We delayed the release of this 2021 guide because the entire Defender marketplace changed in 2020. While we all waited to see what the release of the 2020 Defender would bring to the classic and heritage market, we never saw Covid-19 having as big of an impact on the demand for Defenders, parts availability, and prices.
A few things happened in 2020, which had a deep impact on the industry, demand, parts availability, and overall prices. In short, the prices and demand for vintage Land Rover Defenders will continue to rise, here are the reasons:
Launch of the 2020 Defender
For Defender enthusiasts, 2020 marked the year when Land Rover would launch the next generation of the Defender branded vehicles. Many of us put our names on the list and waited with excited enthusiasm. While we appreciate the attempt by Land Rover to keep the Defender lineage alive, we believe they missed poorly. While the new vehicle may perform well from a mechanical perspective, it is far from the utility we’ve come to love and enjoy about the heritage Defender DNA.
It is our perspective that Jaguar Land Rover’s goal was to create a new marketplace for the Defender, rather than focus on the solid base of loyalists that had kept the brand going for so many decades. Ten years from now we may adjust our perspective, but as it stands now, we thing it was a big miss.
The Lock-down and Resulting Cabin Fever
When the world shut down in March of 2020, most of us thought it was going to be a couple weeks to flatten the curve. We all stocked up on necessary supplies and tuned into the non-stop cycle of morbid news stories coming from all parts of the world. It was a scary time for everyone, but beyond that it made us all question how we wanted to spend our free time.
With vacations cancelled and the need to social distance becoming more important than ever, we saw a massive surge in people interested in buying and building Defenders. The concept of “getting away” was something we heard on a daily basis. Rather than spending $20k on a family vacation to Disney World, we saw a lot of families deciding to re-direct those funds towards a classic American road trip. We saw a huge surge in demand for Defender 110’s in the summer of 2020.
Supply Chain Disruption and Parts Availability
With the entire world shut down and many of us struggling with ways to fill our newly found free time, those with a Defender project sitting in the garage finally had the time to take on the project they had been putting off. Parts distributors and retailers suddenly saw supplies of basic items disappear off the shelves – door hinges, handles, re-trim kits, etc. For us, as builders and restorers, we saw this happening and stocked up as much as possible.
Once the available supply of parts were depleted and many of the production factories shuttered due to Covid-19 restrictions, many of the parts disappeared from the marketplace. Some of our specialty vendors were forced to close, or reduce to fractional workforce. What would normally take us a couple weeks to procure suddenly didn’t have any sort of timelines available.
Travel Restrictions + Parts Shipping
While there are a few US-based suppliers of Defender parts we use at Bishop+Rook, but most of the parts we use at our US-based workshops are typically flown in each week via DHL and FedEx. When passenger airlines were grounded last year, the ability to carry extra cargo on behalf of the major shippers also went away. Our air freight costs nearly quadrupled overnight, with additional shipping delays coming with that.
Worldwide Defender Demand and Donor Truck Availability
While the US is certainly a major driver of worldwide Defender demand, we also witnessed a resurgence in demand in nearly every single global market – from Spain and France to England and Eastern Europe. What was formerly viewed as an agricultural implement in most of the rest of the world suddenly became a status symbol and gateway to adventure. When demand increases, so do prices. Furthermore, those who would typically be selling their Defenders were keeping them.
Brexit + Travel Restrictions
We source Defenders from all parts of the world – for both Right Hand Drive (RHD) and Left Hand Drive (LHD) vehicles. 2020 was a very difficult year to transport vehicles across Europe or to ship them across the ocean. Our ability to transport Defenders from the source location to one of our workshops was dramatically reduced with travel restrictions. Changes in tax and customs paperwork due to Brexit created more hurdles for sourcing Defenders and transporting them across Europe.
Exchange Rates + Costs
The exchange rate between the GBP, Euro, and USD continue to fluctuate – not in favor of keeping Defender prices low. At the beginning of 2020, the exchange rate between the dollar and the pound was 1.14 GPB to 1 USD.
Today, that rate has been hovering around 1.39 GBP to 1 USD. The Euro has gone from 1.06 EUR to 1 USD to 1.19 EUR to 1 USD. No matter how you look at it, this will cause an overall increase in both the base cost of a Defender and all the associate costs: parts, shipping, etc.
Pricing Speculation + Future Trends
We saw the cost of donor vehicles last year increase by about 20-30%. While we wish this was a temporary market anomaly, we believe these prices are likely to stick and even increase over the coming year. The best time to buy a Defender might be right now, if you’re looking to save some money.