The buyers guide to classic car auctions
More and more people are buying classic cars at auction – with mixed results. Our complete guide to classic car auctions will help you get the most out of them.
2015 will be a record year for UK auctions. The number of auctions has increased dramatically over the last two years as hopeful sellers and hungry buyers both look for a result. It may sound obvious, but buying from auction is totally different from buying from a dealer so when you are scanning the auction catalogues and results it is worth remembering the following.
Auction results don’t represent the market as a whole
Auction estimates and results can confuse
Auction descriptions carry no warranty.
We are advised by the owner that…..The mileage is believed to be genuine…..It is assumed that…Subject to confirmation….The vendor will provide….
- Matching numbers – verify this yourself. If you purchase a car and discover it isn’t matching numbers you won’t be able to hand it back*.
- Foreign cars – check the ownership details and if any import tax or duty is due on the vehicle. If you buy a car with disputed ownership then you have bought yourself a problem. In our experience this can often be a problem on cars imported from Italy.*
- Documentation – if you don’t see it, it may not exist. Descriptions such as “subject to a £30,000 restoration” are meaningless if you can’t produce receipts*.
- FIA certification – check that the documentation exists and is in date*
- Event eligibility – check this carefully, it may be assumed. “Mille Miglia eligible” definitely doesn’t mean that you have a guaranteed place on the event!
- History – many descriptions of vehicle history in auction catalogues are quite lengthy but you may find that the reality is that there is very little documentation available to support it. Assurances mean nothing.
What an auction description doesn’t say about a car is as important as what it does say.
Do your homework
After the sale
Payment – auction houses will expect immediate payment
Arrange transport – this should be investigated before the sale as most auction houses will start to charge storage fees the day after the auction.
Classic car auctions can be a lot of fun and it is possible to pick up a bargain – but it is also possible to pay way over market value for a car. It’s easy to forget all the associated fees in the heat of the moment and being able to read between the lines of an auction description is a skill it takes time to develop, but this applies to buying from a dealer as well – the difference is that with a dealer you have some protection as a consumer.
Classic car auctions – the facts and figures.**
5% – approximate number of classic car sales that are made at auction globally per annum (Source: Hagerty)
12% – number of lots sold over estimate
20% – number of lots sold in upper half of estimate of more
27% – number of lots sold within estimate
28% – number of lots sold under estimate
42% – number of lots sold in lower half of estimate or less
60% – number of lots sold under bottom estimate or not sold
70% – number of lots sold
** Figures provided by Classic & Sports Finance from auctions monitored in 2014.
*Actual customer experience at auction.
Photo credit Thesupermat/ Wikimedia Commons