APR 15th 2015

Edward Legge Is Not Buying Low

We’ve touched on which numbers are important when it comes to classic cars, and nothing seems to excite buyers right now as much as a low mileage. We’ve recently seen a number of high profile auction results where buyers have paid over-the-odds for very low or “delivery mileage” cars. The term delivery mileage is a broad one as I certainly wouldn’t want someone to drive a new supercar a few thousand miles to deliver it unless I was the delivery driver – but is it worth paying the extra for one of these cars?

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I have to declare my scepticism on the subject of low mileage cars – particularly the 20-30 year old variety – we have conducted some research recently that shows a concertina effect on the mileage of certain cars in this age bracket. For certain marques there seems to be a mileage ceiling that most cars just don’t go over and I refuse to believe that people just stop driving them to keep the mileage down. I have also read far too many descriptions bearing the immortal words “mileage believed to be genuine” which should really be substituted for “please believe that the mileage is genuine”. You don’t often hear people using the phrase “it’s been round the clock” anymore but for many cars it is ironic that going round the clock actually gives the car a new lease of life – when it is up for sale at least….

‘I kind of appreciate the desire to own a box-fresh classic even if those sad exhibits make me think of the dusty old blue whale in the Natural History Museum.’

But should we really want to buy low mileage cars? You’ve got to ask the questions ‘why hasn’t it done any miles’ and ‘what are the consequences of not using a car for extended periods of time?’ There are a myriad of reasons why cars don’t get used and are eventually sold on, and it is important to get the answers if you are buying. While the cars are not being used rubber perishes, metal continues to corrode and, realistically, if you are planning to drive something that hasn’t been used for 20 years or so – however new it may appear – you are going to need to spend some money on it. Why not just buy something with a few miles that has had that money spent on it already?

I kind of appreciate the desire to own a box-fresh classic even if those sad exhibits make me think of the dusty old blue whale in the Natural History Museum, but the cars that have mileages in the hundreds rather than thousands will only ever appeal to a certain type of buyer – the kind who never intends to drive it – or so I thought….

While discussing this very point with a well known classic car collector recently, he told me that a friend of his had bought just such a delivery mileage car to commute in. I’m ashamed to admit that the first thing I thought of was the depreciation curve and immediately asked why on earth they would do this. The answer couldn’t have been better – the new owner had bought what was basically a “new” car for a lot less than the list price back in the day, so as far as he was concerned he’d got a cracking discount. Definitely a case of different strokes for different folks but I totally understand the logic.

If supercar and classic car use is on the increase we are going to see fewer unused cars and more buyers for them, so, if I was a gambling man, I’d say that strong prices in the future for low mileage cars is a pretty safe bet.

Edward Legge is Director of Commercial Development at Classic and Sports Finance.

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