Yet another awesome, record-breaking year for classic and exotic cars sold through auction! $4.3B in sales, compared to $2.9B in 2021. If you’d prefer to keep things cheery, stop reading now and go back to your eggnog.
It was a great year for sure. But what these broad numbers don’t show, is that in the second half of 2022 we started to experience a shift. Along with the rest of the world, the post-Covid re-opening, the economic realities of higher interest rates, inflation, and geo-political issues have slowed the explosive growth we had been experiencing. As a result, the market is seeing signs of stabilization, and could result in lower prices in 2023 for some segments.
Let’s start with a look at the overall numbers:
Total Sales at Collector Car Auctions,over the past 5 years
We saw $4.2B in dollar volume spent at classic and exotic car auctions around the world in 2022 – this is a 48% increase over 2021, and the highest dollar volume total we've ever tracked.
Cars Sold at Classic Car Auctions,over the past 5 years
We saw 63,859 cars sell at classic and exotic car auctions around the world – this is a 25% increase over 2021, and the largest total sales count we've ever tracked.
Total Sales at Collector Car Auctions, 2022 by month
When you break Dollar Volume down by month, it becomes clear that the live auction events in January (Scottsdale and Kissimmee), March (Amelia), and August (Monterey) are huge market drivers, while online volume remains relatively consistent month over month.
Cars Sold at Classic Car Auctions, 2022 by month
While the major live auction events clearly drive Dollar Volume, it's the online auctions that drive the count of listings sold every month. The consistency of online auctions has changed the market for classic and exotic car buyers and sellers over the past few years – creating opportunity to buy/sell cars throughout the year, instead of limited to live event sales.
The market is cooling
The immense and strong growth that most classic and exotic car markets have seen since 2020 looks to be cooling off for 2023, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the industry will stop growing.
Sell-through Rate (STR) over the past 5 years
One way to see this cooling effect is by looking at Sell-through Rate (STR). The overall STR saw a decline in 2022, with online auctions trailing behind live auctions. We attribute this to a combination of the general ease and low-risk of selling through online auctions, and to an increase in the number of new online auction venues, some of which are struggling to ramp up, artificially creating a lower STR for the online category as a whole. But more importantly, in the second half of 2022, STR was impacted by the unrealistic expectations by sellers when it comes to reserve pricing. Simply put, some sellers were late to the party.
Market Growth by Value Tier
Another way to observe the cooling effect is by looking at the percent change in our index of value tiers since September of 2021. The chart below shows that growth across all value tiers began to stabilize in mid-2022 and continued on that path into 2023. Sure, there will be markets that out-perform (like our Top 100 Markets of 2022), but the industry as a whole is seeing stabilization from the high-growth we experienced since the beginning of the Pandemic in 2020.
Live vs. Online
Since 2020, online auctions and marketplaces have played a significant role in expanding the classic car market. This trend had already begun in 2018 and 2019, prior to Covid, driven by the increased interest in the market from Gen X and Millennials for whom an online presence and transparency is mandatory – and related to that, the indisputable growth of BringATrailer.com. The Pandemic in 2020 gave fuel to that fire, and we saw the number of sales at online auctions greatly increase. In 2022, online auctions accounted for 43% of dollar volume and 61% of the number of cars sold – and more 7-figure sales happened online than ever before: a total of 55 in 2022.
Cars Sold at Online Auctionsover the past 5 years by value tier
While the majority of sales at online auctions are for cars under $40K, we saw a 45% growth for sales over $500K occurring online this year – with more 7-figure cars selling online than ever before.
Top Sales at Major Live Auction Houses in 2022
But don't count out the live auctions. While the number of Sold Listings may be lower for live auctions than online, it's important to note that the Top 10 Sales of 2022 were all sold at live auctions. In fact, the highest sale at an online auction was the 22nd most expensive reported sale of the year – $5.36M for this 2017 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta at Bring a Trailer.
These are the cars you should have bought last year…
OK, now that we've looked at the data, let's look at the fun stuff... the actual cars! It's no secret that the S&P 500 had a pretty bad year (to put it mildly). Not to ruffle your feathers any further, but if you had taken that money and invested in any of these collector cars instead, you’d be a much happier camper (and also have a more exciting commute!).
Looking forward to 2023…
In summary, 2022 was a great year for classic and exotic cars sold through auction, with robust growth in sold listings, dollar volume, and average price. However, there were signs of a stabilizing market with growth slowing from previous years, which is welcome relief for many. A stable market can be more welcoming to a broader audience.
That being said, while we don't have a crystal ball, in 2023 we expect to see prices drop for some low and mid tier makes and models (40k to 100k), as sellers reset their pricing expectations in response to lower sell-through-rates. Be it from higher interest rates, or competition from used car dealers that are seeing their inventories rise, demand for that segment of classics and exotics will continue to cool. At the higher end of the market, we expect lower volumes as owners hold on to their inventory, but prices will likely remain flat.
On the supply side, we see a consolidation of the industry in 2023, with some of the new online players getting acquired or ceasing to exist. But more than anything, the line between "online" and "live" sales will blur, as the "live" event players evolve their offerings and move forward in a post-pandemic reality. Most live auction players now recognize that participation in classic and exotic car auctions used to be the realm of the few, but they are now accessible to anyone with a computer. Their response to the online shift is coming.
All information in this post is based on auction data collected by CLASSIC.COM through December 31, 2022. For a list of auctions included, reference our Data Sources.
*The CLASSIC.COM Market Benchmark (CMB) is a benchmark value for vehicles in a given Market based on data accumulated by CLASSIC.COM and calculated by a proprietary algorithm that takes into account volume and recency of each data point. CMB can be used to assess the performance of a market over a given time period. However, it does not represent the value of a specific vehicle. Read more in our Glossary of Terms