Used Car Values for Collector Vehicles

by Don Elliott on May 31, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of attending what was billed as the “World’s Largest Collector Car Auction.” Mecum Auctions offered 2000 vehicles at the six-day event held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, IN. Buyers from all over the world paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for cars and trucks that were 30 to 80 years old or older.

How were they able to figure out the used car value for each of those used vehicles? Evaluating a collector car is similar to evaluating any other used car. Supply and demand is a big factor. In the case of a collector car, the supply is very limited. That particular car may be the only one of its kind left in the world. And the demand for the car is in the eye of the collector.

There are several factors that help establish the value of a collector car.

Collectability – Buying a collector car is an investment. Nostalgia, reconditioning, pride of ownership, and the car’s resale value are all considerations that will affect the car’s value to the buyer. Some used cars appeal to a larger group of collectors than other used cars. At the Mecum Auction, muscle cars from the 60’s and 70’s were in high demand. An original 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda with 23,746 miles brought top dollar at $550,000.

Classification – Identifying the year, make, model and equipment on an older car is just the first step. You must accurately identify the pedigree of the car, decipher original equipment versus fake, match numbers from the original car, and provide extensive documentation to establish the used car value.

Condition – There is no standard for condition on a collector vehicle. Knowing everything possible about the car is critical when determining its used car value. On vintage cars, key parts may not be available at any price. Fixing a bad motor is not as simple as a visit to your local auto repair shop. Consulting a professional to look the car over before making an investment is a good idea and usually well worth the money.

Comparables – Collector car enthusiasts like to talk about their cars. They watch the market and are often familiar with similar cars as they become available. Price guides, auction results, ad listings, and collector magazine websites like Hemmings Motor News are valuable references. Hiring a professional appraiser might also be a good idea. A written appraisal may be necessary down the road for insurance coverage and estate planning purposes.

Deciding to invest in a collector car is a big decision. Determining how much to pay is an important first step. Send us a comment if this information on Collector Vehicle evaluation was helpful to you.

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