DeLorean Market Analysis — November 2020

Peter Naulls
Dec 2, 2020 · 3 min read

It wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving (with apologies to those outside the United States) without a good debate. To that end, I’ve assembled my observations from watching the DeLorean market for the last 18 months or so, as well as my record keeping starting this summer.

To come of these conclusions there are necessary assumptions that have to be made that might never be resolved. First let me state that there’s an awful lot of opinions about where the market is going. I’ve variously heard that the market is going to take a tank (no), it’s really going up (not really) or prices are the same they were some years ago (aka “that car is too expensive”) — also no. These assertions are generally based upon a couple of examples and fit whatever thesis the punter is trying to chase — confirmation bias — rather than the whole market, and I’m of course going to be dismissive.

My own assumption has been that prices of DeLoreans would continue to gradually increase into 2021. This seems to be broadly true, but again, that’s a thesis I’m trying to fit the data to. Some of you know that I like to predict auction end prices. I’m often right, but I’m also often wrong.

And as a slight aside, and whilst I have the floor, I see a lot of posts saying a certain car “is too expensive”. Too expensive for what, exactly? Your personal budget? That is an entirely valid view, and your finances are very much your own business, but it conflates with the broader picture — a car is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it — no more, and no less. It only takes one person to pony up an amount for a given car and put their own valuation on it.

One critical factor in all this is that many sales are private. They happen word of mouth, between clubs or from people ringing dealers, or just reaching out. Certainly my own car was one of those, and I heard of several more on my searches. It’s hard to know exactly what proportion of DeLorean sales are such, but I’d hazard it’s about 50%. Such sales are typically a little lower than the headline prices we see on advertised cars, but probably not enough to make a real difference to the big picture. This particularly includes the 5K barn finds (which still exist), and the six-figure Time Machine conversions, and everything in between.

So what is everything? I like to class cars into different groups: Barn finds/need work, drivers of various quality, museum/concours cars, highly customized cars (these don’t come up often) and time machines.

There is one pattern I’ve observed though, and that’s especially on Bring a Trailer (BaT) and other higher end auction sites. Collector cars are rapidly going up in value. This is of course a small section of the market, but it certainly changes the averages. Indeed, what self-respecting collector/museum wouldn’t want to own one of the most iconic cars ever? Such cars are often reaching $50K without problems.

As for the driver cars, I hear a lot of insistence that “you shouldn’t pay more than 30K”. The problem with this view is that there’s almost no cars at this price, and ones that are, certainly aren’t drivers. So this view is based upon some quite old sales. My guideline remains largely the same — after sticker price, taxes and fees, immediate spend, you want to be in the ballpark of $40K to get a driver-quality car. You can argue up or down from this value, but it’s meant to be a guideline, no more. The problem with *this* view is that there aren’t many of those cars either — at least right now; there was a fair bit more inventory in the early fall.

As for the higher priced cars; those of course tend to move more slowly. They are often dealers who can afford to sit on their cars for months. But DeLoreans do regularly sell at $50K or even $60K. It’s just we don’t always see them.

I expect prices to continue to rise in 2021. How much, I don’t know, but I’d never bet on it beating inflation — a DeLorean is almost neve an investment.

Drive on!

DeLorean DMC12

1981 never looked so good

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