2017 Germany: Most-Popular Historic and Classic Cars

The VW Beetle is Germany’s favorite classic car followed by the Mercedes-Benz W123 and the Porsche 911. Mercedes is the most common historic brand on German roads.

VW Golfs in Wolfsburg

In 2017, the VW Beetle remained the most-popular historic H-plate car in Germany for vehicles maintained in an original condition older than 30 years. The Mercedes-Benz W123 (E class of the mid-1970s to mid-1980s) maintained its second place while the Porsche 911 took third place from the Mercedes-Benz SL (R107). Mercedes-Benz is the most-popular brand for H-plate cars followed by Volkswagen and Porsche.

Historic H-Plate Cars in Germany

On January 1, 2017, the number of H-plate cars in Germany was 381,027 – an increase of 10.8% compared to a year ago. Mercedes-Benz remained the most common brand with 92,048 cars, followed by Volkswagen (71,210) and Porsche (25,120).

Cars in Germany that are older than 30 years and in a good, original condition may be registered with historic plates where an H is added to the registration number. In addition to prestige value, these H plates in some cases mean a significant saving on registration fees: nearly €1000 for a diesel engine car with a capacity of 3 l or more, or around €600 for a petrol car. For smaller engine cars, the savings are noticeably smaller while many newer cars are already fitted with exhaust systems that permit petrol cars to be driven in city centers.

A change in the law in October 2017 will allow H-plates to be combined with seasonal number plates. This will allow owners to register the cars – and pay tax and more significantly insurance – only for the months that the car is registered for use. This may encourage owners using cars only in summer – as is the case with many cabriolets – to also save by using H plates.

The number of cars on H plates in Germany increased as follows in recent years:

YearCars on H Plates

Most-Popular Historic and Classic Car Models in Germany in 2017

The most-popular historic and classic cars registered on H plates in Germany at the start of 2017 were as follows according to the VDA / KBA:

BrandModelH 2017H 2016Total Older Than 30 Years% On H Plates
1VolkswagenKäfer (Beetle)34,64832,75050,16666.9
2Mercedes-BenzW 12318,57817,53426,95565.7
3Porsche911 / 91214,05210,49817,13085.3
4Mercedes-BenzSL R 10713,71911,32517,30381.2
7Mercedes-BenzW111 / Heckflosse6,0975,2426,76589.0
9Mercedes-BenzW113 / Pagode4,9494,8475,07397.5

Top 10 Classic Car Models in Germany in 2017

There were only minor changes in the rank order of the ten most popular historic cars in Germany in 2017 with no new models entering the top ten list this year.

The Volkswagen Beetle (Käfer) remained the clear leader with 34,648 of the 50,166 Beetles registered in Germany using H plates. As only 67% of Beetles in Germany are on historic plates, the number may potentially increase in further years but many of the remaining cars may have been modified to the extend that they do not qualify for H plates.

The Mercedes-Benz W123 has been the second most-popular H-plate car model in Germany since 2013. This E-class from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s has the distinction of being the last car to have outsold the VW Golf in Germany in a single calendar year – back in 1980. Only 27,000 of the W123s are still registered in Germany so the car will almost certainly never be able to claim top H-plate slot from the VW Beetle.

The Porsche 911 / 912 claimed third place from the Mercedes-Benz SL R107. A remarkable 85% of Porsche 911s older than 30 years in Germany are registered on H plates. As the 911-model name is still in use, the upwards potential for Germany’s favorite sports car remains unrestricted.

In contrast, the last R107 was built in 1989, and although there are more of these SL Mercedes-Benz cars in Germany older than 30 years than of the 911, the model will struggle to regain third place. It was second in 2012.

The VW Bus, Mercedes-Benz /8 and W111 (Heckflosse) maintained their positions from last year. While only just more than half of the older VW Buses are on H plates, the two Mercedes-Benz models are at nearly 77% and 90%.

For the second consecutive year, the VW Golf improved one rank position. Less than a third of Golfs older than 30 years are on H plates. This is at least partly due to cars being modified, not being maintained in original condition, and limited savings potential. However, the H-plate potential is enormous and the Golf is unlikely to be still in only eighth place next year.

The VW Golf thus pushed the Mercedes-Benz W113 (Pagode) into ninth place. Only 2.5%, or a mere 124 Pagodes registered in Germany are not on H plates.

The Opel Kadett was in tenth place for the second consecutive year. Like the VW Golf, a rather small percentage of the older Kadetts are on historic number plates and probably a large number of these are probably significantly older than 30 years. Opel used the Kadett name from 1937-40 and 1962 to 1993 so the Kadett is likely to remain behind while the Golf race ahead.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.