers of your slick machine could see the snot-nosed kid that has the keys now, do you think they would approve?

Already blamed for the death of everything from neckties to napkins, millennials are often pegged as the generation that will bring doom to the collectible-car market--at least according to commonly overheard jeremiads at car shows and auctions that prophesy the imminent collapse of everything good. Baby boomers, the theory goes, still make up the vast majority of classic-car buyers, collectors, and drivers. As boomers exit the hobby one way or another, members of the subsequent generations X and especially Y, the so-called millennial generation born in the 1980s and '90s, lack the enthusiasm to maintain any sort of demand for old cars and their antiquated, non-computerized technology. Prices will collapse for almost every boomer-iconic vehicle from before the 1980s, which will in turn drag down the entire market.

Although everyone knows, just knows, that today's kids don't care about old cars, data collected by Hagerty, which fields between 2000 and 2500 calls a day from the public, tells a significantly more upbeat story. It's true that baby boomers account for the plurality of demand in the collectible-car market--about 42 percent according to Hagerty data. But as of the fourth quarter of 2017, the most recent data available, Generation X and the millennials have matched the boomers and their elders, the so-called greatest generation, in terms of demand.

And whereas the average buyer is still a boomer (barely--right now, the tail end of that generation is in their early 50s), the result of the growth in the overall market and among younger generations in particular means there are as many collectors in their early 40s today as there were collectors in their early 50s eight years ago, and as many early-30s collectors now as there were early-40s collectors then. Younger generations are absolutely entering the collectible-car market to replace those who are exiting, and the continuing extreme popularity of the hobby among boomers should not be...

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