Market Analysis

Market Commentary - which classics are selling, by whom and for how much

Market summary for 2018


While the £10.4m spent at the main December auctions in the UK was 22% down from the £13.4m 2017 December sales total and the average amount spent also fell by 30% to £45,614 per car, there were buyers for a greater percentage of cars auctioned at three of the sales. For CCA’s 80% sale rate for more affordable classics at the WEC was 6% up, whereas Bonhams sold 8% more cars at Olympia and Barons 6% more at Sandown Park than they did one year ago.

Although 21% of all cars sold during December achieved more than their pre-sale estimates and 56% of premium-inclusive prices were within auctioneers’ guide price bands, 15-42% of sales were below the lower estimates in the catalogues as more vendors have been prepared to drop their reserves to sell their cars.

The top priced lot during the final sales of the old year was the £2,367,000 1958 BMW 507 3.2 S2 Roadster that had formerly belonged to the car’s designer. A 1964 Aston Martin DB5 with 4.2 engine upgrade also made a more than recent market £743,000 in Bonhams New Bond Street salerooms, where an ex-Maharaja 1924 Vauxhall 30/98 OE Velox set a £437,000 world record valuation for both model and marque.

Simultaneously in Warwickshire, a rare in RHD 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Duetto with hardtop raised £47,300, double the lower estimate, and £18,480, £6500 more than forecast, was available for a very French 1972 Citroen H Van. Perhaps the £1760 invested in a once electrifying 1985 Sinclair C4 Velomobile that had never been pedalled anywhere may have been excessively nostalgic.

From the declared prices of those auctioneers who publish their results, 14% fewer classics sold at auction in the UK during 2018 when 17% less cars were offered. Although £161.22m was still spent on classics in transparent auctions in 2018, £8m or just over 5% more than in 2017. For the average spent per auction car during 2018 amounted to £33,213 however, £5553 or 20% more than in 2017. Whereas the overall sale rate at the 71 sales personally reviewed last year remained constant at 67% compared to 66% the year before.

With European sales grossing £112.72m, Bonhams headed RM Sotheby’s £50.56m and Artcurial’s £42.41 totals, although the French house led their UK and US rivals with 47% by value and 35% by volume stats. In pre-Brexit UK meanwhile, Bonhams sold 637 cars for £76.87m, 71% of 899 offered, 13% of the total auctioned by volume and 48% of all cars sold by value. Even without their CCA subsidiary’s £7m contribution, Silverstone Auctions are now firmly in second place with 785 car sales of £21.31m (£28.28m including CAA) and a 69% combined sale rate. Their market share was 16.2% by volume and 17.5% by value.

After selling 501 cars, 64% of the 780 consigned, for £13.58m, Historics were third, achieving a 10.3% share of the market by volume and 8.4% by value, and H&H were fourth with 468 sales, 62% of 750 entered, for £9.68m, a 6% share by value and 9.6% by volume. RM Sotheby’s one UK sale in 2018 saw 48 or 52% of 93 cars at Battersea sell for £9.33m, their UK market share therefore 5.8% by value and 1% by volume.

The most classics however were consigned by 6th placed ACA in King’s Lynn, where 79% of 1203 entries sold for £8.53m to notch up a UK market share of 19.6% by volume and 5.3% by value. Whilst the highest sale rate of all was achieved by SWVA in Poole, where 257 cars could also be seen being started up and driven past the rostrum and 95% of them were re-homed.

Considering the worst efforts of the bad news obsessed media, not to mention the pro-public transport politicians, the market for unnecessary hobby vehicles has again stood up remarkably well in Brexit-battered Britain. For there were buyers prepared to spend over £161m on 4854 classics that I personally witnessed being hammered away in 2018, during which, lest we forget, several new world record prices were paid. Mr Toad is not yet extinct and, far away from the M25 car park, the occasional open road invites old school boys and girls to play a little between the cameras.

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