Welcome to the 2022 Half-Time Report. What a season it’s been so far.
Tallying all classic and exotic car auction data tracked thus far for the year, we’ve seen $2.2B in Dollar Volume, a 70% increase compared to 2021. The number of sold listings has increased by a whopping margin as well, up roughly 50% from the year prior to over 45,000 total listings.
Looking back a bit further, comparing the same period of time in 2018, the auction market has almost tripled in terms of dollar volume, rising from $727M. For the full year 2022, it is likely to reach $3B or more, which is also close to triple the amount sold at auction during all of 2018, which was $1.4B.
Online auctions charge the explosion
There’s no question, the collector car market has undergone explosive growth. But that’s only part of the Half-Time headline; just as significant is the instrumental role online auctions have played in this unprecedented surge. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
Of the 45,000+ vehicles listed so far in 2022, 65% were listed online, compared with only 16% five years ago. As seen before, the pandemic created a unique opportunity for exponential online auction growth, and its effects continue to change the game.
Top 3 Sales in 2022 so far
Some spectacular examples have hit the block so far this year.
High-end live auctions remain secure
Despite the continued expansion of online auction platforms and the tectonic shifts they’ve brought to the market, large, live auctions, and in particular those in the high-end, remain strong. For example, of the $2.2B in market-wide dollar volume thus far in 2022, only $939M can be attributed to online auctions.
Regardless of the relatively small volume of cars listed through traditional live auction events, their average lot sale price remains much higher. Amelia Island and Monaco & Paris drive the point, with an average sold price of $377K; compare this with an average of $48K across online auctions.
High-volume live events remain industry heavy hitters as well, with Kissimmee and Scottsdale alone contributing more than 10% each to 2022’s total Dollar Volume so far.
Sell-through Rates take a hit
Despite huge spikes in both total volume of listings and dollars, declining sell-through rates also paint a very interesting picture. The Sell-through Rate is defined as the percentage of cars successfully sold at auction vs the total offered, and so far it’s down about 10% compared with the same time frame for 2021.
Empowered by the improved accessibility, reduced risk, and generally more flexible reserve-setting policies offered by online auction houses, and emboldened by bullish market conditions prevalent throughout 2021 and into early 2022, many sellers have more recently aimed too high with their reserves, in part contributing to this sharp decline in Sell-through Rates.
Average prices and benchmark values provide deep insights
During the first half, the volume of listings wasn’t the only indicator trending upwards; we also saw average price following a similar trajectory, and across all types of auctions. This upswing may stem from a number of factors, though a few likely explanations stand out. One is that a general uptick in the quality of cars being offered naturally correlates with higher average sale prices, while another potential cause may be that cars are simply selling at higher prices across the board, irrespective of their quality. A third, could very well be a combination of the two; that is to say both better cars combined with generally more robust market conditions.
Still, it can be difficult to draw a rock-solid conclusion from aggregated average sale prices. So we reviewed a sample of 500 active markets, and similar trends emerge. We saw that more than 400 of these markets increased their benchmark value (CMB) over the past 12 months, to the tune of more than 18% on average. Even more telling are the Top 100 Markets, which have all grown in their benchmark value by at least 26%. In contrast, just 78 saw their value decrease, and then only by a relatively tame 6% on average.
Nevertheless, even though most cars have sold at higher prices over the past 6 months, some of the underperforming markets, combined with some intriguing data from June, do seem to suggest that a general slow-down could be on the horizon.
The Top 3 Performing Markets (June 2021 - June 2022)
See all top performing markets in our Top 100 Markets Report.
Did we reach the peak?
As we stated in a recent article, four factors have been driving the market: a favorable economy, higher commodity-type used car prices, accessibility and transparency from online auctions, and a generational shift to buyers in their 40’s and 50’s snapping up cars from the 80’s and 90’s – which provide a high level of utilization. Short term, two of those are on their way out: interest rates are going up while a recession is looming, and used car prices have already started to normalize; new car manufacturers have solved for chips and restarted production, franchise dealers are seeing a rise in inventory. On the flip side, online is not going away, the traditional auction houses are investing significant sums to digitize their business, and buyers in their 40’s and 50’s will remain a force for a few decades. So at a minimum, we should see a flattening of the curve.
And some of this is already trickling into the data:
In June, online auctions continued to grow in both Total Listings and Dollar Volume, though there were also declines in Average Sale Prices and Sell-through Rates, pulling the overall Dollar Volume figure down. To further illustrate the point, compare last year’s June Sell-through Rate of 76% to just 58% this year. Again, we see evidence that sellers may have set reserves too high, failing to seize upon the upward trend that was prevalent throughout 2021 and the very beginning of 2022.
Note: June 2022 does not include the full results from Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas, which ends on July 2nd, and is fully represented in June 2021. Read more about June 2022 results here.
Getting ready for the 2nd Half
As the books close on the first two quarters of 2022, we turn our eyes toward Monterey. This historic venue consistently attracts big spenders, iconic cars, and all the major auction houses. This year, a new entrant by the name of Broad Arrow joins the ranks of Bonhams, Gooding, RM Sotheby's, and Mecum, and looks poised to make a big splash with many significant consignments.
Will the classic and exotic car market follow the trend of the world at large, or will it remain a shelter amid an uncertain global economy? Only time – and data – will tell, and you can count on us to be here with the stats you’ll need to decide for yourself.