Classic and Old Cars at the Cusp of the Electric Generation

By: Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director
Out of necessity, many of us still drive older cars in our daily lives. The average vehicle age is currently over 12 years, and the average cost of a new vehicle hovers near $40,000. The chip shortage has even pushed the price of some used cars and trucks to the same as their original price […]

Out of necessity, many of us still drive older cars in our daily lives. The average vehicle age is currently over 12 years, and the average cost of a new vehicle hovers near $40,000. The chip shortage has even pushed the price of some used cars and trucks to the same as their original price right off the lot. 

Classic cars are old, but they belong to a different class of owner: sometimes an investor and many times someone who wants to restore a classic to its former glory. Usually, classic cars are driven on weekends and special occasions and infrequently as a daily commuter. 

In many ways, the fate of both class of cars is entwined. 

With both automakers and the federal government pushing electric vehicles as the future, where will the place be for classic and older Internal combustion engined (or gas) vehicles?  The legislatures of California and New York recently passed bills that ban the sale of ICE cars by 2035. In some California communities, new gas stations are not allowed zoning permits. 

Ford announced in April 2020 that it wanted the government to sponsor again a cash-for-clunkers program to help keep people shopping during the pandemic (before the chip shortage, of course). The Car Allowance Rebate System (Cash-for-Clunkers) was enacted during the 2008-09 recession to stimulate new-car sales. The incentive was for owners of drivable vehicles up to 25 years old with an EPA-rated fuel efficiency of less than 18 mpg could trade their ‘clunker’ for cash. Some dubbed the program “I Hate the Poor Act of 2009.” This type of program not only junked many vehicles that were still working but pushed car ownership out of the reach of do-it-yourselfers and for-profit specialists. It was kind of like gentrification of transportation. 

Many classic car enthusiasts shuddered to think at the time how many potentially rare, collectible vehicles were destroyed. Website, forums, and social media were full of posts of all the great cars headed to the scrap heap. It also created a shortage of used vehicles in the US. 

Affordable, used, and reliable vehicles are an absolute necessity for anyone in the US who hopes to escape the poverty trap. Mass transit is nonexistent in many places, and without a reliable car, most people could not keep a job. Even affordable vehicles are challenging to maintain these days due to the expense for anyone working or lower middle class. Vehicle complexity and the lack of right to repair hampers even the most independent amongst us. 

Car technology, public policy, and a growing bias against ICE vehicles are all challenges classic and old car owners face. Another factor is that the younger generation has not taken to tinkering with cars. The average age of the classic vehicle hobbyist is now 55. As fewer enthusiasts take up the mantel, support services for classic and older ICEs will become scarcer. 

An estimated five million classic cars in the US are owned mainly by the baby boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964). It’s projected that in 2022, a total of 290.8 million registered vehicles will be on US roads. The age of these vehicles will keep rising as many of us who drive 

Written By: Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

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