Why Ultra-Low Mileage Classic Cars Are the Worst Cars to Own

I saw an ad for a car for sale this morning, the sort of car that, normally, I’d be very interested in. It was an ad for a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle, and it was in incredible shape. It was also selling for an absolutely bonkers one million dollars, which even for a Beetle fetishist like myself is the same level of insane as toothpaste made from live wasps. Why is this Beetle selling for a million dollars? Because it has only 22 miles on the clock. That’s also why this would be a miserable car to own.

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Illustration for article titled Why Ultra-Low Mileage Classic Cars Are the Worst Cars to Own

I’m not saying this Beetle isn’t valuable, or even isn’t worth the money—it probably is. It could be the most original, like-new Beetle in the known universe, and as such it’s sort of a priceless thing. It’s got every original sticker on it, the hubcaps are still in dealership boxes, it has little parts and fittings I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on a Beetle outside of pictures in an owner’s manual. It’s incredible.

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But owning it would be torture. And not just this ultra-low mileage car—any ultra-low mileage car. I can’t imagine a more frustrating thing to have than an ultra-low mileage car I really love.

Because cars are best appreciated by driving them, anything that’s valuable because of how little it’s been driven is going to be something that you inherently can never truly enjoy. And I think that would be a path that leads to madness.

Illustration for article titled Why Ultra-Low Mileage Classic Cars Are the Worst Cars to Own

Look at that visor sleeve thing! I’ve never seen that! It’s amazing that still exists! Damn.

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I’d kill for a mint-condition mid-‘60s-era Volkswagen, but part of why I’d commit such an atrocity for one is because I’d like to drive it. The idea that you could own an amazing car but if you actually used that car, the value would plummet and you’d be a fool just makes no sense to me.

I can imagine walking by the keys to the car every day and every day being tempted, and every day having to remind myself what a bad idea it would be. That doesn’t sound like fun.

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Sure, you could argue that you could just say, fuck it, it’s only money! and drive the thing, but then you have to wonder why not just buy one of the many other perfectly restored, high-mileage cars that you can drive as much as you want, absolutely guilt-free? The low-mileage car just makes no good sense, if you actually want to own a car.

Sure, cars like this are important, but they’re the sort of thing a museum should own. For actual, car-loving human beings, ultra-low mileage cars are just cruelty.

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If you found an old dome light for a Simca in a junkyard, and were cleaning it, which caused a genie to be released, and that genie offered you the finest, most perfect, most delicious gyro ever created in the history of food, that’d be amazing. But if that genie then said, wait, you can’t actually eat that perfect gyro, then you would be well within your rights to call that genie out on pulling some serious monkey’s paw bullshit. That’s exactly the case with ultra-low mileage cars. They’re amazing things you can own, but can never really enjoy.

It’s rare that I’m happy that I don’t have anywhere near a million dollars to blow on an old VW, but in this case, I think I am.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

Ultra low mileage cars are not cars. The are museum pieces. Even considering turning them on and driving them ruins the value.

This car is a 1 in a million car now. There literally isn’t a car in that condition and miles out there any more. Driving it, which was the primary purpose when built, isn’t in the cards any more. It’s like how great paintings, which were meant to be displayed in public are now being displayed in hermetically sealed glass chambers with no flash photography allowed.

If you want a VW that looks perfect and drives perfect, it can be made. At a price a lot less than purchasing this car. Just like I can get a copy of the Mona Lisa from Walmart for a lot less than the original. You don’t hang the real Mona Lisa up in a public bathroom and you don’t take this thing out on the street.

That being said... I hate this car.   Someone bought this car and never drove it.   Now, it is impossible to drive it.   It annoys me.  I guess people can do whatever they want with their money, but 90% of what makes a car special is the memories you have in them.   And the memories people have about this car are “remember when we drove it home and put it in a climate controlled garage full of nitrogen?”