Market Analysis

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


Market analyst Richard Hudson-Evans reports on a year of seismic change, with most event-located auctions shut down by regulations, but £155.68m still spent on more than 5,000 classics at UK auctions reviewed on this website, £22.84m more than in 2019. But as YouTube became the petrol-head channel of choice, more auction cars were bought by absentee bidders on telephones and keyboards than ever before. While the national sale rate was 71% in 2020, up by 5% on 2019.

JANUARY SALES REVIEWED by Richard Hudson-Evans

After crunching the numbers from the 77 UK sales of 4838 classics recorded by Classic Auction Review in 2020, the collector vehicle auction sector has a new market leader, Silverstone Auctions, who grossed £33,128,250 in car sales and, together with their CCA subsidiary, whose clients spent another £8,425,759 on more ‘Everyman’ fare, sold a chart-topping 856 cars for a premium-inclusive £41,553,009.

Last year, when 72 UK sales of 5,029 classics were reviewed on C.A.R., Bonhams in London, and their then new MPH start-up at Bicester Heritage, led the stats with combined 2019 sales of 467 cars for £43,590,000. Silverstone with CCA were second with reviewed sales of 814 classics for £29,800,000, Historics sale of 437 cars for £12,950,000 put them in third place and, after we reported on their sale of 576 cars for £12,310,000, H&H were fourth.

During the 2020 pandemic revolution however, which has not only changed High Streets and emptied office blocks forever, but has seen traditional auctions survive and thrive by promoting their sales on-line and staging them as internet events, there has been seismic change in the sector.

For following the last hurrah of the trio of Retromobile week sales in Paris last February, and Race Retro with physical Silverstone Auctions sales at Stoneleigh Park, and thanks to guidelines and then three lockdowns, no more event-themed auctions could be held on the EU mainland or in Brexit Britain for the rest of the year.

The Goodwood Members Meeting and Revival could not be run at the Goodwood circuit or Goodwood House, and nor could the traditional  Bonhams auctions take place on-site. The Silverstone Classic and auction could not go ahead at the circuit either and nor could the Bonhams auction at a cancelled Beaulieu International Autojumble. While although a late season Goodwood Speedweek event replaced the earlier Revival, it was a 'For TV production Only' with no paying punters from the real world lining the circuit and Bonhams auction tent, and there were no accessible Practical Classics or Classic Motor Show events or supporting auctions held at the NEC in 2020.

Auction goalposts were constantly moved during the 2020 season
Having adapted well - and quickly - to enforced and constantly changing change however, Silverstone Auctions and their CCA satellite brand became the UK collector vehicle auction market leaders with their over £41.5m result, a £21.3m lead over Bonhams and MPH, who sold 410 cars for £20,088,000, third placed Historics with their C.A.R reviewed sale of 422 cars before 'live' audience for a house best ever £18,950,226, £6,212,678 more than Bonhams, who were in fourth place without MPH in 2020,

Next up, and confirming the buying (and selling) power of the internet were fifth placed The Market, in only their first full year on the battlefield, the South Oxfordshire based i-platform selling 560 classics for £10,607,791. On a brand stand-alone basis, and again on their sales reviewed on this website, CCA were sixth, with sales of 435 cars for £8,425,759, and H&H seventh, with reviewed sales of 422 cars for £7,678,981.

Nationally eighth with the £7,434,833 sale of 844 cars, most driven past their King’s Lynn rostrum into new ownership, were Anglia Car Auctions, who were one of the first to professionally webcast their Drive Throughs on free-to-view YouTube. Ninth-placed Bonhams MPH sold another 313 cars, some also driven though the WW2 hangar at Bicester, for £7,361,461, and Brightwells completed the top ten with 508 cars sold for £4,826,737, compelled by virus-combatting regulations to run most of their sales sales behind closed doors without punters or cafeteria on a Timed Out basis.

£34m spent in one session in Henry VIII’s garden where 93% of cars sold
The highest single sale total of the UK auction year, by a country mile, was the £34,048,900 sale of just 14 high value automotive assets by the visiting Californian Gooding & Company in front of a well dressed audience in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.

Gooding’s 93% sale rate topped the percentage sold chart for the year, too, albeit very closely followed by SWVA selling 92% of the 241 classics that this website watched being driven through their auction hall at Parkstone, Poole, for £3,031,264. While having sold 87% of the 644 cars consigned to their platform, On-Line Only The Market occupied third place on the '2020 Sale Rate Podium'.

Even though many more of the 6774 cars consigned were sold on-line to absentee bidders than ever before, the overall sale rate at those auctions reviewed in 2020 amounted to 71%, compared to 2019 when 66% of auction cars sold. The maths also tell us that 5% more cars auctioned sold during 2020 than they did in 2019.

The most cars consigned for transparently conducted UK-located auctions reviewed on C.A.R. during 2020 were the 1108 lots catalogued by the Silverstone Auctions Group, including CCA, only just in front of the 1105 classics entered for ACA sales.though. Bonhams with MPH meanwhile consigned 760 in 2020, H&H 757, Historics 721 and Brightwells 677.

By volume, Silverstone with CCA commanded 17.7% of the 2020 UK auction market reviewed, 16.6% in 2019. ACA 17.5% by car lot in 2020, 16.8% in 2019. The Market’s share was 11.6% in 2020, their first year reviewed, and Historics an appreciated 11.5%, compared to 8.89% in 2019. Brightwells market share was 11.3% by volume in 2020, 13.13% in 2019, and Bonhams with MPH, 8.5% in 2020, 9.51% in 2019.

Whereas by value, the auction market for classic cars in the UK totalled £155,684,730 for the sales reviewed on this website, £22,840,000 more than in 2019, which was £20,370,000 less than in 2018, when the sales total was £153,210,000, much the same as in 2020. Lest we forget, in booming 2017, £166,500,000 was spent on classic cars at the UK sales reviewed, £10,820,000 or 7% more than in 2020.

Silverstone with CCA sold 26.7% of the £155.68m 2020 UK auction market, with one Gooding sale accounting for 21.9% by value, Bonhams with MPH 12.9%, Historics 12.2%, The Market 6.8%, H&H 4.9%, ACA 4.8% and Brightwells 3.1%.

While the average price paid for cars in the sales monitored amounted to £32,173 in 2020, 19% or £5,135 more than was spent at auction in 2019 and much the same as the 2019 UK auction average of £33,214.

The average price paid for a car bought at Gooding was a quite extraordinary £2,432,064, the Bonhams average per car £131,315, RM Sotheby’s £112,512 at one sale, Silverstone £78,698, Historics £34,581, Bonhams MPH £23,519, Richard Edmonds £21,562, Silverstone CCA £19,485, The Market £18,942 and H&H £18,197.

Considering the bulletin to bulletin bad news the anti-enterprise newsrooms peddle to depress viewers, who are prevented by Nanny State from escaping to a pub or attending an event for like-minded optimists, many of these statistic are surely encouraging for consumers who used to be able to consume. For those survivors with some cash left to splash, there is at least the possibility of pent-up demand being released at some point in 2021. Now that really would be Jabastic. RH-E
  • Market Review 1
  • Market Review 2
  • Market Review 3