Collectible cars are rolling pieces of art that can be both enjoyed and exhibited. And, like many other collectibles, they can also be a safe place to park longer-term capital.

Some argue they’re even better than real estate, since cars garaged in a weak market can be transported to areas where demand is stronger.

Either way, high-end vehicles—exotics, customs, classics, hot rods and resto-mods—must be considered as much for the fun of ownership as for any financial gains down the road.

“They appreciate in value and you have the pleasure of driving your investment, which you can’t do with a GIC,” says Montreal-based Howard Cohen, general manager of John Scotti Classic Cars. “A lot of people buy them for nostalgia; their father had that car or they went to their graduation ceremony in that car.”

Photos courtesy Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

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A car with all its original components is inherently more collectible. So examine the serial numbers of major parts.

“The motor and the transmission serial numbers are the same on muscle cars, but one is stamped on the motor; the other on the transmission,” says Cohen. “Some cars have the original motor, but often the transmission has been replaced so it no longer matches.”

Car collecting takes time, research and patience, says Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson, a U.S.-based automobiles auction house noted for dealing in celebrity cars.

The rarer, the better. Some of the rarest are pre-WWII classics such as the Duesenberg and the Isotta Fraschini. But the ones owned by celebrities are pure gold.

Barrett-Jackson’s 2013 Scottsdale auction generated $109 million in gross sales. It featured the original 1966 Batmobile, which was snapped up for $4.6 million, and Clark Gable’s 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe, which sold for more than $2 million.

“Owning a car [that has] style and a celebrity connection is something that resonates with collectors all over the world,” says Jackson.

In general, expensive cars appreciate better, says Dan Warrener, a classic cars specialist with RM Auctions, a Canadian enterprise with offices in North America and Europe.

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