Economic Impact of Historical Cars

Copyright:  Historic Vehicle Association.

“Historic vehicles and those who appreciate them are vital to the economic and cultural life of the United States and Canada.

That is the key finding of this landmark study commissioned by the Historic Vehicle Association, the first of its kind to produce comprehensive baseline data about the historic vehicle community.

Surveys of more than 13 thousand individual enthusiasts and business owners reveal that this community is characterized by high levels of economic activity, charitable giving, cultural preservation, and political involvement. These impacts can be felt at the national level as well as within countless individual communities.

Of the estimated 2.75 million historic vehicle owners in the United States and Canada, 95 percent are male. Beyond this, however, historic vehicle enthusiasts are mainstream citizens of Canada and the U.S. There is considerable socioeconomic diversity among enthusiasts, and the typical enthusiast is of moderate income and education.

Given the moderate incomes of many historic vehicle owners, both the value of the vehicles that they own and the amount that they spend annually are dramatic. Historic vehicle owners own an average of 2.0 vehicles worth close to $25,000 each for a total value of nearly $50,000. This is quite large considering median annual income of between $75,000 and $99,999 per year. Historic vehicle owners are committed.

The annual mean spending of historic vehicle owners is more than $12,500. Applying this figure to the 2.75 million historic vehicle owners in Canada and the United States reveals total spending of nearly $35 billion in 2009. In one sector in particular – Automotive Repair and Maintenance – we estimate that the historic vehicle community represents approximately 7 percent of total spending. This is far out of proportion to the estimated 2.4 percent of the total U.S. and Canadian vehicle fleet that historic vehicles comprise.

In addition to spending by individuals, businesses serving the historic vehicle community contribute substantial economic activity as well as jobs across a number of business sectors. Initial data gathered in this study show small and stable businesses with unique technical knowledge about historic vehicles. Additional data will be forthcoming that details the extensive impact of this portion of the community.

Historic vehicle owners and enthusiasts are traditionalists. They are characterized by a high degree of personal commitment as well as understanding of the historic significance of these vehicles. For example, they are more likely than the Canadian or U.S. norm to be married. The average enthusiast is likely to have been involved in this movement for 10 years or more. Many owners cite the historic and cultural value of historic vehicles as being very important to the decision to first own them, though “personal interest and nostalgia” is the most common reason for becoming involved in ownership of historic vehicles.

Enthusiasts in the historic vehicle movement are active in this lifestyle. More than 80 percent indicated they attended one or more historic vehicle events in 2009. Enthusiasts spent an average of 18 hours per month in 2009 watching TV, reading books and magazines, and reading online content related to historic vehicles. The vast majority (92 percent) of historic vehicle owners do at least some hands-on work on their vehicles, everything from cleaning and polishing to completing full restorations. The average historic vehicle owner spends 11.1 hours per month on this kind of hands-on work.

Historic vehicle enthusiasts and the businesses that serve them made considerable donations of time and money in 2009. We make a conservative estimate of more than $59 million in donated time that enthusiasts donated to help with fundraisers, parades, museum displays, and civic, cultural, and educational events. In addition, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of businesses serving this community made financial and in-kind donations of greater than $1,000 in 2009.

In contrast to the many positive contributions of historic vehicle enthusiasts on the economic and cultural life of the U.S. and Canada, the environmental and infrastructure impacts of historic vehicles are quite light. The average historic vehicle was driven just 484 miles in 2009. Combined, historic vehicles accounted for only 0.08 percent of total U.S. and Canadian vehicle traffic in 2009.

Historic vehicle enthusiasts are politically active and are concerned about legislation affecting the community. They vote at a high rate – 79 percent of enthusiasts report “always” voting in regional, state and national elections. Chief among their legislative concerns is legislation regulating emissions. More than half of enthusiasts believe existing or potential emissions legislation to be very or extremely harmful to their enjoyment of historic vehicles.

Ultimately, this study is just a beginning. Additional work is needed to understand and track the considerable positive effects this community has within Canada and the U.S. Even this preliminary data, however, indicates that the historic vehicle community plays an essential role in the economy, culture and political life of Canada and the United States.”


Economic impact survey.  Historic (2014).  Retrieved July 28, 2014 from

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