Astonishing Resale Prices of Vintage Ferraris - Are They Worth It?

Some car collectors stumble across a cheap, vintage Ferrari and race to add it to their collection, but are they worth the money they are fetching?

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Some car collectors stumble across a cheap, vintage Ferrari and race to add it to their collection, but are they worth the money they are fetching?

A vintage Ferrari commands six figures in today’s market but rarely brings a good return for the initial investment. The “Dancing Horse” may have a racing pedigree, but parts are limited and costly. They also need regular maintenance while requiring higher insurance costs than other classic cars.

Ferraris are always a hot ticket at any car auction, with buyers feverishly driving prices into the stratospheres. And now, with the appearance of a 1962 Red Ferrari 250 GTO at auction this week that is expected to sell for more than $60 million, the prices are likely to soar even higher. While this particular “Dancing Horse” is only one of two cars Ferrari’s team raced that year (quite rare), the car will likely touch the $70 million mark a ‘63 model fetched in 2018. So, does this mean that every would-be car collector should be looking to add a vintage Ferrari to their garage? Are these cars worth the money, or is it just hype? Do Ferraris offer the ROI that would make them a worthy investment? Well, if you are wondering (we were) or wishing that you had a cool $60 million to plop down (we were), then let’s explore the value of classic Ferrari models to see why these race cars draw such attention.

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What Is A Vintage Ferrari?

The definition of what constitutes a vintage Ferrari is open to interpretation. Most car collectors believe that only Ferraris built during Enzo Ferrari's leadership should be considered (Fiat bought 50% of the company in 1969, and expanded its hold to 90% in 1988, just after Ferrari’s death).

In addition, most classic Ferraris are considered V12s (which Ferrari made up until the 80s). As the legendary Enzo Ferrari was quoted as saying, “I married the 12-cylinder engine, and I never divorced it.” Even though he gave V6 and V8 engines a chance, he never considered an actual Ferrari having anything but a V12, and many collectors agree.

Why Does A Vintage Ferrari Cost So Much?

For many of us growing up, our first introduction to the Ferrari came at the hands of Magnum P.I. reruns. As the handsome detective rolled through the lush landscape of the Hawaiian paradise, solving cases and catching criminals, we wanted to be like him. Fast cars. Beautiful women. Close friends. How could paradise get any better?

As great as it might be to envision yourself as Magnum protege’, the reality is no Ferrari will make you look like Tom Selleck (no matter how much you think it will). In truth, there are some concrete reasons why vintage Ferraris tend to cost so much and are reserved for the Magnums of the world.

Quality Hand-Built

Ferraris have never been mass-produced, like Fords, Hondas, or Chevys. At one time, early Ferraris were entirely hand-made, meaning it took much longer to make each car. The slower pace meant more focused attention to detail and ensured that each Ferrari would be unique from every other one. Even today, although automation is responsible for some more arduous tasks, Ferraris are still predominately hand-assembled, even if this doesn’t meet the strict definition of hand-made.

Limited Production Numbers

Due to their manufacturing process, only a limited number of Ferraris could be fashioned in any given year. Some models are more prevalent than others, but some are rare. As with any supply and demand vehicle, the fewer of any kind there are, the higher the price.

Ferrari has always been about exclusivity and high performance, even from its earliest days. When Enzo Ferarri founded the company, his focus was on making Ferraris the best-made high-performance luxury sports cars in the world, and limiting production numbers has bolstered that image. Ferrari was so committed to the principle that when his executive board suggested that his attempts to build the most exclusive cars on the planet might be costing them money, he proceeded to fire them rather than opening up production.

Racing Legacy

The name Ferrari and racing had their roots in the late 1920s when Enzo Ferrari worked as a test driver for Alfa Romeo. During those early years, Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferarri racing team, but after a disagreement on the direction of future endeavors, the driver and company parted ways. Ferrari believed that Alfa Romeo was less committed to developing racing cars than he felt they should be. Ferrari was forbidden to restart the Scuderia Ferrari team for four years due to contractual obligations, but as soon as he was able, he jumped in with both feet.

After WWII (the plant was used to support the war effort for Mussolini’s airforce during the conflict), Ferrari’scompany quickly began developing high-performance sports cars. Ferrari’s intense attention to detail permeated the new company, and the result soon became evident as Ferraris began piling up racing wins.

The 50s and 60s produced some of the company's best and most valued cars, particularly the 250 GTO, and the 275 GTB. Since then, Ferrari has won over 5,000 races, including several 24 hours of Le Mans and Formula One contests. The racing pedigree is well-established as some of the sport’s top drivers have sat in Ferrari cockpits, such as Fernando Alonso, Jackie Stewart, Nikki Lauda, and Michael Schumacher.

The Market

Even if you find a relatively inexpensive Ferrari for sale, chances are you will be spending nearly six figures for the privilege of owning one. (Just this week, one buyer paid $1.8 million for the charred remains of a Ferrari 500 Mondial. The car is the second of 13 produced).

While you might not think anyone in their right mind would spend that kind of cash for a charred remnant of a barely recognizable car, one owner did.

Are Vintage Ferrari’s Worth The Money?

Despite the prohibitive upfront costs of purchasing a classic Ferrari, you should consider investing in a different classic car for several other reasons.

Parts That Aren’t Cheap

Reconditioning a classic Ferrari can quickly become a nightmare rather than a sports car dream. The cost of replacement parts is minimal in some cases, and the cost of parts is much more expensive than the daily driver you own now. While there are clearing houses that specialize in stocking parts, the best and only stock parts are made in Italy, so getting them shipped to your doorstep might just take an act of Congress. At any rate, you won’t be running down to your Autozone to pick up a quick part should you need a repair. (Think about days or weeks rather than hours).

Old Cars Break Down

Overall, Ferraris are considered to be reliable performers. While any car will suffer consequences if not taken care of, many classic Ferrari cars have challenges. Classic models tend to have had their components pushed to the limits (which is what they were designed for), but those components are likely 40 - 50 years old. While no one doubts the craftsmanship that went into manufacturing those components, the age and amount of wear can sometimes mean that a part is that much closer to wearing out. When a component breaks, it can cost a fortune to fix.

Ferrari Values and Depreciation

While every car will depreciate, classic Ferraris (depending on the year and model) can hold their value and grow, but this is not always true. While you might be enticed by visions of making millions of dollars off a restored vintage Ferrari, the sad reality is that those sales are the rare exceptions and not the rule. Remember, for classic Ferrari models to fetch big bucks, they must be perfectly restored with no dings, dents, or imperfections and be rare with a strong racing involvement).

Yearly Maintenance/Insurance Costs

When calculating your expenditures, remember that yearly maintenance costs will run between $1,500 - $2,000 annually. In addition, there are insurance costs (not to mention storage) to consider. Insurance companies usually charge more to cover a Ferrari due to its expensive repair costs and replacement values.

What’s The Bottom Line?

For most investors, other classic sports cars are better investments than a vintage Ferrari. Ultimately, it is up to the individual car collector as to what they are willing to spend to purchase, maintain, insure, and store their new prize. If you have the money, then you need to decide if this is the investment you want to make. If you want to flip a Ferrari for big bucks at the next auction, lose the pipe dream, and try your luck with something else.