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Classic Car Demand: Is It Falling Off a Cliff?

There are multiples ways to answer this question, the clearest indicator of which to use is the sell-through rate. Very simply, how many of those cars that come for sale at auction actually sell, displayed as a percentage. It can be skewed by cars selling with no reserve or by estimates that are too strong / too low but regardless it’s the best indicator available.

So, what are we seeing?

Sell-Through Rate

Sell-Through Rate Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer
Sell-Through Rate Over Time | Source: The Classic Valuer

The sell-through rate has been around 74% +/- 5% for the past five years. There are fluctuations each year as to where the rate sits in or around those boundaries but broadly demand has remained solid.

When a trend line is applied to the visual above (the straight slightly downwards line) a negligible 1 percentage point fall in sell-through rate occurs each year.

Not demand falling off the cliff like many talk about.

Google Trends

Weekly Searches for "Classic Car" on Google | Source: Google Trends
Weekly Searches for "Classic Car" on Google | Source: Google Trends

Another way to look at demand is through analysis of searches for the term “classic car” on Google.

The chart above shows how often “classic car” is searched for on Google by week over the same time period as the sell-through rate graph. The y-axis simply shows demand relative to the peak in July 2019.

Again, the trend for classic car searches has fallen over the period.

However, when looking at the trend line (the smooth light blue line), demand is not down by 1% per year, but rather down 3.7% per year when comparing the beginning of the chart in February 2018 to the end in February 2023. A larger fall than what's seen in the sell-through rate.

Searches don’t indicate demand to buy but it does indicate level of interest in the market - with a lag effect to future demand as interest turns into purchase.

Where does that leave us?

Regardless of which data source you look at the reality is demand for classic cars is falling between 1% and 3.75% per annum.

Taking an average of the two figures would be -2.35%.

So, next time your down the pub and your friend says "[insert your name here], no one wants to buy classic cars anymore electric cars are going to kill them off in a few years" you'll have the data to tell your friend to hold his horses and impending cliff face isn't that real after all.

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