Data Driven

Taking the temperature of the market on the eve of the big auctions

by Adam Wilcox
13 January 2023 2 min read
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Author F. Scott Fitzgerald noted, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

We will all need to keep that in mind as we consider where the monthly Hagerty Market Rating sits on the eve of the major January auctions. On the one hand, the rating dropped for a fourth consecutive month–something we haven’t seen in five years. On the other, its current value of 74.76 is still higher than any value prior to 2022.

The story gets clearer when we dig into the metrics that drive the rating (full explanation of what those are, here). Overall Auction Activity dropped 2.5 points to its lowest value of the year, dragged down primarily by a 5 point drop in median sale price—the fourth largest drop ever—to its lowest point since September 2020. The number of cars sold at auction is at an all-time high, but can no longer push the rating upward as it has been maxed-out at 100. It will likely back away from 100 in the coming months as the inflated sales volume from online auctions becomes normalized in the Market Rating's history. We also expect the growth itself to slow—cars listed at online-only auction companies has increased more than 50 percent each year for the last two years, but sooner or later, even the platforms that sell 24/7 will become saturated. That's especially true since in-person auctions have fully recovered from the pandemic closures and are now moving as much metal as ever.

Cars selling between private parties seem to be performing better than the auctions. Private sales activity is up slightly, with the average sale price outpacing inflation. The percentage of cars selling above insured value continues to hover just below 50 percent, at its fifth-highest value of all time.

The rating also takes into account the ratio of Hagerty customers calling to increase the value of their cars versus those calling to decrease. That ratio has dropped for both high end and mainstream classics but, after two years of growth, remains elevated. In other words, classic car owners perception of the market remains really strong, but isn't quite as bullish as it was earlier in 2022.

Overall vehicle values, as measured by the latest edition of the Hagerty Price Guide, are up over all . However, the Hagerty Hundred—the average #2 value for the 100 most-insured vehicles in the price guide—continues a downward trend, reaching its lowest point since August 2021. Optimism from our industry experts leading into January remains lukewarm—dropping to March 2021 levels.

It's worth stressing that our rating looks backward. It thus cannot take into account the scores of vehicles—many of them Corvettes, Mustangs, and other members of the Hagerty Hundred—that are rolling across blocks in Kissimmee and Scottsdale this month. The outcome of these auctions will be reflected in next month's Market Rating.

Yet the snapshot of the market at this moment, while in some ways contradictory, is quite clear: The pandemonium is over and the market has started to settle, with prices softening but still strong. Although we are no longer in a growth phase, we are not seeing a market inversion either.

A story about

Comments

  • Larry D says:

    Yeah, tell that to the new owner of the ’63 Corvette Factory Air Split Window who paid $434,500 for his Mecum acquisition.

  • Ray Ashenhurst says:

    The only attention I pay to any auction any time of the year is to fill my TV time with eye candy. There are a lot of car owners who have collectable cars who are not car collectors. My car is worth over 72 times more than what I paid for it 56 years ago, however, the only reason I still have it is because I enjoy the hell out of it. The appreciation is nice, however, the usage is why I bought it and still have it.

  • Mike says:

    I think for the most part these people buy these cars at outrageous prices only to fill a spot in their collection. They enjoy owning the cars, but they aren’t enjoying the fun and time spent on getting the car to that level, or driving them on a regular basis. They do it because they can.

  • Don Sherman says:

    You provided no definition of “Hagerty Market Rating.” What is it, why would it matter to car owners disinterested in selling??”

    • Eddy Eckart says:

      Hi Don,
      We periodically remind folks what it is, as briefly described in this paragraph from the Market Rating update a few months ago:

      “We should start by reminding you that the Hagerty Market Rating is not an index of car values. Rather, it’s a monthly measure of the “heat” of the market that takes into account, among other things, auction and private sales, insurance data, macro-economic factors (ie: S&P 500, inflation), and industry sentiment.”

      While I’m not interested in unloading my cars at the moment, I’m always curious to know how the industry is doing. Our analysts distill a wealth of factors into a more easily digestible rating so readers can better understand market sentiment. Hope you’re well, and I look forward to talking Corvettes with you again soon. -Eddy

  • Ken Sousa says:

    I just watched the Kissimmee, FL auction on Motor Trend TV and I was particularly impressed by the consistent six figure gavel prices for cars that wouldn’t have commanded much over $50K not long ago. Just as most other desirable things in so many markets, the average person is being priced out by the elites. You worry about how the younger generation will be recruited to the vintage auto hobby?

    • Davidb says:

      Ken,
      The cycle of life runs strangely in prosperous times. Granted, some people are being squeezed out but the influx of “new” money means new players are entering the game. Those new players bring with them new attitudes and new strategies. While the buying-selling remains fairly constant the reasons for higher than usual prices may be caused by different investment goals. Analytics has over-taken the car auction business. I am not seeing people who seem to be buying for the long term. Too many vehicles are appearing too frequently and trading for too high a profit and that is not the sign of long term commitment. Collectors are being replaced by Buyers/Sellers. There seemed to be people Mecum’s this week who were doing both buying and selling at very high prices.

  • Russ Baird says:

    Many collectors, with more than one car, feel cars are assets that dependent on how rare they are can be better than stocks! A much broader market than fine art. Tangible and fun!

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    I saw plenty of craziness on TV this weekend. Beautiful cars with insanity pricing.

  • Eric j Miller says:

    So it’s had to tell the difference between the Good, Bad, and Ugly. I follow this collector car market pretty close. It’s a hard read sometimes. Many larger live auctions sometimes look like a used car lot! Dealers play a cat and mouse game in an effort to make a profit! They are not collectors in my eyes they are simply there for the profit! The so called collections that show up at MECUM especially are nothing more than car’s that were accumulated over the past 18 months or so to hopefully be sold for profit. Don’t get me wrong I saw some amazing automobiles change hands this past 10+day’s at Kissimmee in Florida. I think some of the best is yet to come with collectors like myself getting older and some of the extremely passionate collector’s passing on. Some of the best collection’s have yet to be seen. The love and passion for something Old well taken care of or meticulously restored will never be taken for granted. It should be one of our golden rules. As long as there is passion for life there will be passion for collecting quality tangible thing’s from our past. Embrace the things you love and your world will be a better place. The Collector Automobile Market is alive and well!!!! CHEERS TO EVERYONE 2023

  • jane don says:

    i’d say that most buyers spending 80,000/100,000 or more are Not folks who Have to work for a living–they just happened to be born into the Right Family– I keep wondering when this price bubble will burst thinking there can’t be “That” many with Sooooo much inheritance–

  • Richard Zankan says:

    The high-end car market is in evolving phenomenon. The thought of a Kobe Bryant jersey selling for possibly $7 million makes these cars look like a bargain.

  • Eric Miller says:

    It’s not going to happen.
    SAID WHAT I HAD TO SAY.
    I’ll stay away from this for forum in the future.

  • Anthony Christopher says:

    Eye candy at these events…..bought four cars over the years, all needed mechanical or electrical work, when you cannot check out the mechanical systems you, like I end up with attractive garage queens, shinning under special lights, awaiting parts. Let the buyer beware….

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