Classic Car Collecting Doesn't Deserve The Pricey Stigma

Jun 11, 2021 6 min read
Classic Car Collecting Doesn't Deserve The Pricey Stigma

But how does it stack up against other hobbies?


My best friend's dad is someone everyone knows as the 'collector guy'. He collects cars, coins, knives, cards, whiskey, you name it. On top of his collections, he's also an avid boater and golfer. During dinner last week, while he was discussing several of these things and then talked about selling one of his Cadillacs to make room for another classic car, his wife joked that collecting cars was the cheapest hobby he has. This comment definitely got a sideways look from my side of the table, but when I started thinking about it, I decided it was a subject that warranted some digging.

Before going down this rabbit hole, I wanted to lay down some criteria to find out how cheap or expensive collecting a car is, in comparative to other hobbies. First, if it's a collection of things, I only wanted to base it on one thing in that collection, not the average; figuring out how much the average collection of coins or whiskey costs in 2021 is dizzying with inflation and the way trends have changed from lockdowns and stimulus checks - the data on averages doesn't exist at this time. If it's not a collection of something, but requires multiple components to work, those must be included as well.

Defining hobby vs something you do for fun is another parameter I wanted to make clear. A hobby is something you invest time and money in on a consistent basis. While I think of anything you don't do on a consistent basis, we'll just consider that to be an interest. This is purely for the context of this article.

Scenario One: Deep Sea Fishing

We love fishing, even my 10-year old daughter loves pulling a bass out of the water, but we are hardly fishermen. I would probably include our level of fishing with our pastime (not even as seriously as a hobby) of kayaking. So if we were to get really into fishing, what would that take.

It would take a boat, so I can already see this getting pretty expensive. You can go on guided fishing tours, but that's more of a trip. The boat isn't the only expensive thing on the list either, just to get bait in the water, you need:

Electric Reel & Melton Tackle Deep Drop Rod Combo: $5,798.49

Test Line: $119.99

Hooks: $20+

Cut Bait: $50/Trip

Fishing License (Residential): $15/yr

There's a very high likelihood that there's a hundred little things that will add up in hidden costs, but we still need to find a boat. There's no real definitive answer here on what size boat you need since it depends on what you're fishing for, and how many people are coming along. I tried to find the cheapest boat (used) that's big enough for a swordfish and a few people, and the best average I can come up with is around $35K for a seaworthy boat. Alternatively, chartering a boat on a regular basis is going to get you pretty close to these prices in a few years, so just buy the boat and rod/reel combo.

Hidden fees aside our total is hovering around $41,003.48 to get started.

Scenario Two: Collecting Whiskey

We all need a break from the fishing talk, so this one should be easy to figure out. Actually, Forbes loves talking about investing in whiskey, so that makes it to find information on. They recommended that serious, or people getting serious with investing in whiskey, should keep an eye out for 50 year old Balvenie. Yeah, I'm going to need a drink myself after researching that label.

Total cost: $44,999.

Scenario Three: Art Collecting

Art is subjective, and so are the prices of collecting. The range is literally from free to millions of dollars. According to Artsy.net, the novice collector can expect to buy a decent photograph for around $500, while serious collectors are comfortable spending $500,000. That alone puts art collecting at the high end of any of these scenarios, but for the sake of being thorough, that $500,000 is just the start. In addition to coming out of pocket for half a million dollars, you also have to pay buyer's premiums of 20-25%, and storage fees of $1200 to $1400 a month.

Price of collecting art: $500 to $1 million

Scenario Four: Classic Car Collecting

Saving the best for last, of course. I honestly didn't know which way this was going, and I had my base for the cars already picked out. After trying to plan a deep sea fishing trip and almost getting dizzy thinking about how high-stress it would be to own a $44k bottle of booze, I'm glad to be back in familiar territory.

Just like with the other categories, finding a middle ground is important too. These are a few cars I picked out, well, because I can see someone using them as props in wedding photos.

They're all in great shape, running, driving, and each represent the historical importance of the automobile. And maybe that's why so many of us are gravitating towards buying classic cars instead of expensive fishing trips or paintings - it's something in us that is attracted to that history.

1941 Cadillac Series 67
1941 Cadillac Limousine The Fleetwood Metal Body Company dates back to the early 1900s. The Company was formed in the UK then branched here in the USA in...
1937 Chrysler Airflow
1937 Chrysler Airflow C-17 The Chrysler Airflow was supposed to be Chrysler’s forward-thinking hit that would re-write the book on automotive styling and,...
1938 Buick Limited Model 90
1938 Buick Limited Model 90 Touring You would think a respectable country doctor in the late 1930’s would own a Cadillac. Oh contrary’ as most country...

The price of a decent car to start a collection: Under $50K, some transport and storage fees may apply.

It is worth noting that MoneyNing lists the most expensive hobbies as:

Big game hunting, sailing, flying, mountain climbing, cigarette boat racing, hot air ballooning, collecting art and other expensive antiques or memorabilia, drag racing, flying, horseback riding, playing polo, ballroom dancing, tornado chasing, and sky diving.

I can attest to the racing expense. My race car driver father always told me that if you want to become a millionaire racing, start out as a billionaire. Racing in my 20s was also very expensive and unsustainable as a hobby, and frankly, breaking and fixing your car every weekend gets exhausting, so that's what led my household to start collecting and stop racing.

Tornado chasing sounds like a lot of fun, but I don't even know what kinds of questions to ask to find out how much that costs. If memory serves correct from the movie Twister, you need a Dodge Ram, CB radios, and a barrel full of shredded up Pepsi cans, at the very least. For what it's worth, a Dodge Ram 2500 in 1995 would have cost around $20k. That being said, chasing tornados might actually be the cheapest hobby on the list, so collecting cars might have some serious competition.

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