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New SEMA Report Gives Insight into the Ever-Changing Classic Car Market

SEMA has recently released a new report titled “Classic Cars, Modern Markets”, and in it is some great insight into the ever-changing classic car market.  They dive into how the definition of a classic car is changing, the reasons that people own a classic and how they work on their collector vehicles including where & how they acquire parts.

It is an eye-opening report on how different generations of classic car enthusiasts are approaching the hobby.  The data shows that there are certainly different segments of classic car enthusiasts.  There are the classic baby boomer generation that loves their pre-1974 vehicles and then there is the Gen-X and Millennial generations that are focusing more on vehicles from the late 70s, 80s and even 90s model vehicles.

It is also interesting to read how today’s owners feel about, work on and engage with their fellow enthusiasts about classic vehicles.  There is certainly a shift in perceptions and practices, but the one thing in common is that we all love the classics from our pasts.

There is an excerpt from the Director of Market Research for SEMA, Gavin Knapp, that says “With this report, we are expanding our definition to include classics through the ’80s. When many of us look back to our first cars, it wasn’t a ‘60s muscle car. It was a hand-me-down from the ‘70s, ‘80s or even ‘90s.”

Gavin continued to say “These emerging classics are now sparking those nostalgic feelings among people looking to recapture a piece of their youth.  Classic cars and trucks appeal to both young and old. Many classic owners want to return their cars to their previous glory through restoration. Some are looking to create a statement with a custom hot rod. Increasingly, owners are looking for something that lets them relive the nostalgia of a cool classic without sacrificing the comfort they have become used to. The industry is seeing restomodding as the growth sector in the classic market.”

We think this pretty much sums up the state of the classic car market and we see this firsthand with our customers, at cars shows and the classic car auctions like Barrett-Jackson and Mecum Auto Auctions.  There is definitely a new generation of classic vehicle owners that are catching up with the older generations.

Here are some other interesting findings from the SEMA report:

  • SEMA conservatively estimates there are at least 9.4 million classic cars on the road. Other market research estimates that number is much higher.
  • While early ’70s and older vehicles are the traditional heart of the classic vehicle market, their growing scarcity and price is pushing people toward newer, more accessible vehicles.
  • Restomodding is on the rise. A growing number of classic owners, especially younger ones, are gravitating toward preserving the classic look and style of their vehicle but integrating modern performance and comfort.
  • Classic vehicle owners spend more than $1 billion per year on parts. Owners of pre-1974 vehicles spent $890 million on parts alone in 2019, and most owners of pre-1990 vehicles either maintained or increased their spending in 2020.
  • SEMA asked both consumers and specialty-aftermarket businesses how they would define what makes a vehicle a “classic.” They got a lot of different responses, but common themes included being at least a couple decades old, having an iconic look or style, and holding value well over time.
  • Classics are frequently bought from other individuals—friends, family or private listings. Once people get their hands on a classic, they tend to hold onto it. 44%of owners under 45 bought their classic from a friend or relative.  55%of owners aged 65+ have had their classic for 20 or more years.
  • For the most part, it is owners under 45 who show their vehicle off on social media. A strong presence on at least Facebook, YouTube and Instagram can help connect with the younger generation of classic vehicle enthusiasts. 51%of all owners under 45 post about their vehicles, or post videos specifically of them working on it.
  • While pure, numbers-match restoration and hot-rodding are not going away, many classic owners are somewhere in the middle. Businesses see a rise in restomodding and a growing flexibility in terms of what goes under the hood of an older vehicle. 38% of owners under 45 are going for a restomod build, compared to 22% of older owners.

There is much, much more to discover in this report about the ever-changing classic car market.  SEMA has always been a go-to source for this type of information.  If you’d like to see the full report, you can check it out here.

We certainly found it remarkably interesting to read and it will help us as a classic car repair and restoration shop navigate the future of our business.

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