FBHVC survey reveals current state of the classic car world

| 23 May 2019

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs has revealed the results of its 2019 National Cost of Ownership Survey during a special event at the Palace of Westminster, in company with the All-Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group.

The Federation traditionally conducts a major survey every five years, but with the next National Historic Vehicle Survey not due until 2021 chairman David Whale felt an interim report on the health of the British historic vehicle movement was necessary “in the light of the demands and pressures on enthusiasts”. 

A summary of findings were presented by research director Paul Chasney and Jon Downer of JDA Research, which conducted the survey on behalf of the Federation. The polling took place in two parts, firstly investigating national behaviours and attitudes towards the movement, before polling classic enthusiasts on the costs of ownership of a historic vehicle.

Although the results overall looked positive, with a significant increase in the number of historic vehicles in the UK – at 1,241,863, up 19% on 2016 – and 19% of the population claiming to have an interest in the hobby (up from 16% in 2016), there were concerns about the continuing challenge in encouraging a new generation of enthusiasts.

“The results suggest that younger people do not readily identify with the heritage issues understood by older generations,” said Whale, highlighting in particular an apathy among millennials and ‘Generation Z’ towards both the significance of vehicles as part of our nation’s heritage, and the importance of originality (less than 25% of those polled under 45 feel that historic vehicles should be maintained in ‘as original condition as possible’).

That is certainly reflected in the increasing number of modified younger classics being seen at shows, and perhaps warrants comparison with the enthusiasm for ‘specials’ from generations past. C&SC’s representative at the event also pointed out that the FBHVC’s 30-year cut-off of a ‘historic vehicle’ may be affecting the results, with many younger enthusiasts targeting cars that aren’t old enough to fall into its definition.

Just under 50% of those registered vehicles are cars, with the remainder made up by motorbikes plus commercial, military and agricultural vehicles. 

On a more positive note, among the 5.1m people who don’t currently own a classic but would like to in the future, interest was notably strongest among the under 35s.

“We must all focus on communicating and engaging with younger people to ensure they develop an interest in historic vehicles,” said Whale – a sentiment echoed by FBHVC president Lord Steele, who bemoaned the recent demise of the Selkirk Vintage Rally due to lack of younger enthusiasts willing to get involved.

There was an encouraging move towards home maintenance among those polled, with 80% of enthusiasts claiming to change their own vehicle’s oil, half having upgraded their lighting and – incredibly – 67% saying they know how to read the code on the side of a tyre.

Meanwhile, some 25% of those polled (representing 11.3m of the population) felt that historic vehicles should be exempt from emissions restrictions. Sir Greg Knight MP, on hand on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group, was swift to point out that any additional relaxation of legislation relating to reducing the qualifying period for historic vehicles is highly unlikely.

You can read a detailed summary of the report here.



  • 1,241,863 registered historic vehicles in Britain
  • £1.85billion annual spend on maintenance 
  • 77% of historic vehicles are registered for the road
  • 9.8m people are interested in historic vehicles
  • Classics cover an average of 2214 miles a year
  • £4913 average annual spend on old cars per owner
  • 32% of historic vehicles are volunteered for an MoT
  • Owners spend £798 on fuel and £384 on insurance
  • 80% of owners say they change their own oil


Source: DVLA and research data


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