Quentin Will­son

Sell­ing a clas­sic you’ve cher­ished for years? Then do your­self a favour and tell prospec­tive buy­ers ex­actly how much time you’ve de­voted to it

Classic Cars (UK) - - The Insiders -

Where have all the pri­vate sell­ers gone? Go through on­line ads for stuff like E-types, Jensens, Fer­raris, Porsches and Roll­sroyces and 70% of the ads are trade. It never used to be like this. In the pre-in­ter­net age the clas­si­fieds fizzed with sim­ple ads from en­thu­si­asts, pleas­antly free from hy­per­bole and model his­to­ries cut and pasted out of Wikipedia.

I’m not sure a hobby mar­ket dom­i­nated by pro­fes­sional sell­ers is a good thing. Not to men­tion the con­trol it has on prices. The lower-value mar­ket doesn’t have quite the same dealer pen­e­tra­tion but even on A35s, A40s and Minis on­line ads are still near 50% trade. Scary.

Pri­vate own­ers may be hang­ing on to their clas­sics longer and not churn­ing them so of­ten; and when they do they’re more likely to ad­ver­tise in more tra­di­tional pa­per me­dia. That said, even in Clas­sic

Cars, some­thing like 40% of the small ads in the back are from deal­ers.

The ele­phant in the room is just how much of an ef­fect this pro­fes­sional dom­i­na­tion is hav­ing on val­ues. Un­com­fort­able ques­tion that, but I think I know the an­swer.

There’s noth­ing wrong with buy­ing from deal­ers but they’re in busi­ness to make a profit – the or­di­nary en­thu­si­ast doesn’t need a mar­gin to cover busi­ness over­heads and can price to sell. But this sea change in mar­ket dy­nam­ics means that the clas­sic sold by a pri­vate seller they’ve owned for ages now car­ries a de­sir­abil­ity pre­mium. It just feels bet­ter buy­ing from a fel­low en­thu­si­ast who’s cher­ished their car and can tell you ev­ery­thing they’ve done over the years rather than from a trader who bought it from another trader last week.

The bloke with a clas­sic that’s been con­sci­en­tiously owned for ever is now such a rare and en­dan­gered species that the long-term own­er­ship ef­fect has a spe­cial value. Af­ter all, isn’t that why barn finds make so much money? If you can buy di­rect from an owner who’s put years of time into the car, you’re look­ing at some­thing very rare in­deed.

But where do you find these sil­ver sell­ers and their trea­sured clas­sics? Own­ers’ clubs, spe­cial­ist magazines and pa­pers – and, of course, events. There’s al­ways some­thing with a For Sale no­tice in the win­dow and you can even try a charm of­fen­sive with own­ers and of­fer to buy. Cut­ting out the mid­dle­men and go­ing to the heart­lands of real en­thu­si­asts may not only get you a lower price but a more gen­uine car too.

But there may be another rea­son for the de­cline of the pri­vate seller – they can’t be both­ered any more be­cause it’s eas­ier to sell to a dealer or use an auc­tion than sit wait­ing by the phone. Shame, that. Old boys sell­ing old mo­tors they’ve tin­kered with for decades is how this hobby be­gan and gave it a tweedy in­tegrity.

We don’t want it to turn into an on­line stock ex­change dom­i­nated by old-car com­mod­ity bro­kers. So if you’re a longterm owner sell­ing up, un­der­stand how much ex­tra value your prove­nance adds, and tell prospec­tive buy­ers how de­voted you’ve been in all those years of care.

You’ll be sur­prised how quickly your phone will ring.

Quentin reck­ons it’s worth the ef­fort to seek out long-term pri­vate sell­ers in a dealer-dom­i­nated mar­ket

Quentin Will­son had a nine-year stint pre­sent­ing the BBC’S Top Gear, has bought and sold count­less cars and has ce­mented a rep­u­ta­tion as ev­ery­one’s favourite mo­tor­ing pun­dit.

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