The Classic Car Appraisal Process

The quality of the restoration work performed on classic vehicles can have a significant impact on the value of these cars and trucks. The appraisal process for vintage automobiles can be confusing for novices to the field. Developing a basic understanding of the procedures used to arrive at a fair value for these vehicles can help car collectors in navigating this specialty marketplace.

Comparable Prices

Because the value of classic cars can vary widely depending on location, professional appraisers look at the fair market values of comparable vehicles in the same regional market. Online and auction prices may also be considered if they are available to potential buyers in the same geographical area. For example, an appraiser might look at the selling price for a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL in Kansas City and compare that amount to the price fetched at auction in Wichita, Kansas. Any online auction sites might also provide added information to create a more accurate picture of the comparable prices for the same make and model of vehicle in the regional marketplace.


The condition of the vehicle will also have a significant impact on its overall value in the classic car market. Concours quality restorations, for example, can command higher prices than comparable vehicles that have not been restored to similar high standards of accuracy. Documentation of the work performed on a vehicle can also be helpful in establishing the high quality of the craftsmanship and the materials used to restore the classic car to its current condition. Obviously, cars in good running condition will sell for better prices than non-functional vehicles; additionally, any dings, dents or other damage will have a negative effect on the appraised value of the car or truck.


Older vehicles are typically much rarer than their modern counterparts. As with any economic commodity, valuable items that are in short supply can command much higher prices in the competitive marketplace. Some limited edition vehicles are in high demand as well; despite their more recent vintage, these cars are often highly prized and can go for extremely high prices at auction or in private sales. The rarity of a vehicle must be considered when establishing its fair market value and providing an appraisal to the owner or potential buyer.


Some vehicles are more valuable because of their association with individuals in the public eye. For example, Jay Leno’s prized Fiat 500 Prima Edition sold at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for $385,000, roughly 10 times its appraised value prior to the sale. Celebrity ownership is not the only way in which provenance can affect value; cars modified by Don Yenko, for instance, can often attract much higher prices from buyers than comparable vehicles without these customization options.

These factors can have a significant effect on the appraised value of vintage cars. By considering the condition, rarity, provenance and comparable prices for classic vehicles, owners and buyers can better understand the appraisal process and can ensure the right price for these elite cars and trucks.