Why does low mileage make such a difference to rare car values? This is the question that’s been bothering me in the wake of Porsche’s decision to take its millionth 911 on a world tour before giving it a home in the company museum.
Let’s take that car, to start with. It’s an upgraded Carrera S with a bit more power and performance, and a bespoke interior that’s unlike any other, at least in the upholstery and details. But neither of those things really does anything for the value. What makes it priceless is that there can only be one millionth Porsche 911. There might eventually be a two-millionth one, but you can never replace the Irish Green Carrera S that was deliberately ordered to fall in that specific build slot.
That’s one reason why mileage shouldn’t and won’t affect the car’s value. The other is that it’s never likely to be sold. Porsche is preparing a spot for it at its own museum and that will be that. Why would they ever sell it? It has Schroedinger’s value; it’s simultaneously priceless and valueless. It will eventually be nothing more than an ornament; a souvenir Porsche built for itself. But, as mantelpiece decorations go, it’s not a bad one.
Let’s look at other rare cars, now. Cars that were built in limited numbers or have special heritage attached to them. The lowest-mileage ones are always worth more unless it’s a racing car with a winning pedigree, or maybe even a winning pedigree at the hands of a racing legend like Sir Stirling Moss or Fangio. It’s this low-mileage obsession that I don’t understand.
Some people might argue that low miles equate to originality, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Components can degrade and weaken over time, making them all but useless; potentially even a danger to other parts around them if they should fail. By keeping a car original over decades by not driving it, it only makes it less and less drivable. We’re talking about rare Ferraris, Porsches, McLarens, Mercedes, muscle cars, supercars and all the weirdest and most wonderful ends of the scale. Condemning these cars to a life sat still is, to many of us, borderline criminal.
Why should this add value? Why should a life spent doing nothing make a car more valuable? If you’re speed-dating and you arrive at someone who’s stunning to look at but has been nowhere, done nothing and has absolutely no stories to tell, you’d be so disappointed. You’d move on to someone who’d seen more places and achieved more. You’d choose someone with a history.
Yes, histories can sometimes cost cars things, like they can cost people things. Parts break or wear out and have to be replaced. But if it’s original spec, who cares? Why should anyone care? If you were faced with two good-condition Ferrari 250 GTOs, one of which has 25 miles from new and has sat in a garage all its life, and the other of which has completed the Targa Florio, won the Mille Miglia, crossed continents and is half the price, which would you buy? I know which one I’d have.