Out with the new, in with the old: Classic cars are on the rise
Car ownership is changing. The traditional model has involved buyers going to a showroom and buying or leasing a car that they take home and keep for three years (or more), using it when they need to, leaving it parked up when they don’t.
But as most cars purchased in this way are still unused for more than 90% of the time, consumers are beginning to think twice about spending large amounts of money on something that lies idle for so much of its life.
Just as in the wider economy, sharing is now how consumers want to consume. With the likes of Spotify and Airbnb revolutionising the music and travel industries, car sharing schemes seem to be increasing in popularity across the world. One estimate shows that the car sharing market will grow between 30 and 35 per cent year on year until 2020.
Car sharing doesn’t just create opportunities for consumers to borrow new cars though: classic cars are also being made available for drivers to hire for short periods of time, to experience the very different thrill of driving an old car.
Classic car clubs
Classic car clubs have proved popular with members, who often sign up and borrow a succession of vehicles across the year for an annual fee.
Phil Rowe, of Wiltshire-based Vintage Classics, described his experience of the sector, saying: “The classic car rental business is growing and every year has seen a good percentage of growth. I think that’s mainly because it’s a niche market and there aren’t many companies that hire classic cars.”
“A lot of our hirers are people who are at an age where they’ve either got rid of the kids or the mortgage and now have some disposable income, so they’re looking to do things that are a little bit different to the run of the mill.”
“That’s especially true of people who wanted an E-Type Jaguar or Austin Healey back in the day, so we’re finding drivers aged 50-plus who are really interested in 60s cars – the sort of cars they used to aspire to. We also have a lot of wives and girlfriends booking cars as gifts for husbands and boyfriends, but we’re probably more geared towards tourism than we are just hiring classic cars.”
“We get a lot of people who come by train, because they don’t own a car: but many own a car, possibly another classic car, but they want the experience of driving something they can’t perhaps afford.”
Classic car sharing schemes
This isn’t the only way to borrow the classic of your dreams, though. Peer-to-peer car sharing schemes, which help car owners make money from assets that are largely unused, by renting them out, are also venturing into the field of classic cars.
Turo.com, a company that has been involved in car sharing in the US for six years, has just started operating in the UK, with classics being among the vehicles it makes available.
Matheus Riolfi, Turo’s director of international expansion, explained: “The individual who owns a car can now share it with other people and turn that asset into an income generator.”
“One of the advantages of a marketplace is that we have a very large selection of cars: we have over 800 different models, including classic cars. If you look at what we have in London, for example, we have a Jaguar E-Type, Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and many classic Minis. In the US, we have a large selection of classic cars, including a Porsche 356 and Mustangs.”
“We’re trying to make people care about the cars they’re renting again, making the cars an important part of their trip. Enthusiasts want to drive a special car for day or weekend, or others want an economic alternative to a traditional car rental company.”
It’s not just classic car enthusiasts who are taking advantage of Turo’s offer, however.
“Around 50% of our marketplace is local use, renting cars in the cities in which they live, with the other 50% consisting of travellers from another country or different region,” said Riolfi.
“With more than 110,000 cars in our marketplace, we can appeal to people in all demographics. Women make up around 45% of our market and account for the same proportion of bookings, whatever the type of car, so women book 45% of classic cars and sports cars.”
“We also see a lot of bookings of special cars such as classic or sports cars as gifts, with as many being booked for women as there are for men.”
Owning a classic car outright might not be affordable for many of us, especially if it’s a second car. They may be style icons and take us back to a golden age when all was right and well with the world, but they still need TLC, sometimes much more than a newer model given their age and condition.
If you plan on driving it too, as opposed to sitting in it all day long in your garage and enjoying the smell of real leather, classic cars – just like any car – still need insuring even if they don’t always need an MOT.
This is where the sharing economy really comes into its own. If you can’t afford – or simply don’t want – to own a classic, you might be able to afford a slice of one, for an hour or a day or two. In the same way Airbnb is connecting home owners with holiday makers, classic car sharing schemes are connecting owners with drivers.
You don’t have to be a millionaire playboy to enjoy the experience of old-school motoring. And in the dawning age of the driverless car, it’s easy to imagine how driving – if not owning – a classic car might one day become a very popular pastime.