Exotic Car, Supercar, Hypercar -- What's the Big Deal?

Photo Source | Jacob Moore

Ever wonder what sets the typical “car" apart from its loftier “exotic," “super," or “hyper" car cousins? Are you worried that you might be using the terminology incorrectly at your local Cars & Coffee event because you're confused by how they each differ and stand out from one another? Well, join the club. You're not alone.

There's no “Webster's Dictionary of Cars" – particularly when it comes to the exotic/hypercar category – and there aren't any hard and fast rules that strictly define each luxury category. However, some generally agreed-upon principles, like exclusivity and an invite-only, within car culture can help set them apart.


Photo Source |  Supreet

Before supercars or hypercars, there were exotic cars, but what constitutes an exotic is perhaps the most debatable of the three. While most car enthusiasts can agree that an exotic car is one you don't see very often, beyond that, the criteria governing inclusion into this exclusive club differ wildly. It could be price, performance, availability, or all of the above.

Many define an exotic car by a particular brand, including virtually anything produced by McLaren, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, and Aston Martin. An exotic car can also be characterized by its rarity, either because of a limited production run or because age has sent most existing models to the scrap yard.

Still, other exotic car definitions might include a model produced strictly for the racetrack or one that is a customized classic – such as a Mustang Shelby Cobra replica. Price and performance can also determine whether a car is “exotic." Still, the only criteria that might be needed for joining this first tier of the exclusive are the opinions of collectors, fans, clubs, owners, and others. If they decide it's exotic, then it is. Or is it?


Photo Source. | Leif Bergerson

Before there were Ferrari, McLaren, Pagani, Koenigsegg, Ford, and Chevy (yes, you read those last two correctly) supercars, there was the Lamborghini Miura – a mid-engine, V12 sports car that debuted at the 1966 Frankfurt Motor Show where the manufacturer proclaimed it as the world's fastest car and the supercar was born. Other supercars followed, including Lamborghini's Countach and the McLaren F1.

If exotic cars are not seen very often, then supercar sightings are even rarer still. Characteristics include a price tag north of $250K, 500-plus horsepower, and a mid-engine configuration for better balance and handling. And even though most thoughts turn to non-U.S. brands when “supercar" is mentioned, Ford and Chevy are considered all in the family today as well thanks to their GT and Corvette models, respectively.


Photo Source | Ferrari

The very top of the food chain – beyond the supercar – is reserved for hypercars. Typically costing more than a million dollars and churning out 1,000-plus horsepower, hypercars are in a class all their own because of rarity (for example, just 500 Ferrari LaFerrari's were manufactured), offering the very best in performance and design, and consistently pushing the engineering envelope beyond what was once thought possible.

Hypercar examples spanning different eras include Bugatti's Veyron and 1,500-horsepower Chiron – the latter with a $3 million price tag – McLaren's P1, Porsche's 918, and Ferrari's V12 hybrid LaFerrari. Despite the popularity of a V12 and the bragging rights that come with it, newer supercar power plants are producing more six-cylinder vehicles due to environmental concerns related to emissions and fuel consumption.

Perhaps even more challenging than determining whether a particular model is an exotic car, supercar, or hypercar is figuring out how to afford to own one. While you may be trying your luck with the lottery, the initial purchase price is out of reach for most drivers. While the expenses don't stop at just the sticker, owners must also consider insurance and maintenance-related costs.

A thousand-dollar oil change may force you to the sidelines when viewing vs. driving these rare cars but don't let it stop you from pursuing the drive of your life. Did you know that you can rent one through an exotic car rental agency? The financial commitment would be a lot less, and you'd still have the awe-inspiring visuals for your social media. Instagram that - fast!

Last updated October 5, 2022