Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thoughts on the Car Marketplace

Okay folks, time to get philosophical over here and talk about some of the changes happening to the collector/classic/junk car market right now.  Two big things -- the first is that craiglist is introducing a nominal $5 fee to post cars for sale and the second thing is that Hemmings is finally responding to BringaTrailer.com and is introducing their own auction system. 



Topic 1: Craigslist $5 listing fee
Let's take the craigslist change first -- and I'm going to pontificate with my own thoughts on this subject, but I fully expect that the thinkers in the crowd will respond with something more meaningful.
The good: I don't think many scammers will invest in the $5 fee for listing a car, so I expect the amount of pure spammy/scammy posts on craigslist to drop to zero or almost zero.  I also expect that sellers will be more reasonable with their posts -- they've invested the cost of a Starbucks Venti latte and I expect they will be more serious with initial pricing and avoid much of the ridiculousness that plagues the free bulletin boards of the world...virtual or not. 
The bad: Unfortunately, many of the ornery old coots who post well preserved Pontiac Meras for sale will probably stick to home-made for sale signs and will skip the $5 fee and we will lose many well priced classics offered for cheap.  However, a quick scan of my local craigslist shows that the good stuff is still available.

Topic 2: Hemmings introduces auctions
Seriously?  BaT has been stealing the lunch from the conventional collector car sales/auction market for the past 10 years -- and Hemmings decides that now is the time to finally launch a bare bones competitor?  Okay...better late than never, I guess.
The good: More marketplaces means more opportunities for good deals and there is a chance that you could get some cars for decent prices if the number of sellers is greater than buyers.  BaT did a good job by building their buyer/reader/commenter audience before introducing auctions, it'll be interesting to see if enough buyers are on Hemmings to drive price that the sellers will want.
The bad: Does the internet really need another place to bid on over-restored and over-hyped classics that can be found for 1/2 the price on craigslist?

What do you think? Comments below.

35 comments:

  1. If I were in the business of selling instead of buying, I'd be all over the flying rodent. I'm not though, so it's a great place to see good pics of oddballs I can't afford. I think that website does far better for the sellers than the buyers.

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  2. I'm going to share my opinion, which up to this point has been received poorly by BaT loyalists (especially Sellers). I've been buying, building, driving, and selling 'enthusiast' cars for the past 20 years as a personal hobby. Never once has it been to flip a car or otherwise make a profit, not that there's anything inherently wrong with that. What BaT has done, however, is meteorically and artificially driven the perceived values of certain cars through the roof. I say 'perceived' for a reason. In some cases, the sale price of a BaT car truly represents its value, even outside of BaT, but in many cases, what we have here is a whole new level of what is referred to as "Auction Psychology" influencing Buyers' and Sellers' perception of a car's value outside of the Auction arena. Pick 5 cars that recently sold on BaT, now go find comparable examples via CL, Hemmings, Autotrader, etc, and you'll almost invariably see that the BaT sale price was sometimes 50% higher. Naturally, this makes it very difficult to be a Buyer, as other Sellers begin to use BaT as their sole point of reference for pricing.

    The other issue, as I see it, is we're simultaneously making the hobby exclusionary while commodifying it. People are priced-out of the hobby for no good reason, meanwhile, the cars are being bought above market value, via App, driven for 6 months, then sold again on BaT to the next guy/gal who can afford a turn. The same exact thing is happening to Real Estate, but that's a rant best left for a Zillow article. I apologize in advance for any typos; I wrote this red-faced and excited.

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    1. So it's creating a bubble, you're saying.

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    2. A Kuzmak -- I agree with the 50% markup -- it simply AMAZES me what cars go for on that site when they are otherwise the same car that sold on craigslist a few months before. The only value BaT brings is the legions of nitpickers who point out that the seller didn't use the correct factory fill for the blinker fluid.
      Zach -- not sure if it is a bubble...or the simply turning classic cars into garage sized collectible postage stamps.

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    3. I enjoy wasting 3 hours a day on BaT, and I 100% agree with you. $48,000 1972 Ford station wagons. Speculation ruins everything. When did every single thing become an investment?

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    4. I wonder how much of this is related to things like the velocity channel and the internet turning regular folks into car collectors. Demand has outstripped supply...which wasn't the case for Datsun 240Zs 15 years ago. Those things were crap. Suddenly hipsters have money and now they are cool/expensive? I'm gonna have to dig deeper into the automotive world to get cheap stuff that is fun to drives. Saabs are still cheap right? Oh. Hipsters don't like cars that break down every 5 minutes. They are safe.

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    5. New experiment: Let's all buy AMC Ramblers and see if we can't push a new car into the collector spot light. Buy barn find--> Clean carb--> PROFIT?? WHO'S COMING WITH ME!?

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  3. I think it's good for buyers and sellers that Hemmings jumps in. The general rule is that competition improves the service. Let the marketplace decide the leader.

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  4. Having a car sold on BaT is almost like having a Porsche COA or some other imprimatur of value. The gatekeeping aspect is not entirely on BaT and its staff; it's also the knowledgeable buyers that provide the market with "tradeable" knowledge that is reflected in the price. Having a car vetted by thousands of eyes/comments is the value of the site.

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    1. kidrod -- "vetting by crowd" is exactly the only reason to pay the BaT premium. However, if you understand cars and spend some time perusing the comments, you can do it yourself if you ask me. But I'm an oddball.

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    2. Commenting with confidence does not equal truth, validity, or add value. I've seen endless incorrect statements about cars on BaT presented as cold hard facts. The other thing to remember is, the object is being vetted by other BaT loyalists, who from what I can tell, largely don't grasp that the valuations isolated to BaT aren't representative of the entire industry. Blind leading blind in some ways.

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  5. I sold a car on BaT before it was a mega site. It felt very grassroots at the time. Now it feels like a cyclone of money fling around. It is amazing that they have created. No BS, I would have made 50k more on the car now.
    I loved Hemmings as a kid. My father and I would read the tiny print and talk about all the neat cars we found. We also enjoyed the Quick Quarter and Recycler paper ad. Then came the autotrader that actually had pictures!
    The $5 ad insertion fee for CL might be a good thing? Maybe it will make people more serious about selling, better ads, aggressive pricing?

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    1. Still haven't sold a car on BaT. Maybe someday I'll give it a try. "Cyclone of money" gonna steal that!

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  6. I rarely ever look at BaT anymore, seems that their heads swell a bit larger everyday. Hemmings is a top notch company. Only good things can happen when they join the party. Charging $5.00 for a Craigslist ad is chump change, but hopefully it will weed out the dumb asses that only post a single photo of their car.
    Cheers,
    Rock On!

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    1. Similarly, I've stopped my habitual browsing at BaT - it's a bit depressing actually. I *was* in the market for a Datsun 240z but now that it's the star-car there in the spot light with 911's I can't justify the immense $$$ to own another one. I also owned a K20 swapped Honda Insight that I considered selling there but then decided that I wouldn't be able to tolerate the snobs who frequent the comments sections.

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    2. Was a compulsive browser from sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe... but anymore I glance for a few seconds every few days and see if any cars of specific interest are up for auction, mainly to gawk, but the amount of late model trading going on and the sheer volume of german steel shifting around make my eyes glaze over a bit. Congrats to Randy for identifying a need and turning it into a thing, but meh, has certainly lost some of its charm.

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    3. I was a regular BaT reader until 2012 when I decided that they were getting lazy and needed some competition...hence the launch of DT. Now, they are so far deep into the Barrett-Jackson cyclone of money (thanks Sean!) that it is almost an unrecognizable site. It went from "bring a trailer-- because you will need to tow it home before it'l run again" it to "bring a trailer-- because it will be worth less after it rolls the second digit on the odo". Shame. Collecting stamps.

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    4. @ David Sanborn, let's hear more about your K20 swapped Insight. That sounds right up my alley. :)

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    5. I was mostly regular lurker on BAT for a long time until somebody got pissy about my AMG van joke about getting a garage full of tools. Those cars are way overpriced. This place has a way better feel anyways. I'd rather see the diamonds in the rough rather than the over polished/priced stuff.

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  7. Since Craigslist started charging fees, the number of posts by somebody trying to put up some random barely running junker that they're convinced is a classic, and ask 2-3 times what it's worth, has completely nose-dived. In other words, Craigslist is now ruined.

    Also, DT needs to turn up their spam moderation; I'm seeing a ton of spam posts in their recent comments.

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    1. Ugggg..the spam in ridiculous. I've even got the "identify the sushi" captcha in full kill mode...but the spammers now have google accounts and they are all over blogger sites like rust on an Alfa.

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    2. Thank you for trying to stop it.

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  8. Fleetwood T. BroughamJuly 18, 2019 at 3:10 PM

    I'm no hipster, but I've been bitching about BaT since before BaT was cool. It went from a moderately interesting repository of web finds by it's readers, to a sell-out site that completely commodotized their readership, gave them the finger, and started catering to west coast trust funders. Initially they ruined the ability to find a real bargain online, and as others have alluded to, they now are completely bastardizing the collector car market. They're the Barrett Jackson of online auctions, where rich idiots have a pissing contest to see who can pay the most for a MK4 Supra or an e38 740i, while their lazy clueless writers post boring, inaccurate copy/paste write-ups for each listing. No thanks.

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  9. On Topic 1, craigslist has been majorly supplanted by Facebook Marketplace and apps like OfferUp. Like it or not, so many regular folks selling cars, both old and not as old, are now posting on FB Marketplace. So much more variety and volume there vs. Craigslist now. Maybe it's a convenience thing - it's easy to fart up a quick car ad on your phone if you're already wasting all your free time on FB...I dunno.

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    1. Yeah...I'd post more FB marketplace stuff, but I've bought into the "facebook is evil" mantra and now I'm reluctant to link to something that isn't really a part of the regular web. Facebook is its own universe, and I don't like promoting it...but maybe we should post more fb marketplace and offerup ads. Isn't offerup mobile only? Sheesh, what is the world coming too. I wonder if I've got a functioning modem in my PC parts bin and there are any BBSs that are still alive? I must be getting old.

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  10. Here's my long take on the two topics plus my 2 cents on some of the sidebar conversation if anyone cares.

    I don't have much of an issue with the $5 CL fee. I'm sure their operating budget has grown over the years and I feel like, as a consumer, I've been taking them for granted getting stuff for free, so if I have to pay $5 next time I sell a car, no big deal. I'd hope that the fee would cut down on garbage and repeat posts, but apparently the fee took effect 3 months ago and I personally haven't seen a difference.

    As for Hemmings, I'm just surprised that it took them so long. They should have been on this auction thing as soon as eBay Motors came along (that was in 2000!). We probably don't need another auction site, but at least for Hemmings it's a natural progression because they've always been selling cars. They probably need this to have a viable future.

    I like Hemmings for what they offer, but I must admit, I rarely ever pick it up and go through it. It's an old man's mag. I subscribed for a year many years ago but didn't renew when it ran out. To me, Hemmings (the publication) is really for people restoring cars/parts hunting. I don't think I'd dig into Hemmings much if I were shopping for a car unless it was a rare car or I lived in the middle of nowhere. I support Hemmings going forward with an auction platform, but I think they should come up with their own unique take on it. BaT has distinguished itself by the types of vehicles it runs (and the resulting prices). Hemmings needs to do the same but not try to compete directly with BaT because they'll lose. Hemmings is more old school, so it should play on that.

    Now for my grumpy rant. I agree with many previously posted comments. BaT used to be fun pre-auction (like DT is and has always been), but now it sucks. The cars are interesting but over-hyped and over-priced. The commentary is mostly unnecessary and unconstructive. I think that BaT and several other sites/groups (ahem, Radwood) are rapidly killing the old car game for me. DT still gives me hope that there are cheap, fun cars out there, but all prices are rising to less realistic levels.

    I've always searched for cars under $5000 and found stuff I like. Much harder to do that now. It's making me hesitant to sell any of the cars I currently have because I won't be able to replace them with comparable cars in my preferred price range.

    As a last thought, when you consider it, car auctions are weird and counter-intuitive. When you shop for a car from a private party or dealer, you work all the angles to get the price down. The auction mindset is the opposite. All you're concerned with is outbidding the next guy until you're tapped out or the time expires. The winner of an auction is just the one with the least financial discipline.

    I miss the days of finding a car in the local newspaper classifieds. Two or three lines of abbreviations, a price, and a phone number. No photos. That made car hunting fun. Ah, the good old days... the '90s.

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    1. Can we get a 'thumbs up' button here? I thought I was the only one becoming so disenchanted with BaT. Have to say, it is still a good site for finding interesting cars to shop for elsewhere, but it pains me a bit knowing that I am still adding to the sites hit count. I'm definitely going to look into this Hemmings deal. Might be a great replacement site for checking out cars over morning coffee along with DT.

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  11. Interesting about the BaT comments...I commented on a recent offering and questioned the mileage (28K vs 128K), as the car had several very odd things about it for what it was being touted. The seller, a regular on there, got all butthurt about it. I made my comments AFTER the auction was overwith, and therefore had no affect on its outcome. My reaction was "well, whatever!"...I bought a slick old IH Travelall off BaT five years ago, and was ecstatic with it!

    I spend time here and on BaT both, as both venues have their value. HMN is getting into the game late, but it should prove interesting. I remember buying cars and parts off HMN when it was simply a monthly magazine, with two-line print ads - "1966 Dodge, great shape, $2,500. 498-867-5309 Jenny" - and that was it! Now, if it doesn't have 50 or more pics in the ad and the cars' life history, you move on. How things change...

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  12. I have tried unsuccessfully to buy a 996 and a M5 on BaT. It seems someone is always willing to bid more.

    Did you guys read the 300sl $1,234,567 bid story. I have to admit it was pretty amazing.

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  13. I was temporarily distracted with real life and hadn’t seen this thread until today. Here are my 5 cents, adjusted for inflation.
    BaT was a sorely needed addition to the car hobby. The hobby was dominated by candy-apple-chrome car show curmudgeons and rarified air Euro-zotic collectors.
    Now, owners of old CRX Si’s have a place to sell their cars to appreciative buyers who won’t treat them like cheap grocery-getters to destroy and discard. The reason these later model enthusiasts cars are so rare in good condition is partly because they were cheap enough to be bought and destroyed by the pimple-faced Fast and Spurious crowd.
    BaT served and serves a definite need.
    So you have two choices, interesting cars destroyed with no value or incentive for developing aftermarket parts to restore them without BaT. Or BaT driving up the prices of these cars but having them preserved by loving owners.
    I hear you, I’m a bottom feeder as well, and it is getting tougher to find the old, interesting, and cheap (sounds like dating over 50) but they are still out there.
    I lamented BaT going to an auction site, but overall, I’m glad they exist even if it means finding cars I like is getting much tougher.
    As for Hemmings, I’m cautiously optimistic. They did produce my favorite magazine for a while, Sports and Exotic Car, but that went under, which may be very telling. Their demographic is the aging muscle car guys who are notoriously cranky (maybe sitting in a lawn chair for 8 hours at a car show will do that to you). Will a guy selling or buying an Escort GT turbo or first-generation Integra find a home there?
    Finally, the list of Craig and the book of faces; still the Penny Saver of today with all the good and bad that implies. These are the hunting grounds for the bargain shopper and flipper.
    In the end, you may have to pay a little more and look a little harder for the hidden gem, but on the flip side, you can drive, fix, and enjoy these quasi-classics then sell them on without losing all your investment.

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  14. The problem is, they're not being preserved by loving owners; they're being flipped and passed around like a cheap....bottle of booze. How many times have you seen the same car listed on BaT by different owners of a span of, say, 2 years? Plenty.

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  15. I joined BaT back in 2008, and at one point I'd read every post on the site. These days, there just isn't much for me there. You guys and Classic Virus are far more interesting these days.

    Here's the first listing from the site - https://bringatrailer.com/2007/01/08/very-original-california-healey-project/

    I miss the original format, it was so much more informative than it is today. Years ago you could submit weird cars and trade stories with Randy about Panhards and OSCAs but now, dealers selling 911 Turbos are the real target audience.

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