MAY 06th 2015

Edward Legge ‑ Where Are All The Classic Car Bargains?

Is it still possible to buy a classic car for a bargain price? Now there’s a question… Many buyers will feel (and certainly have been assured) that the cars they have bought over the last few years are bargains when they look back on the prices they paid, but is it possible to unearth a genuine bargain in this market?


‘Well bought’ is a phrase that seems to have been mostly erased from the classic car vocabulary, and even those folk who always allegedly manage to buy cars cheap and sell them for top dollar, now seem to be comfortable sharing the elevated prices they pay. So what happened to all the cheap cars?

Trolling eBay, the classifieds, auctions (remember the days when you went to the auctions for a bargain?) and even dealer showrooms used to produce results, and I’m sure people will argue that it is still possible, but when I see dealers paying strong money for cars at auction, I figure that if those guys are having to get in the queue and bid for stock, how are the amateurs ever going to unearth a bargain? The trouble is that now as soon as anything looks like it is in danger of being inexpensive the price goes up – if you don’t believe me, try having a look at the prices (that’s prices people, not values!) of the Ferrari 456 which are up nearly 50% since we hinted that now might be the time to buy a 12-cylinder Ferrari  back in March. It doesn’t seem to matter if they don’t sell, they just keep going up…

‘Buying left hand drive cars in the UK market has lost its stigma and we are seeing a lot of imported vehicles for sale at pop-up dealers, and some of them certainly look like a bargain.’

So is there anywhere else to look for cheap cars? In fact, there is – at the pop-up classic car dealers. Over the last few years more and more businesses have sprung up selling classics and many will no doubt disappear if and when all the fuss and profits have petered out. If you have a good hunt around – as many of us enthusiasts like to do – you might just find something that looks interesting that hasn’t made it into the paid classifieds. But just how do good cars make it to this type of less experienced and well-connected vendor? Buying left hand drive cars in the UK market has lost its stigma and we are seeing a lot of imported vehicles for sale at pop-up dealers, and some of them certainly look like a bargain. Most of these are coming from Europe, the USA and, increasingly, Japan which themselves have well developed classic car markets where prices are going up. So how do these cars manage to slip over the border, undetected by keen local buyers and dealers who know full well that once they are gone they probably won’t come back?

The answer is that many of these cars are cheap for a reason – be it a question mark over provenance, service history, title, condition, taxation or all of the above. I’m not suggesting for a minute that all imported cars or learner classic car dealers are worth avoiding – far from it – but given that many sellers feel the market is such that they can push prices for classics up nearly 10% month-on-month you’ve got to wonder why anyone would price a car way below the rest of the market. Buying a cheap car from a pop up dealer is a bit like buying designer goods from a market stall – it’s cheap for a reason…

Edward Legge is Director of Commercial Development at Classic and Sports Finance.

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