In appreciation of depreciation

| 6 Mar 2013

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!