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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

How to Determine the Value of a Classic Car or Truck

Determining a fair value for a classic car or truck is important whether you are buying or selling.  There are a lot of things to consider when calculating the value of a vehicle like the condition of the car or truck, how original it still is, its rarity, documentation that has been kept, the history of the vehicle and of course current market trends.

When it comes to researching the classic car market, we will often turn to Hagerty, the global leader for collector car insurance.  While no one single market appraisal can be taken as gospel, we do consider Hagerty as one of the most reliable sources out there.

To begin determining the value of a classic, let’s start off with determining the condition.  After all, that will be the biggest deciding factor.   Hagerty uses a scale of 1 to 4 when defining 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 overstate the condition of their classic and inexperienced 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 brilliantly.

#2 Best in Show Quality. These vehicles will win local and regional car shows, but just are not 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 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 feel that a vehicle doe not even qualify as a #4, then it is best to let a professional assess the vehicle if you still need to determine a price.  There are ultra-rare cars that are worth a pretty penny even if it is in a dilapidated state.  Take for instance a 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible.  If you ever come across one, it will certainly be worth a mint even if it is rusting out in a field.  Doubt that will ever happen because there were only 17 ever made, but I think we made our point.

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 1969 Camaro, there were over 240,000 produced.  Obviously not as rare as the 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible.

Documentation and history of vehicles plays a part in estimating a classic car’s value.  If records were kept by every owner through ought the vehicles life and all restoration and repairs can be confirmed with receipts, then that can certainly make it more valuable.

The history of the car can have a huge impact on the value of the car.  For example, Paul Walker’s collection was auctioned off at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale event, where five of his E36 M3 lightweights sold for a combined $1.3 million.  I assure you that those vehicles only commanded that kind of money because they were once owned by the late movie star.

Last but not least are market trends.  Vehicles that are trending up in the collector car market can affect the value as well as the overall spending that is going on.  For this data, we turn to Hagerty to fill in the blanks.

Hagerty Valuation Tools produce values from their own independently published Hagerty Price Guide.   Those values are believed to be amongst the most precise in the collector car market due to the massive amount of data and expertise that Hagerty has.

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.

Do not forget to factor in the other variables, and you will be on your way to determining the value of any classic car or truck you intend to sell or purchase.

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