What will happen to Cuba’s vintage cars?
Anyone who has visited Cuba can tell you that the country is full of classic cars. Gorgeous, historic old vehicles. It makes any move about Cuba memorable, because Hollywood loves to use the classic vehicles on set for mood and scene. So why aren’t there more new cars in Cuba? Is Cuba’s car population frozen in time just because Cubans love the vintage look?
Not at all. The situation is far more complicated than that. But it’s changing.
Why aren’t there more new cars in Cuba?
Some 50 years ago, the US mandated a trade embargo against Cuba and at that point, no new vehicles could be sold to the country. Not to be outdone, Cuban officials mandated that only those cards already in Cuba when the embargo was put into effect could be sold or traded in Cuba. If you didn’t have a car to trade or sell, you had to get special permission.
That’s why of the 11 million people in Cuba, only a small minority owns cars. When families have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, a car is a luxury.
Current situation with cars in Cuba
But times are changing, thanks to some moves by the Cuban government in 2014. Cuban officials began to allow people to freely trade cards and buy them –if they could afford to. Pay for an average Cuban is only about $250 a year, but the Cuban government has added huge markups to new vehicles. Now a new car can cost between $100,000 and $250,000 in Cuba. On only $250 a year, few Cubans can afford a new car.
With the US now in talks about trading with Cuba, more change could happen and the trade embargo could be lifted. It is possible that American cars could become available in Cuba in the future. And, American car collectors may be able to get their hands on some of the 1950s and earlier vehicles on Cuba’s roads.
But it’s buyer beware: Most of these vintage cars are in poor condition and unsafe at any speed. If you think your California auto insurance quotes are high, just think of what they would be like for some of these old cars in Cuba.
Still, there are some old cars in pristine condition –as well as some rare ones–and American collectors would love to own them. As Cuba opens to Americans, it will be interesting to see how the car market there—and here—changes.