The car is part of the American Dream. A symbol of freedom and achievement, it has helped workers find jobs, salespeople impress clients, families see their country, and of course it let youngsters get romantic when that was impossible anywhere else! Maybe that’s why so many Americans cherish their cars…. and collect them.

Collector Car Appreciation Day has been official since 2010, thanks to U.S. Senate resolution S. Res 513. It sparks off hundreds of events nationwide and this year falls on July 14. You can meet fellow fans and professionals, whether you are a serious collector or have just been maintaining your beloved old Chevy and could use some expert tips. Or if you simply love the look of chrome and the smell of gasoline, attending an event could be the start of a new hobby. With vintage car values almost tripling over the past decade, car collecting is more popular and rewarding than ever, enjoyed by both the famous and the rest of us.

A Line Up of Classic Collectable Cars
A Line Up of Classic Collectable Cars

5 top tips for aspiring car collectors

So that you can participate in Collector Car Appreciation Day — perhaps next year if you haven’t yet quite gotten up to speed with your restoration skills and your collection — here are some tips to get you on track.

1) Calculate all the costs

Even if you are already adept at car maintenance, this hobby can be expensive. The first thing to consider is the price of any old vehicle you wish to acquire. You might not be able to buy your dream car yet, even if you fancy your chances with one that doesn’t run. Equally importantly, the parts for it may be hard to find. We hate to say it, but, unless you are a millionaire, compromise may be necessary.

2) Calculate the time you will need

Unless you can afford to employ professionals for every task, this hobby will also take up a lot of time. And while it can be a great opportunity for bonding with the kids, all that time spent in the maintenance pit can sometimes put a strain on family life. In addition, if you only have weekends free, restoring an old car can take many years, so you should calculate the likely time required.

3) Get the right tools for the jobs

You probably already know that having good tools is a joy. And restoring an old car means you are dealing with something delicate and beautiful, so you don’t want to cut any corners. By buying brand new tools you are getting the latest designs, but sourcing old equipment can actually get you items of timeless quality — check out auto forums and see what the experts say.

4) Source your car parts sensibly

As collectable cars are often old and rare, not too many spare parts may be available in your local shop. Visiting a salvage yard means you can inspect items yourself, but online marketplaces where old parts are traded are more likely to come up trumps for you. Don’t dismiss aftermarket equipment instead of original parts, which may have suffered over the course of time.

5) It’s a learning experience

Any work you do on your collectable cars obviously strengthens your skill set. And if you have kids who want to come along, it’s a superb opportunity to teach them practical skills that might benefit them later in life. To help, if you can’t get a user’s manual, look online: there may be useful videos out there and a bunch of enthusiastic mechanics who have been there before you.

Father and Son Working Together on a Classic Car
Father and Son Working Together on a Classic Car

Find a safe space for your collection — try self storage

Super-rich car enthusiasts have huge showroom-style buildings for their collections, but if your passion exceeds your budget, building more garages on your back lot may not be an option. The best solution of all can be self storage, which always costs much less to rent per square meter than any residential-zoned space. With the increasing popularity of the service there may well be a self storage facility just down the road, and many companies offer specialist storage for cars.

The commonly found standard 10’x20’ unit size is ideal for most vehicles, with a storage unit in Houston, Texas, costing just $171 per month, for example, though it could be more than twice that in New York City or Los Angeles. There are also climate-controlled units for elderly and delicate vehicles, so the chrome, tires and leather trimmings will be kept in pristine condition. For the 10’x20’ size, Chicago, Illinois, climate-controlled units cost $267, for instance, while similar climate-controlled storage units in Phoenix, Arizona, rent for an average of $241.

Your car will also be safe at a storage facility, well secured with surveillance cameras, electronic locks, perimeter fences and so on. If it is not (yet) road-worthy it may need to be put in the unit on a trailer, while larger vehicles like RVs may need a larger unit or can be kept outside under a roof. You will also want to have full insurance on your vehicle — the storage provider may offer this, but there are also third-party insurers with specialist policies for your valuable vehicle.

Classic Collectable Cars in Storage
Classic Collectable Cars in Storage

USA’s top car collectors include some funny guys

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei has famously had the world’s foremost car collection, exceeding 7,000 vehicles and including rarities such as the Lamborghini Urraco and the BMW Nazca M12, plus hundreds of Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. In the US, some top collectors are not only very well-known names but also demonstrate good taste — and a few quirks! Here is a famous five of America’s top car collectors:

  • Ralph Lauren is reckoned to have the US’s most valuable collection of cars. And, as might be expected from a fashion designer, good looks and Italian style are very much in evidence. Two of the vehicles he owns are among the most expensive ever, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO and a McLaren F1 LM, both perhaps now worth $50 million or more.
  • Bill Gates is extra famous among gearheads for helping change US laws so vehicles of technological or historical significance could be imported. He wanted a Porsche 959, the world’s fastest and most advanced production car in 1986. The car actually got impounded for 13 years but was eventually added to Gates’ small but select collection.
  • Comedian and chat show host Jay Leno enjoys showing other fans his collection of 180-plus cars, and also using some as regular transportation. The “Jay Leno’s Garage” TV show ran for seven seasons. His favorite company is cutting-edge manufacturer McLaren, but his priciest vehicle is a 1934 Duesenberg Walker Coupe, valued at over $20 million.
  • Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham may have the most unusual collection in his 92-car garage. In addition to an odd affection for AMC Pacers, he owns several models by legendary designer George Barris, including the one-off 1965 Calico Surfer and a replica of the original 1966 Batmobile — plus the actual car from the 1992 sequel film.
  • Sitcom king Jerry Seinfeld — how come comedians seem to have the best taste in cars?? — owns so many Porsches that he may be the world’s ultimate collector of the top German brand. A highlight is a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder just like the model James Dean owned. Seinfeld was also another of the very few who ordered that Porsche 959.
2014 Porsche 918 Spyder
2014 Porsche 918 Spyder

This July 14 you are invited to attend one of the events, perhaps driving your own pride and joy there. Anyone not able to come can meet fellow enthusiasts online and maybe take part in a web-based celebration. If you are still puzzling over how to keep your growing collection, consider self storage after doing the necessary prepping. Keeping your wheels away from home could also be handy if you don’t want your partner to know about your new passion for cars… unless of course they were that first ever person you kissed!


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

Write A Comment