Could Rising Fuel Prices Make Some Classic Cars More Affordable?

Here in New Zealand, there has been much talk in the media about petrol prices getting precariously close to the never-before-seen figure of $3 per liter.

In fact, some more remote parts of the country have already seen this unpleasant milestone reached.

If my rough maths is correct, that would equate to a price of around $11.50 per gallon in local currency, or around $7.50 per gallon in US dollars.

Of course fuel and energy prices have been climbing worldwide – this isn’t just restricted to New Zealand. All across the world, the humble motorist is being squeezed at the pump, with driving becoming an increasingly expensive proposition.

It doesn’t help too that car prices have been going crazy. New car prices are up. Used car prices have been soaring. Prices of classic cars – including “modern classics” like the Toyota Supra MK4, Nissan Skyline GT-R and Mazda RX-7 – have gone through the roof.

Cars that were once somewhat affordable and attainable feel like they are slipping through the fingers of the average motoring enthusiast. Even “second tier” JDM performance cars like the Mazda Miata/MX-5 and Mitsubishi FTO are starting to shoot up in price.

All of this adds up for a sorry picture for those of us who want to get our hands on an interesting classic car, whether as a weekend toy or as a daily driver.

However, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

At least in our local car market, there seem to be some signs that rising fuel prices might be dampening demand of some classic cars of the ‘gas guzzler’ variety, as well as forcing owners into selling their current cars to find more economical transportation.

Where this seems to be particularly noticeable is with “modern classic” cars that could be easily used as daily drivers. For example, here in NZ the venerable 100-series Land Cruiser (perhaps better known to our American readers as its Lexus equivalent – the LX470, as pictured in the intro of this article) is still a common sight on the roads. Most people opt for the turbo-diesel option, but there are plenty of 4.7 V8 petrols about.

In my view, the Land Cruiser/LX470 is a bit of a modern classic. It still looks great – rugged and authoritative – and has an incredible reputation for reliability and dependability. There’s a reason why a Land Cruiser sells for many thousands more than a Volkswagen Touareg of the same vintage (despite the fact that both are very capable off the road).

If you are after one of the all-time great 4x4s, then you’d struggle to do much better than the 100-series Land Cruiser/LX470 (fun fact – in New Zealand we get a number of Toyota Cygnus coming in ex-Japan. This is the Japanese Domestic Market version of the Lexus LX470, which is of course a more comfort-oriented 100-series Land Cruiser).

This would definitely be one to have in my dream garage – living in NZ, having access to a good 4×4 is critical if you are into outdoor pursuits like skiing, hiking and mountain biking.

Prices of the 100-series have risen steadily over the last few years. I remember in early 2019 test-driving one with a family member – a mint-condition, NZ-new example with great service history – from a Toyota main dealer offering a robust extended warranty to boot. The car sold to someone else for around $20,000, if my memory serves me right. That same car would easily command upwards of $30,000 in today’s market (so as you can imagine, I am kicking myself for not having purchased it. Instead I made the mistake of buying a Volkswagen Touareg on the cheap, which has been a total pain in the proverbial … read more here about my ownership experience).

However, these Land Cruisers aren’t cheap to fill up. With a near 100 litre tank, you’re talking almost $300 NZD to fill from empty – and a car like this will drink, especially if being driven in stop-start traffic or being used to tow.

This is a car that could easily cost you $100 per week in petrol, if you’re driving an average amount.

For most Kiwis, that simply isn’t affordable.

The outcome of this is that prices do seem to be softening a bit on these Land Cruisers – particularly the thirstier petrol examples.

For example, here are two petrol-powered examples in my local area (both for sale at dealers) which show indicated price cuts and have sat online for some time. In my experience, if a dealer indicates a price cut on their online listing, they will be open to further discounting to get the sale across the line.

Anecdata, I know, but it is interesting to see prices start to weaken on these gas guzzlers

I am also seeing similar “softening” of the market for other gas-guzzler daily drivers, such as the Lexus LS460 (check out our Lexus LS460 buyer’s guide here)

It’s too early to call it a trend (and there are some other issues at play in the NZ market, like changes to consumer credit laws that are making it much harder for people to get car loans) but the signs are becoming clearer.

I wouldn’t expect rising fuel prices to dampen demand so much for true classic cars that might only be driven on occasion – even modern ones like the Toyota Supra or Nissan Skyline GT-R. At the end of the day, someone who can afford one of those cars in the current market won’t likely be buying it to daily drive, or be worried about filling it up.

However, there might be some better buying up ahead for thirsty cars that others might have previously purchased and used as daily drivers. The Land Cruiser is a great example of this, being a car that many own for taking the kids around, towing the boat, and heading out into the countryside … but perhaps they will be forced to do so in a more economical option.

For those of us who wouldn’t mind adding a gas guzzler to the fleet as an occasional-use vehicle, there could be some better buying on the horizon! As bad as it sounds, maybe the misfortune of other motorists could be a blessing in disguise for those of us who want to get our hands on a limited-use vehicle with a propensity to drink fuel.

NB: This article isn’t meant to be a scientific study on whether rising fuel prices are negatively impacting classic car prices – just some anecdotal observations from the local car market.

I’d be very keen to hear what is happening in your part of the world too. As petrol/gas prices increase, are you seeing owners of “gas guzzlers” having to let their vehicles go at a reduced price? Are dealers providing more wiggle room on these thirstier cars as prospective buyers pick more economical options? Let me know in the comment section at the bottom of this article – I would love to hear from you!

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  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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