It’s the eternal recurring question for gearheads. How many cars to you really need? Usually, the answer is determined by how many parking spaces you have.

But for the moment let’s assume you have unlimited space.

I have found that when you get beyond five or six cars, you are not driving any of them enough to keep weird problems from popping up. It’s certainly no fun when, on a sunny day you grab your XK120 out of storage only to find the wheel cylinders have been leaking, so you have no brakes. Or the clutch disc has bonded with the flywheel, so you have no gears.

I propose that six old cars is the maximum number you can own while being able to adequately use them.

Modern cars are different. You can have as many as those as you like, so long as you never let their batteries go dead – which can cause a whole host of on-board computer issues.

What have your experiences been, and how many cars can you handle in your collection?

Would you want this many cars in your collection?

22 Comments

  1. David Andersen

    Ah, first world problems, eh?

    Well, I have six cars currently and tend to agree with you, Keith. They range in age from old (1970 Corvette LT-1), to modern (2000 Ferrari 550 Maranello) to almost brand new (2023 Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio). Then there’s two 911s – a recently acquired ’93 RS America and a soon-to-be sold ’95 Carrera coupe – which are pretty straightforward in the care and feeding department but still need to be properly exercised. And finally, there’s an ERA 289 “FIA” Cobra replica, built in 2003. Fast and fun but fair weather only, which given the wide swings of my local climate limits the number of usable car days for this one. What can I say, I’m a fair weather Cobra guy.

    Even though I am retired it is a challenge for me to find the time to adequately care for and drive them all. You think you’re going to find the time but life, or the weather, or something or someone gets in the way. I find that I am often forced to drive one or another car because maybe it’s been a couple of months and the car needs to be driven and I feel obliged to get it out, versus really wanting to. Which means I should probably sell the one or two I drive the least, leaving more time to enjoy the ones I drive the most. This would leave me with maybe three cars, and I’m sure I can handle that long-term. So, maybe one Italian, one German and one American? Hmm…kinda sounds like a plan.

    As for the new one, the Alfa “QV”, it is my DD. It is so astoundingly fast, agile, and competent, yet every day comfortable and useable (and so far utterly reliable), not to mention killer looks, I sometimes question why even bother with anything else? First world problems, indeed.

  2. Keith Martin

    Great thoughts Dave. I agree with you that we should be honest with ourselves about which cars we drive the least and consider moving them on. And exercising the remaining cars more.

  3. Great question Keith! We are at 11 total, with 4 pre-1975, 4 from 1990 to 2005, and 3 later. We’ve built up over the last 10 years, adding a car every year of so. Given the cars we have bought have never lived up to the sellers claims, each has had their fair share of work required. Fortunately I love working on cars. In as much as we are sort of out of parking space, and given all of the cars want attention periodically, I think we are at our happy point: A car for pretty much every occasion and not too many little challenges to end up with cars that can’t be used reliably.

  4. Alan Andrea

    My goal is to drive each of my collector cars 1,000 miles a year. For me, it’s not an arbitrary goal. I feel that much less time behind the wheel wouldn’t allow me to fully appreciate each of them. Given my midwestern climate, driving and maintaining six would be pushing it. Three or four is about my limit.

  5. Great question Keith! We are at 11 total, with 4 pre-1975, 4 from 1990 to 2005, and 3 later. We’ve built up over the last 10 years, adding a car every year of so, with a focus on making sure each car had its special niche – guaranteeing it would get driven. Given the cars we have bought have never lived up to the sellers claims, each has had their fair share of work required. Fortunately I love working on cars. In as much as we are sort of out of parking space, and given all of the cars want attention periodically, not just the older ones, I think we are at our happy point: A car for pretty much every occasion and enough time to keep each car where it can be reliable.

  6. Mike Haring

    Have to agree with Keith’s typical, presenting answer of no more cars than parking spaces – reminds me of my 2 kids’ mom’s & my belief in a family of no more kids than parents!!! Although the current allotment of space is filled at 10, 2 of them are JDM daily drivers, 2 are RV/campers; so really we have only 6 “collectors” that don’t see rigorous use.
    All 6 are on trickle chargers and we try to get as many smiles per miles on them as we can in good weather – which in the upper Midwest unfortunately includes prohibitive winter weather. But, thank you climate change, the 308 GTS was on the ice/snow/salt free roads just last week!!

  7. Andrew Stevens

    I would more define the number of ‘styles’ of cars you might need for a varied motoring experience. E.G. a prewar car for that type of experience and events, a 1950s British sportscar for that sort of experience, a 1960s Italian small sports/GT car, a 1960s European GT car, a 1950s or 1960s US car, a saloon car era of your choice right through to whatever you might consider a supercar/hypercar type of thing. To me it would be more about the variety of motoring experiences that I can have and the variety of events that I can attend. However you define your categories depends upon the range of experiences you want!

  8. Backing up far enough from this problem to ignore the aging paint and chrome, I think I see a couple of collecting categories. The divide is between things we use, or drive, and things we look at. That 80’s philosopher, Bud Fox, asked Gordon Gecko how many boats he could ski behind at once. And there you have it. One spouse at a time. One pair of shoes. One wristwatch. One wallet. Dozens of paintings, Hundreds of books. Paintings and books are more patient than cars- and we hope less mobile.

    But see, further, King Solomon. For the man whose harem, oops, whose GARAGE is spacious enough, there are opportunities to take turns.

    Why distinguish between collected cars and everyday ones? Even for those of us who have a highly reliable daily driver ( an “appliance”) there’s a tendency to choose one with personality and character. Like Dave’s Alfa above.

    I think time is the decider. If I can only drive a collected car on weekends, two or three cars seem like a full plate. For the lucky guy who can drive one every day, you might stretch to six or seven. After that, you risk having to pay somebody to have fun for you.

    oh, me? ummm more than six. And several of them have been sitting too long.

  9. MICHAEL A ORNSTEIN

    But I’m single and live in a condo with a 2 car garage. Used to have a daily driver outside, but I’d cover it. So I wanted just 2 “special” cars, 1 for normal shopping runs and one for special Sundays. I have owned the 99 Lotus Elise 190 since new and added a 2016 AMG GTS a couple of years ago. Enough to satisfy the “itch”.

  10. Frank Trebel

    I have a different approach. I’ve owned 52 cars in my 80 years. I buy, decent cars , have a bit of relaxing fun making them better than when I bought them, drive them for awhile and when I get used to them, or bored, I let them go to some deserving buyer and move on to another challenge or surprise. I’ve been through Triumphs, MGBs, Porches, Jaguars, Mercedes, Renaults, and many American cars. I enjoy the variety but don’t have to be concerned with constant maintenance of a small fleet. One at a time.

  11. Keith,
    I look at this from 3 different angles:
    First is that of space, I remember moving from CA to AZ a few years ago and working with my builder on my home. I went forward to pushing him to expand my garage to almost double the size of my CA homestead. The first week living in that home, I thought I was going to have to give up on cars and collect motorcycles.
    The second is that I have been the victim of painters prison where my cars go in and never seem to come out. I find myself wanting to participate in events and end buying something while I am waiting, then facing which one will remain once I do get the original car back(if not both).
    Third, I still have over 9 matchbox and hot wheel cases full of my childhood dreams. It is hard for me to imagine just stopping here with what I have gathered and enjoyed to this point and still want more.
    However, in moving forward I planning to keeping a core collection of around 4 cars and trade around additions to those. I am lucky that I live close to work and use all of my cars at home on a regular bases. With my mid collector cars as my all weather daily’s (my 92 300ce (80k on the clock) and the daughter’s 91 4×4 ext cab ranger), we also keep a newer car in my wife’s hands for anything out of the norm for us.
    I am realizing that it is a sickness, as everyday my eye seems to be pulled by something shinny, with a what if.
    -Jay

  12. anatoly arutunoff

    watch for failed trickle chargers…we lose one about every 2 years or so. green light! battery dead…

    • I recognize that name! Something about an illegal cylinder head on a Morgan? I hope that was met in the humor it’s intended.

  13. Frank Barrett

    Toly, I just had that happen this morning. Drove the Fulvia to swap it with the Porsche in storage, and the charger was on the 912, but its battery was dead. Grrr.

    I once got up to seven cars but came to my senses and dropped to three. Then a couple more seduced me, so now I’m up to five. Space is a solvable problem. It’s all the paperwork, insurance, maintenance, money, and time that limit me. My daily driver, an E55 AMG wagon, fills a lot of needs: useful, comfy, fast, elegant, fun. Pick up stuff at Home Despot or drive 500 miles a day through the Rockies. The other four are purely toys.

    As you age and want to pack more into your remaining time, you tend to push the limits; not a bad thing.

  14. Jim Rosenthal

    You all are a lot more rational than I am. I had twenty, donated one (’38 Packard) so down to nineteen, but back up to twenty before too long, I think. And not a day goes by that I don’t wish for more of them. I never claimed not to be crazy, I guess. What stops me from having even more is space, and funds.

  15. John Clinard

    To quote the late Martin Swig: “New cars are for people who can’t afford old cars!”

  16. Besides the cars, my next question is: How many motorcycles do I need?

  17. Mike Ingelido

    My personal approach is four: #1 Requirement. A daily driver that is reliable, efficient and still fun to drive. A little 2016 Ford Fiesta ST. #2 Requirement: Wife’s appliance. A 2019 VW Golf AllTrack which also performs winter ski trip duty. #3 Requirement: A long distance, cross country, comfortable cruiser: A 2020 Lotus Evora GT (a Lotus? YGBSM! But is meets my needs). Or any modern C7 or C8 Corvette, but a Bentley Continental GT would be the ultimate solution. #4 Requirement: A fun car simply for pleasure. A 1974 Lotus Europa I’ve owned for 40+ years which fits nicely into a nook in the garage and gets driven about 2500 miles a year.

  18. I have log held that you have to use them regularly. My regular driver is a Peugeot 505 Turbo but I also have an MGB and a VW Sports Bug and I have had 4 Honda CBX’s (total miles between all 4 CBX’s is 247k miles). People have asked “Where do you get parts for a Pugo?” I reply “I don’t need parts for a Peugeot but I have had need for Bosch parts.’

  19. I keep it simple: 1 classic car and 1 classic motorcycle. I don’t have time for any more.
    I used to have many more toys, but life changed. After my first wife died at age 48, I realized all of the things that we never did together because I was always busy working to pay for all of the toys that I never had the time to use because I was always busy working. And, all of the money that I threw away trying to upkeep the cars that I rarely used. Nothing is more expensive than regret.
    Nowadays, I’d rather just fantasize about cars and motorcycles while reading SCM or watching Barrett-Jackson. It’s cheaper and more satisfying, plus I don’t have to work nearly as many hours.

  20. Keith Martin

    Todd thank you for your thoughtful comments. I too have learned too that life is short and unpredictable. Let’s make the most of what we have, while we can. – Keith.

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