Hagery Opens Online Garage

TRAVERSE CITY – So just how much is that (insert your favorite car here) worth?

You could spend a good hour paging through a Kelley Blue Book to find its value, according to data available at the last printing. But Hagerty has a better idea. The collector car insurance company has introduced a suite of products to enable anyone to gauge in an instant, the most up-to-date value of that new – or old – ride.

Jonathan Klinger, Hagerty's public relations manager, said the Web tools are a natural outgrowth of the company's price guide, a thrice-yearly print publication. The publication is based on its anonymous surveys of clients, giving it more extensive data than do other publications, which take into account only the values from auctions.

"We know auction sales represent only about three percent (of collector car sales). Most often, they trade hands privately," Klinger says.

But while Hagerty's publications had more data and background than those based on public data, the company was still hamstrung by the long periods of time in between printing. During those interludes, values could rise or fall, and new trends could appear. In addition, those involved in the industry might suddenly find themselves with an opportunity for a purchase or sale, and thus need immediate information when a publication might not be at hand.

Enter the Web. Klinger says creating the online tools involved more than five years of research. The result is Hagerty's three-pronged approach:

1) Collector Car Portfolio: A collector can create a portfolio containing their cars – or their dream garage – and the tool creates a chart showing how the group and the individual vehicles have performed during the past. The tool also enables one to track their portfolio against the value performance of the Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500, gold, and NASDAQ markets.

2) Value Your Car: Simply input the year, make and model of a classic vehicle, and the site outputs a chart showing its current value and five-year trend.

3) Market Trends: This tool displays the value of several Hagerty-created classic car indexes and can assist collectors in deciding when to buy, sell or hold from different genres of classics.

Klinger said the portfolio is made to help three classes of people: Those who own multiple collector cars, those who are interested in purchasing multiple cars as an investment, and those who just want to see the value of a particular group of vehicles. In other words, it's fun for the whole family.

Comparing the trends in the industry to other investments, such as the stock market or real estate, can give an indication of the value, but Klinger also warns against reading too much into it.

"I tell people don't buy something solely for the investment, but if it's something you want, if it's your passion, have fun with it." Translation? "You can't drive your stocks, but you can drive a car."

Klinger says creating an app for the site was essential too; many of their client collectors expect to use their smart phones for immediate information.

"It's amazing, you see these people at the auctions wandering around with their smart phones," he says.

Tracking those clicks had enabled Hagerty to spot a growing trend: classic pickups.

"They always had utility. Ones from the '40s, '50s, '60s – you'd see people using them to haul mulch or whatever. But in the past couple years, you see them being purchased, restored and at showings. They've become collector items," he says.

Now, thanks to the company's Web tools? "That's the type of thing we can see before auctions," he says.

Although adding items to the site is easier and quicker than putting them into a print publication, Klinger says there are no plans to discontinue the catalog. He says he continues to see people with copies of the publication at various car collector events, so it still continues to serve a purpose. But there's no doubt the Web, with its depth and ability to spin on a dime, will become even more important to the industry. BN