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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How to Calculate a Fair Price of a Classic Car

Whether you are buying or selling you want to make sure that a fair price is set for a classic car.  There are many variables that go into this decision like the condition of the vehicle, originality, its rarity, documentation, the history of the vehicle and of course current market trends.

When determining the value of a classic car or truck, we will often turn to Hagerty, the global leader for collector car insurance.  While no one single valuation can be taken as gospel, we do consider Hagerty as one of the most reliable sources of classic car market information.

Let’s start with condition since, after all, that will be the biggest determining factor.   Hagerty uses a scale of 1 to 4 when determining a vehicle’s condition.  #1 being the best and #4 being the worst.  According to them, more than 80% of vehicles in the market are either condition #3 or #4.  Many sellers and buyers might disagree, but far too often sellers will try to exaggerate the condition of their classic and eager buyers tend to believe them.

Here are the 4 conditions of a classic car according to Hagerty:

  • #1 Concours Condition. These are the absolute best vehicles in the world. Simply put, they are the best of the best and very few restorations will ever reach this level of perfection.  Tire treads are perfectly groomed, paint and chrome shine like mirrors and every piece of the vehicle has been meticulously restored to better than new condition.  Everything runs and drives superbly.
  • #2 Best in Show Quality. These vehicles will win local and regional car shows, but just aren’t quite concours status.  They may very well have been #1 condition at some point in their life, but they have since been driven or have noticeably aged.  To the untrained eye, these cars will appear to be perfect, but experts will be able to point out small flaws that keep them from being perfect.  They are still however thought of as excellent quality.
  • #3 Good Condition. This is where most classic cars will land in the condition categories.  They very well may have some poor issues like condition #4, but other good factors bring them up just a notch.  These classics will run and drive just fine, but are often restored using incorrect parts.  The paint, body and interior are usually in decent shape leaving the average Joe to think they are in great condition.  The average Joe’s great is still Hagerty’s good.
  • #4 Fair Condition. At best, these are the classic you see being used as daily drivers.  There will be visual flaws to the naked eye and possibly even worse.  These vehicles are rarely original and more like Frankenstein with non-stock part.  No major parts should be missing either.  A fair conditioned vehicle should still run and not be considered a total jalopy.

If you are trying to determine the value of anything that would fall below a #4, we would highly suggest that an expert make the assessment of a vehicle’s value.  Condition isn’t always everything, experts like Mark Worman of Graveyard Carz can attest to that!  He is considered by many to be the undisputed knowledge king of Mopar and can certainly set a value on even the worst condition Mopar imaginable.

The next big determining factors are going to be variables like originality, its rarity, documentation, the history of the vehicle.  It makes sense that a number matching car will carry more value than one that is not.  Some estimators may even consider numbers matching to hold the same weight as condition in their evaluation.  Originality is also a highly valued factor. A vehicle that has the correct factory paint and interior color schemes will likely have a higher value than one that has flames on it.  I say likely because there are certain situations where a custom paint job could provide more value.  Sometimes this can boil down to a matter of preference and opinion of the buyer.

Rarity of the car is also a big factor.  Were there only 100 ever made?  Well then that obviously makes the car more collectable and instantly increases the value.  On the other hand, if you are valuing a 1966 Ford Mustang, there were over 600,000 produced.  Obviously not very rare.

Documentation and history of vehicles plays a role in determining a classic car’s value.  Were records well kept by each owner and can restoration work be backed up with receipts and documentation from the restoration shop?  It can certainly make a car more valuable if it has the right paperwork.

The history of the car can have a huge impact on the value of the car.  A 1978 Pontiac Pro-Touring Firebird that was once owned by Burt Reynolds was sold at auction for $275,000!  Another “Bandit” Trans Am used in the movie sold for $550,000.  I can assure you that neither of those vehicles would have went for that much had they not been owned by Burt and used in the movies.

Finally, market trends are the last piece of the puzzle.  Which vehicles are hot right now and how is overall spending in the current market?  Again, we turn to Hagerty to fill in those variables.

Hagerty Valuation Tools produce values from their own independently published Hagerty Price Guide.   Those values are considered amongst the most accurate in the collector car market due to the enormous amount of data and expertise that they possess.

If you are ready to see what your classic car or truck is worth, then head on over to the Hagerty website and enter in your vehicle’s information into the valuation tools and they will quickly tell you an average value (condition #3) as well as the value for conditions #1, #2, and #4.

Don’t forget to factor in the other variables we discussed, and you will be on your way to setting a fair price for any classic car or truck you intend to sell or purchase.

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