Low Mileage Market

1982 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Sold at $35,200
RM Auctions, Fort Lauderdale, FL, March 29, 2019, Lot 1016
VIN: 1G1AY8782C5105503

Why is it that low mileage can double or triple the selling price of any vintage car? Sure, a low-miles Mopar convertible with a manual transmission I understand. But that well-preserved Pinto with 4k miles for $35,000? Not so much.

Vehicles like this belong to, as I call it, the “What the Hell? Club.” The latest addition is this ’82 Corvette, selling for $35,200 with a miniscule 904 miles.

It is not a Collector Edition, just a white-over-red ’Vette with similar horsepower to a new Honda Accord. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes and lamenting that this was an almost unrepeatable opportunity to buy a mint-in-wrapper Corvette. I agree, it was, but this is still an underpowered C3 near the bottom of the ’Vette pecking order.

The current price-guide median for a base ’82 model is $13,000. For a nice car like this, $20k makes sense. Not $35,200. A similarly priced alternative is a ’71 coupe with the 350/330 LT1 and a median of just $36,000. Both are C3 Corvettes, but one has a much healthier horsepower rating. No, the LT1 car you find may not be as perfect, original or have zero miles — but it will be a hell of a lot more fun to drive, and you won’t have to search across the country to find a buyer willing to pay a 200% premium when it comes time to sell.

If the buyer had to have it, then fine. But bottom line, for most of us, this appears to be a lose-lose situation. Short of putting this in a museum as a pristine 1982 Corvette, everything else will kill its value. Drive it as-is and every rock chip and added mile will cost you. Modify it in any way and your minty stock ’Vette becomes one of the million other examples you can find on Craigslist.

There’s nothing left for me to say other than, “What the hell?”

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  1. I tend to look at collector car ownership in a different light…
    and I advise all my clients to look the same way… Consider this, you save for a couple of years for that family vacation. Disney, Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe. Wherever… Maybe costs you $10k, more less.. doesn’t really matter… You don’t ever expect to make your money back on that vacation..it was purely for the memories, enjoyment, etc. Isn’t that why one buys a collector car… The memories, enjoyment, etc? Yet we expect to make money on that expenditure… I’m not saying that when ready to move her on to a new conservator that you give it away, just don’t look at it as though you need to “make money”…