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The Future of the Car Hobby

The Future of the Car Hobby

A key motivation for creating Vehicle Nanny was my concern that the collector car hobby was going to die with the Baby Boomer generation.  I go to a lot of car shows and cruise-ins during the summer and notice that most of the cars are driven by guys in their late 60s. These “Vietnam Vets” as my good friend, Sigi, called them would sit there by their Chevelles, Mustangs and GTOs and scoff at anyone in their 20s who showed up in anything newer than a late 70s sports car. 

That bothered me, so I vowed I would find a way to encourage (or “nurture”) the car hobby with anyone who would listen to me.

I insure my classics with Hagerty Insurance, one of the largest insurers of classic/collectible vehicles in the U.S.  In addition to offering great rates on agreed value insurance, they do a lot to support the hobby and provide really good information about collector car values and buyer trends. 

Are the kids alright?

Based on the research conducted by Hagerty, things are looking up for the continuation of the collector car hobby.  In their November/December 2019 issue of “Hagerty” magazine, they profiled five people age 15-26 and the story behind their purchases. In the article “The Kids are Alright,” Hagerty claims the millennial generation is the fastest-growing group of potential customers calling for quotes.  That is an encouraging sign that strong interest still exists.

Hagerty concludes that the 20-somethings may be buying fewer new vehicles (no doubt the average price tag of $36,000 is too much for average transportation).  Millennials are still interested in fun transportation that costs much less–they are just not interested in the types of vehicles the new car manufacturers are selling.  Some of that lack of interest in new cars is born out of necessity.  

Federal Reserve Study

In 2018, the Federal Reserve found that younger adults are making do with less.  The Great Recession hit that age group hard as they were coming out of college with huge student loan debt.  The study further went on to say “Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth.”

Even in light of this news, Hagerty has their own data that shows a rosier picture.

What Cars are they Quoting?

Now that we know the hobby will survive another generation, what vehicles are the millennials looking to insure?  Is it the Chevelles, Mustangs and GTOs favored by my Boomer group? According the Hagerty Insurance, there is still interest in those timeless classics; however, there is increasing interest in the newer classics as seen in this chart below:

I think these newer cars represent the same thing to the Millennials as the 60s and 70s classics mean to Boomers.  These newer classics from the 1980s through the early 2000s are more affordable and likely bring back memories of a car their parents drove or represent a cool factor not found in any new car.  Either way, I think this change in direction should be embraced.

A Local Case Study

A funny thing happened earlier this week that I would like to share.  My friend, Sarah, messaged me that her 16 year old son was knee deep in a car project and needed an impartial observer to intervene.  Sarah had not heard of Vehicle Nanny, but was excited at the coincidence of her outreach. She shared some details of “AJ’s” project and asked if I would meet with him.  

We met at the local Panera on Monday, and AJ went on to explain how he bought an engine, transmission and subframe for a 1990 Nissan 300ZX.  He wanted to build this car from the ground up, but could not find a body anywhere nearby. As we talked, I marveled at the enthusiasm and knowledge he displayed.  After about two hours and a lot of coffee, we both concluded he should sell these components and buy a more complete project car.  

Oh, by the way…AJ does not even have his driver’s license yet.  Here is a young man who is driven (sorry for that pun) to finish his first car project in time for his first solo drive.  Based on the number of text messages we have shared over the last couple of days, I think he has found his next project–a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse.  

Is AJ typical of his generation?  Based on the study by Hagerty Insurance, I am hopeful this is the case.  I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for cars. For those who do, I will happily support their interests.

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  1. Paul

    Today a coworker and I were just talking about how we thought the car culture was ending with our generation. Very refreshing to see. This opens my eyes up a little to the fact that I shouldn’t be a muscle car snob, in fact be more inclusive to other types of vehicles ie. younger collectors. Refreshing read.

    • Bill

      Thanks, Paul. Glad this topic resonated with you! We all need to encourage the younger generation.


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