Monday, December 5 2022
  • Tom Hartley buys and sells classic cars from his private estate and showroom in the North of England.
  • He started on the gray market and now finds cars through wealthy owners.
  • Its grounds offer a resort experience, with a private spa and cinema available to visitors.

In 1992, Tom Hartley was in a traffic jam outside London’s Hyde Park when a classic Bentley caught his eye. He immediately rolled down his window and struck up a conversation with the man in the back seat, who was being driven by a chauffeur.

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

That’s typical for Hartley, who spends his days negotiating contracts for supercars and classic cars, focusing on manufacturers like Ferrari and Lamborghini. “I bought cars from saunas, from swimming pools, from airplanes – you can’t name where I didn’t buy a car,” he said.

Hartley, now 60, runs a eponymous showroom on a 48 acre family estate in Derbyshire. He said his team sells between 40 and 50 vehicles a month and 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 fetch $30million.

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

He learned the art of selling of hanging out in his father’s store

Growing up, Hartley’s father owned a carpet business, and Hartley said he spent most of his time at the store watching deals close. He was eager to follow in his father’s sales footsteps, and as he watched his family switch cars every few months, it seemed like the perfect industry to enter.

His first contract was to negotiate the sale of a luxury Range Rover between two acquaintances of his father when he was a teenager. “I made 150 pounds on that car, which was a lot of money at the time,” he said. “At the age of 12, I had the experience of an 18-year-old.”

After selling the Range Rover, he came across what is now called the gray market, where barely used luxuries can be traded at a premium on the secondary market. If you could find an in-demand car like a Range Rover, Hartley’s theory was that there was an easy profit reselling to a buyer unable to find one.

man standing in front of a red car


Courtesy of Tom Hartley

He started buying cars directly from manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, mainly based in Germany, and importing them to the UK to resell them to hungry buyers.

When auto brands began cracking down on unlicensed dealerships, he quickly turned to buying supply from car owners.

Shortly after, he saw a man pull up outside a luxury hotel in London driving a brand new Jaguar Daimler XJ40, a particular model launched on the market a few days earlier, and offered to buy it for £3,000 more than the asking price. Within days, he said, he had sold it to a senior executive who had been unable to secure one from the manufacturer for £42,000, a profit of just over 16 per cent within a few days. days.

Guests can come by appointment only and enjoy resort amenities

man standing next to luxury car

Hartley in his showroom.

Courtesy of Tom Hartley

Hartley started primarily in the supercar market, but he added classic cars to his roster following the Great Recessionwhen he saw wealthy clients turning to assets rather than keeping 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.” He manages all of his sales from his family estate in the north of England, a property he purchased in 1981 to serve as both a home and a showroom.

At any given time, he said, there are 75 cars worth more than $150 million on site. The main difference between its assortment and that of conventional dealerships, he added, is that it stocks different brands like Mercedes and Ferrari in one place – a decision aimed at its ideal customer. “In the 1970s, a successful guy had one car, maybe two. A lot of buyers now mix and may have between six and ten 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 sees about five clients a day and only receives visitors by appointment. Although the automotive world is overwhelmingly male-dominated, Hartley said about 20 percent of his customers are women.

Those who stop by its showroom can expect more than a selection of unique cars: customers can take advantage of the estate’s private spa and cinema, as well as a full restaurant. Sometimes they are even invited to spend the night in one of the estate’s four bedrooms. “I wanted to create an experience around buying a used car,” he said. There’s a helipad for those traveling by plane, but Hartley can also send a driver to pick someone up from a nearby private airstrip.

a cinema in someone's house

The cinema of the domain.

Courtesy of Tom Hartley

Although he is surrounded by 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 around the Hartley estate, everything has a price, except my wife.”


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