The Inside Line: Post-Covid-19 auction prices
“It’s early data, but the prices we’re seeing still match pre-virus... just”
With the whole world upside-down and few of us knowing what the next few days will bring – never mind the following weeks and months – only a fool would attempt to write about the current state of the market.
So, here goes…
Coronavirus and lockdown saw many predicting the collapse of the classic car market; social distancing, along with the discretionary nature of classic cars, would, it was argued, mean an at-best temporary stop to buying and selling.
And for a while, it looked like they might have been right: a lot of dealers reported a decline in enquires, much less sales, traditional car auctions struggled to trade safely, and classifieds proved defunct in a world that prevented non- essential travel.
And yet, we at The Market have experienced no such decline – and we’re not alone. Every day we talk to dealers, some of whom also report that exceptional cars are still bucking the market and even setting records, while the not-so- good need to be realistically priced to move. All trends that are no different to the last few years of softening values.
We’ve seen a tripling of traffic to our online auction platform as bored enthusiasts browse the classifieds from home. Possibly motivated, at least in part, by paltry interest rates and a desire to benefit from a crisis.
A more charitable view is that buyers are frustrated by being unable to drive and showcase their cars, so are seeking alternative ways of indulging their hobby, possibly with a new project to distract them and keep them busy. There is life out there in our industry, and plenty of buyers and sellers are still very active.
What does this mean for the private seller? Well, we attribute our success – almost a million pounds moved in April, and nine out of ten cars sold – to three main things, all of which you can use to help sell your classic.
The first is a comprehensive album of 100-plus professionally shot photos. Most of our buyers bid and take delivery of their ‘new’ classic cars without ever seeing it in the flesh, so good photographs of a freshly valeted car are absolutely vital.
Support that with an accurate and transparent description that appeals on emotional as well as rational grounds, and we know we’ve got it right when some owners call to say that it made them reconsider selling!
Finally, it’s been a buyers’ market for a couple of years. When we are sensible with estimates, we usually achieve the highest hammer prices – and if you’re brave enough, you’ll receive the most by placing it with no reserve…
So within this global marketplace turmoil, where are values? That’s not always easy to say; some are trying to liquidate their classics to keep their head above water, some are in hiding, and others are keeping their funds liquid, just in case they come to rely on them. Restorations are being abandoned, and some dealers, auction houses, and suppliers are going bust.
But we all have our own attitude to risk, so many others are still looking to purchase – for enjoyment or investment – and market forces mean the two can achieve equilibrium.
You want figures? Well, it’s still immature data at the moment but the best prices we are seeing are still matching those seen pre-virus. Just.
The classic car industry is changing and is likely to continue to be disrupted for some time.
No-one knows what the future holds, and only a fool would attempt to make any guesses.
We’ll see you again next month with our predictions…
Tristan Judge is director and co-founder of The Market, the online auction platform for classic and collectable cars