Articles

Michael Sheehan's Ferraris-online.com Article

456s and 550s: Just Used Cars

The good news is that if your reasons for owning a 456 or 550 extend beyond impressing the parking lot attendant at Spago, these cars are becoming really good buys

As appeared in:

Sports Car Market—March 2002 issue

Sheehan Speaks

by Michael Sheehan

The 550 Maranello and 456 GT and GTA are today’s state-of-the-art grand touring Ferraris, offering supercar performance in a luxurious and very stylish package. Yet in the past year these cars have dropped drastically in value. Today, real money for a 1995 456 GT with low miles, good colors and full service is about $95,000 while a 1997 550 with the same features will sell for about $150,000, both down about $40,000 in the last year.

Further, less-than-perfect cars are taking a real hit. At the eBay/Kruse auction in Scottsdale, a yellow partial repspray, non-mileage-verified, lease-return (how’s that for a list of attributes) 1997 456 GT (S/N 100270) sold on Saturday for $88,250, and was resold on Sunday for $94,350 (page 33). I wouldn’t want to be the one trying to resell it again.

Of course, all new cars, even Ferraris, depreciate. But this recent drop has been hastened by a recession centered on the high-tech industries and the drop in the NASDAQ. The consensus among dealers is that high-tech whiz-kids in their 20s, 30s and early 40s made up a solid 25 percent of the recent new Ferrari buyers. Many have left the market until their businesses recover.

Additionally, both the 550 and the 456 are near the end of their production run and will be replaced soon. This means many of those who can afford to play are waiting for the latest new toy and have already had, and often sold, their 456 or 550, adding more cars to the secondary market.

Remember that few people use their new Ferraris on a daily basis. They are more often purchased as a statement of success. And somehow, bragging about “getting a good deal on a used, lease-return 456” doesn’t carry the same panache as saying, “I cashed in a few options and went down to Ferrari of Seattle to pick up my new 360 Modena Spyder.”

While Ferrari now builds world cars, with identical emissions and safety equipment wherever they are sold, the cost of a new 550 or 456 is much more in the US than in Europe. Many enthuiasts and entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this Ferrari arbitrage and bought, converted and imported Euro cars, making that many more cars available in our market.

The good news, of course, is that if your reasons for owning a 456 or 550 extend beyond impressing the parking lot attendant at Spago, these cars are becoming really good buys. Furthermore, with a 550 at $150,000 approaching the value of a good Daytona (about $125,000) and a 456 GT at $95,000 (not too much over the price of a good 365 GTC/4 at $60,000). I believe that both the 550 and the 456 are nearing the bottom of their depreciation cycles. Post-1970s serial-production Ferraris seem to find a level and just stay there, like 308 GTSs at $25,000–$30,000 or first-generation Testamsas in the $40,000–$60,000 range.

It is my prediction that within a year a 1997 US-model 550 Maranello will bottom out at about $125,000 while a similar 456 will stabilize at about $75,000. For the user, both offer one hell of a lot of performance for not a lot of money—and if properly taken care of, will suffer very little from further depreciation.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN has been a Ferrari dealer for 30 years as well as a race car driver and exotic car broker.