Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Tom Hartley.
Courtesy of Tom Hartley

  • Tom Hartley buys and sells classic cars on his private estate and showroom in the north of England.
  • It started out in the gray market and now finds cars through wealthy owners.
  • Its estate offers a resort experience, with a private spa and cinema available to visitors.

In 1992, Tom Hartley was in a traffic jam on the edge of Hyde Park in London when a classic Bentley caught his eye. He immediately rolled down the window and started a conversation with the man in the back seat, driven by a chauffeur.

“I bought him the car in the traffic jam. We stopped, he got out, I made an invoice and that day we picked up the car from his address,” he told Insider. “And, of course, we sold it a few days later.”

This is typical of Hartley, who spends his days doing business for supercars and classic cars, focusing on manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini. “I bought cars in saunas, swimming pools, on airplanes – you can’t tell where I didn’t buy a car,” he said.

Hartley, now 60, runs a showroom of the same name on a 48-acre family estate in Derbyshire. He said his team sells between 40 and 50 vehicles a month and that his past customers include Elton John, Rod Stewart, Nicolas Cage and Rory McIlroy. The average selling price of his vehicles is £ 250,000, or around $ 286,000, but a rare Ferrari could reach $ 30 million.

He shared with Insider how he got into the business and what his job entails.

He learned the art of selling from going out to his father’s shop

Growing up, Hartley’s father owned a carpet business, and Hartley said he spent most of his time in the shop watching the deals being made. He was looking forward to following in his father’s sales footsteps and as he watched his family change cars every few months, it seemed like the perfect industry to enter.

His first deal was to broker the sale of a luxury Range Rover between two of his father’s acquaintances when he was a teenager. “I made £ 150 on that car, which was a lot of money back then,” he said. “At the age of 12, I had the experience of an eighteen year old.”

After selling the Range Rover, he stumbled upon what is now known as the gray market, where used luxury goods can barely be traded at a high price on the secondary market. If you could get a wanted car like a Range Rover, Hartley’s theory was that there would be an easy profit in reselling it to a buyer unable to find one.

man standing in front of a red car

Hartley.
Courtesy of Tom Hartley

He began buying cars from manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, which were mainly based in Germany, and imported them directly to the UK to resell to hungry buyers.

When auto brands began cracking down on unauthorized dealers, it quickly switched to buying supplies from car owners.

Shortly thereafter, he saw a man pausing outside a luxury hotel in London driving a brand new Jaguar Daimler XJ40, a particular model launched a few days earlier, and offered to buy it for £ 3,000 more than the price. required. Within days, he said, he had sold it to a C-suite executive that he hadn’t been able to get one from the manufacturer for £ 42,000, a profit of just over 16% in just a few days.

Clients can come by appointment only and enjoy resort-wide services

man standing next to a luxury car

Hartley in his showroom.
Courtesy of Tom Hartley

Hartley primarily started in the supercar market, but added classic cars to its roster in the wake of the Great Recession, when it saw wealthy customers pursuing businesses rather than holding cash or stocks.

“It was an addition to what we were doing, but we didn’t change our method of buying and selling,” he said. “We wanted cars with great history, low mileage and real rarities.” She manages all of her sales from the family estate in the north of England, a property she purchased in 1981 to serve as both a home and showroom.

At any given time, he said, there are 75 cars worth more than $ 150 million on site. The key difference between his assortment and that of conventional dealers, he added, is that he has several brands like Mercedes and Ferrari in stock in one place, a move aimed at his ideal customer. “In the 1970s, a successful guy would have had one car, maybe two. Many buyers mix and match now and could have six to 10 cars,” he said.

a red car in front of a big house

Hartley in front of his estate.
Courtesy of Tom Hartley

Hartley said he receives about five customers a day and receives visitors by appointment only. Although the auto world is predominantly male dominated, Hartley said around 20% of her customers are women.

Those who stop by its showroom can expect more than just a selection of unique cars – customers can enjoy the estate’s private spa and cinema, as well as a full restaurant. Sometimes, they are even invited to stay overnight in one of the estate’s four bedrooms. “I wanted to create an experience around buying a second hand car,” she said. There is a helipad for those traveling by air, but Hartley can also send a driver to pick someone up from a nearby private airstrip.

a cinema in someone's home

The cinema of the estate.
Courtesy of Tom Hartley

Despite being around in expensive cars 24/7, he has never owned one himself. “It’s a personal statement that I can’t get attached to them,” he said. “I always say that when you walk on the Hartley estate, everything has a price, except my wife.”

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