In appreciation of depreciation


Author: James ElliottPublished:

Car manufacturers may have (largely) conquered rust, unreliability and a whole host of other enemies, but one gremlin, depreciation, remains as rampant as ever.

But is that a bad thing?

While looking for a car for a feature, I was having a little browse the other day at some modern classics and was astonished by how far some of their prices have plummeted.

Not just run of the mill moderns, mind, but the high-performance, high-desirability stuff that you might assume to have better “residuals” as the modern mags like to say. Surprisingly recent cars.

One I noticed early on was the Bentley Continental GT. It may forever be tarred as the footballer’s favourite and TOWIE (that’s The Only Way Is Essex apparently) fodder, but come on.

I mean before it was the weapon of choice of the exponents of what a friend of my brother calls Kevball, we all lusted after this magnificent machine, just as we lusted after its vital statistics.

A 6-litre twin-turbo W12 wafts it to practically 200mph in supreme loveliness. Despite it being a great big VW, we even marvelled at what seemed like an insanely low price for such a machine when told that a mere £150,000(ish) would buy one new.

Now? You can have as many as you want for £30k and there was at least one higher-miler on the market for under £20k. Seriously.

Quite apart from the Bentley, I have had my eye on several cars for a while now, such as the Maserati 3200GT (boomerang rear lights number, naturally). For a long time they seemed to have bottomed out at about £15k, but a new downwards surge has seen plenty of examples slip below £10,000.

There are loads more enticing examples of once-pricey cars that have recently slipped into the realms of reality across the motoring spectrum.

Lunching with an enthusiast friend the other day, he was all excited about his latest purchase, a BMW Z3M Coupé. This breadvan of a car, with what I (and probably only I) see as shades of Jensen GT in its baby estate lunacy, may not have performed quite as lairily as its looks suggest, but 5 secs to 60mph is still not to be sneezed at.

Plus it was one of the more interesting things to come off the production lines that specialise in churning out the mundane.

What’s more, it was a car so quirky, distinctive and rare that I thought it would be depreciation proof. Not a bit of it, my friend paid £11,000 and since then I’ve found a handful of significantly cheaper ones for sale.

Of course, this isn’t to say that I particularly want any of these cars (usually my reaction is little more than “wow, that’s a huge amount of car for the money”) and I certainly wouldn’t trade my classics for them, but there is something reassuring in the fact that the economic wheels still turn in exactly the same fashion as they always have.

After all, I reckon that cheapness is one of the cornerstones of our hobby, the way that youngsters get on the ladder and turn aspiration into genuine enthusiasm.

With a few exceptions, interesting cars have always become ‘affordable’ – even if for only a short while – and it’s nice to see that another generation is going to enjoy that ‘benefit’ and enjoy the cars as a result.

Long live depreciation!



I'm a Maserati 3200GT specialist (, and rather than the 3200GT bottoming out, it may well be on the rise.

Every time someone brings me a car they've just bought, I politely ask them how much they paid. So, I've good a good appreciation of how much they've been going for over the years.

In the teeth of the banking crisis in '09 and '10 I saw perfectly serviceable 3200GTs selling for less than £7K and what could be the earliest UK example - with a "prototype, not for road use" sticker on the ECU - sold for £5K. Often, perfectly good cars struggled to make £10K.

Since then, there has been a gentle upward pressure that sees nothing below £7K now for an improver, and if you want a decent automatic (the most desirable variant at present, although, I expect the manual to ultimately become the most collectable in a decade or so), then you're going to need £10K-£12K, with the best cars going for mid teens.

One of the factors driving the value upwards is that so many of them are being exported to Australia, with over 100 having been shipped out there in the past few years due to the high AUD and the low GBP.

And no, I'm not trying to talk the value of the cars up as I'm a dealer, I just fix them, I don't sell them!

Chris Martin

That Bentley is a lot of car for the money, but hasn't that always been so? We often hear stories of the old days when impoverished students in the fifties ran around in vintage Bentleys and the like as that was all they could afford. Even into the sixties I have old copies of Motor Sport and the prices of such cars makes you wish for a time machine. Probably people laughed at those who bought them then, but who among us is brave enough now to dive in and take a risk on what will one day be a bona fide gold-plated five-star classic. And for those among us who still rue not buying that fifties R-Type Continental when it was up for similar money now is your chance to get even!

Chris M.



Very interesting read,there is one reason why these £80-£150k moderns drop like a stone in price,the cost of maintenance as components need replacing as the mileometer touches 100,000
and with most of these cars have to be serviced or repaired by authorised dealers at £70-£100 plus VAT per hour labour plus parts


It was so beautiful. Is that a sport car ? is it for sale ?

promoteur immobilier


the best judgement we can have of the worth of anything is what a person will pay you for it

I can't help but think that the people putting up the cash might know something I (we?) don't.

Chris Martin

We often read speculation on here about 'Future Classics', but surely that Bentley Continental W12 is a guaranteed classic even now, and always.
Thirty grand well spent - for the brave.
Chris M.


Nuno Granja

Interesting post about the depreciation

Sometimes I wonder if some people who think that running early 80's petrol engined youngtimers its expensive, do the right calculations about the money they put on a new car (depreciation, loan interests maintenance...)..

But we must pay attention to "jagnut12" words.

The cost of keeping some of those cars roadworthy can only be supported by the deep pocket brigade. That fact keep my feet on the ground when the word "Porsche" cames to my mind, as at least from my point of view cars are to be used and owning a car to get it out of the garage just for shows, hoping to avoid maintenance and repair costs its not my cup of tea.

nuno granja

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