Big Data and the Classic Car Market

by John Mayhead
17 October 2018 2 min read
Big Data and the Classic Car Market
Auctions - not the only source of data

Whether it is the actions of Cambridge Analytics on the Brexit referendum, Google search algorithms or social media presenting you with tailored stories, ‘Big Data’ is currently big news.

The analysis of data isn’t new, and it won’t surprise you to know that all of the classic car market analysis articles written by Hagerty are based on crunching masses of car value numbers. What you may not know though is just how important the human element is.

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I spent most of the 1990s working for a Government department, ostensibly as a data analyst. We had rudimentary computer programs that identified anomalies, but it required human intervention to interpret these: to find out what was really going on. Although computer algorithms have improved massively since then, this human element is still key to identifying the whole picture.

Take classic car auction results, for example. There are other classic car indices and trackers, most of which take published auction data for a number of cars, analyse them, and create nice graphs and infographics which prove that one model is doing well, others less so.

This is great, but it tells just a tiny part of the story. Hagerty have a representative (or two) at all major and regional classic car auctions. They can not only get a feel for the room – who’s there, whether the bids are coming quickly or slowly, whether the dealers are upbeat or not – but also look at the anomalies and work out why they happened. For example, if a car does much worse or much better than expected, what’s the reason? Maybe there are just two people in the room who really want the car. Maybe one car in the flesh just isn’t as nice as the photos and description in the catalogue suggest. Maybe the word amongst the dealers is that there’s a question mark over a particular vehicle’s provenance. This human input means we can manually adjust some figures that would otherwise skew the analysis.

There’s also the question of how many car values are analysed, and of what type. Another company have just published a report stating that the classic car market has risen by 6% in the last 12 months. This is based on a list of 50 classics at the very top of the market, and although private sales are said to be included, it doesn’t take account of insured values, discussions with owners’ clubs or the other human elements of a very human pastime. Whether this tiny snapshot of some ultra-exclusive cars shows any reflection of the market as a whole remains debatable.

So, we’ll continue to analyse our 40,000 individual classic car values in a very human way and produce the Hagerty Price Guide with as much art as science. We hope you find it useful.

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