Who is going to want the cars?

The 76 million baby boomers, 25 % of the national population of the USA, are moving into retirement age, making problems in health-care system and Social Security with their massive numbers. But here is the bigger worry: Who’s going to buy all their cars?

Hagerty guesses that the number of collector cars in the U.S. is about 5 million, of which over half are owned by baby boomers, or those born from 1946 through 1964. Look around, the averaged age of collector-car owners is 56 years!


A demographic shift looms: Some 76 million baby boomers will soon reach retirement age, crushing the health-care system and the social safety net with their massive numbers. But we have a greater concern: Who’s going to buy all their cars?

Many older hobbyists are downsizing in general, and also their collections due to storage needs, and very often their kids are not interested in dealing with their cars.  The oldest boomers are 70 plus, and with some of them, their interest in the hobby is starting to wane. We won’t see a generation of similar size until “millennials” hit their peak earning years in a few decades. Are they going to care about the cars of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers—or any cars, for that matter, unless we make an effort to help them understand the passion.

It helps that the collector-car market seems to be surging right now, and the Internet and televised channels seems to help get the word out.  Yet, who is watching?  Are we getting younger people involved in meets, clubs, races and show events? 

With all the high prices for special vehicle at the auctions, there are far more examples of mundane not so valuable rides sitting in the garages of graybeards. It’s this backbone of the hobby that is likely in trouble, 80% of which is American made iron.  Most of the cars of hobbyist quality and are not attractive to museums and the richest collectors.  Prices of these cars are flat and even dropping.  The challenge for the home built cars and hot rods (especially rat rods) is how to value them. Comparisons are hard, and the market rarely gets what the builders have put into them.  Do they gain value with age?  Likely not.

The hot-rods of today are the “Tuners”, serious street racing and drift race romances from the car heavy movies.  They are likely the future collectors, as “Next-Gen” and “Millennials” get settled with extra spending money. These are “gearheads” in a real sense, who enjoy the thrill of driving a fast car, and enjoy the process of drawing out the hidden potential of cars they can afford, to create their own speed demons.

The “Tuner” hobby got its start in Japan, as drivers would take cars with good performance numbers, typically older Japanese makes like Honda and Nissan, and modify them with body kits, cold-air intakes and other aftermarket performance parts. Does that sound familiar? We need to reach out to the next generation and show them what in our garages, and soon!

Thank you to Hagerty for source information and images.