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MARKET: What We've Learnt From 2024 So Far


First 4 months of 2024


We're now over a third of the way through 2024. The question then follows: what have we learnt from the year so far? Here's what you need to know.



Globally Prices Are Back Down to 2022 Levels


Analysing the first full 4 months of the year from over 40 auction houses around the world, prices have dipped from where they were in the same period of 2023.



Median Price By Year All Vehicles

The median price across all vehicles is down 15% vs last year.


Focusing on classics, defined as vehicles over 30 years old in this piece, prices are down slightly more with 17% falls vs 2023.


To put some monetary figures against that: inclusive of all vehicles, globally, the median price stood at £31,100 in the first 4 months of last year. This year they're down to £26,365. Although, only slightly below where we were in 2022 (£27,263).


It's a similar story for classics. 2023 saw the highest median figure we've seen of £34,086 for the first 4 months of the year. So far this year we're at £28,241, again marginally below 2022 (£28,676).


It's important to note that the strength last year, as it so often is, was driven by price growth in the US. Europe and the UK delivered far weaker performances.


So then, we know prices are down from their 2023 peak.


But, that fall is potentially explained by multiple factors.


For example, it could just be that we've seen less expensive vehicles come to auction overall which makes it look like prices have fallen rather than the value of vehicles falling as a whole.


Let's explore that.


One way to test that is looking at price changes on an individual model basis, by doing so we're more likely to be comparing apples with apples.



How Have The Most Popular Models Performed


When we look across the 200 most popular models in our database, the data tell us the following...


Only 49 of the 200 most popular models have seen prices rise when comparing the median price in the first 4 months of 2024 to the same period in 2023.


Across all 200 of the models analysed the median price fall (at a model level) was 11% between 2024 and 2023.


Let's pause there to make sure that makes sense as it's important.


What this confirms is that the price falls we've seen this year aren't just less expensive vehicles coming to auction.


The truth is the market as a whole has seen price depreciation in 2024, we know that because when comparing apples with apples at a model level we're seeing similar (give or take) price falls to what we're seeing at an overall level.


Okay, so we know the market is down overall. Let's dive in a little deeper.



How Do Prices Vary By County?


We gather data now from 47 countries around the world, so we're well placed to show how the market is performing across the main geographies.


Big divergences are occurring.


The graph below covers data on the median sale price in the first four months of each year from 2019 to 2024.

Median Price By Year - All Vehicles

First thing to say is all countries have seen prices fall this year.


The UK has seen prices fall 27%.


The EU has seen prices fall 2%.


And, even the US, which hasn't seen prices fall in years, has seen prices fall 19% since last year.


When looking over a five-year period, the picture isn't much better.


The UK and EU prices are down 26% and 27% respectively.


Note: part of the volatility, particularly in EU prices as seen between 2019 and 2021 is simply down to a lack of sales data. The rise of online auction platforms this side of the Atlantic has boosted sales volumes enabling that EU trend in recent years to become far more steady and accurate.


Only the US remains in positive price growth at 18% up vs five-years ago.


So where is the growth then? Is there any?



How Have Prices Changed By Decade?


Of course, we have a graph to visualise this...

Price Change By Decade

This is our favourite chart. We've even given it a name 'The Wave'. Well, because it's shaped like a wave that rises from below the surface, crests and then falls away again.


This is showing how the median price of vehicles produced from the 1920s through to the 2010s has changed in percentage terms over the last 5 years.


The 1970s remain, as they have in almost every iteration of this graph, the main growth area across any decade with prices up 43% in 5 years.


Equally, the 60s and 50s slot into 2nd and 3rd place as we have seen previously with this graph.


Once again the 1920s and 1930s are laggards with the 30s down 16% and the 20s down a huge 16% over the past 5 years.


Interestingly, when you look at that same data, but comparing 2024 with 2023 every single decade has seen negative price movements. The extremities such as the 1930s and 2010s have seen the biggest price falls of 20%+. The 80s has performed best out of a bad bunch with prices down 8% so far vs last year.


But what else can we infer from vehicle demand from the first 4 months of the year?


Has Sell-Through Rate Fallen Off A Cliff?


No, not exactly. It has stabilised.


Sell-Through Rate

The above graph tracks the sell-through rate since 2019.


Sell-through rate is simply the percentage of vehicles that went to auction (and met their reserve where applicable) and sold.


It has its flaws, over-enthusiastic estimates from auction houses or pessimistic estimates or no reserve sales (which are increasingly common) can skew the figure either way not to mention multiple variables like auction location, conditions etc.


Three key points to make:


  • After consistently falling from its high in 2021, the sell-through rate has finally stabilised and stands at 69% for 2024 so far. That's 2 percentage points up on last year.

  • Applying a trend line through the year-on-year volatility (see the light blue line), it shows sell-through rate trending down at circa 1 percentage point per annum - hardly falling off a cliff

  • There is an increasing number of lots at auction being sold at no reserve - that flatters these numbers - as each of those lots is guaranteed to sell therefore guaranteed to make it into this data. When looking back at recent auction results and analysing the sell-through rate for only vehicles with a reserve, it's closer to 60%.


What else do we have in the locker to analyse demand?


Well, we have our friends at Google.


The behemoth publishes data on whether a particular topic is trending up or down in search popularity.


When you look at the volume of searches globally for the topic of 'Classic Car' you get the following chart.

Google Trends - Classic Car

To explain this graph this is a representation of how many people are searching terms relating to 'Classic Car' relative to the peak in July 2021.


The straight line across it is a trend line.


And, well, despite a surge in search interest in 2021 the trend is in fact very steady.


We've applied a trend line through the data (the light blue straight line) and near as dammit falt, trending downwards less than one percentage point per annum.


In other words, both sell-through rate and Google search traffic indicates demand is trending downwards very slightly, albeit by c. 1 percentage point per annum.


Not so much dropping off a cliff.


Takeaways


There's lots of detail in the above but if I were to leave you with three things it'd be these:


  • We're down from record highs and back at 2022 levels. The market is down 15% overall, as are prices in all of the core markets, albeit that's down from a record high in 2024.

  • Demand is stable. Despite many headwinds with the sell-through rate only down 1 percentage point year-on-year

  • It's early days. This data is based on the first 4 months of the year, we've still got another 8 to go - plenty can change between now and then.



Got it? Hopefully it was helpful.



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