Like most collectible goods, classic cars encompass a large number of factors which can affect their value and desirability and knowing where to can be difficult. Furthermore, it doesn’t help those specific collectors gravitate towards particular makes, models, and styles, which can muddy the waters even further as collectors will share their various opinions.
How to Determine the Value of a Classic Car
Some steps can be taken to help you evaluate the vehicle you are considering, including:
Research the Car's Value Using Hagerty Classic Car Values
Before pursuing any option too profoundly, it is wise to have done some research. One of the best resources for this is a website called Hagerty’s, which provides a wealth of information at a couple of keystrokes.
To use Hagerty’s to research specific cars:
- Select your first sorting mechanism. This can be by make, year, or VIN (vehicle identification number).
- After you select your first option, Hagerty’s will begin to narrow the field by presenting you with other options. For example, say you search for all Fords. Hagerty’s will then ask you what model of Ford you have or are interested in.
- After the next choice, say for example Thunderbird, it will ask for a sub model. Let’s say base.
- Now, it will ask for what year you wish to see, grouped by decades on the page.
- Selecting a year, such as 1969, will present you with all of the options for that year. In our example case of a 1969 Ford Thunderbird, it will ask if you want to see the 2-door Coupe, the 2-door Landau Coupe, or the 4-door Landau Sedan.
- Sometimes, as in this example, these links actually all direct to the same page. There, you can view pictures of various collectors’ cars, read up on the history of the vehicle including some of the reasoning for the design choices made for the specific year and make, view available options for the car, and, of course, see the pricing information and history.
- Hagerty’s also features a handy VIN decoder section, where you can see how to obtain useful information about the car from the VIN, such as its assembly plant and production number.
Verify That the Car Matches Its Listed Condition
It is essential that the vehicle you are considering matches its listed condition, especially in some critical target areas, as this contributes not only to the value of the car but also to your opinion of the seller. Some of these areas to consider include:
- Look over the vehicle thoroughly, including underneath of it, for any sign of rust. Rust is the number one predator of classic cars, and being rust-free is critically vital to the prolonged health and value of a collectible car.
- Make sure that the tires are matching brands and sizes, and are in good, consistent tread shape. It is also prudent to check for a spare tire and any attending tools which may have come with the car.
- Bounce the vehicle at all four corners and listen for any squeaking sounds, which can mislead a suspension problem.
- Look for any signs of previous damage or repair to the vehicle, especially aftermarket or non-original parts.
- Check to make sure the vehicle’s gas cap and nozzle restrictor are present are in good shape.
- Make sure the vehicle’s interior is clean and free of problems like cigarette burns, stains, or other damage.
- Check the functionality of any options the car shipped with, such as power windows or locks.
One topic which divides car collectors is the degree to which originality matters. To some, only original parts are acceptable: the vehicle must be in as good of condition as possible in general, but must be wholly original, and not repaired with modern reproductions or shoehorned solutions.
This is why all of these factors can matter to such a significant degree. While something like a repaired suspension may not seem like a big deal, if the repairs were completed with modern parts, the car will alienate a large potential purchasing audience in the future.
Of course, to some collectors, other factors beyond originality are more important. To them, being repaired with updated, stronger modern parts may make the vehicle more desirable, since they may consider it more road-worthy or dependable.
It all depends on the collector and the targeted audience, however, as a general rule of thumb, consider that once alterations are made to a vehicle, it can be very challenging and expensive to undo, typically involving hours of work by specialists.
If Possible, Start Up the Car
Ultimately, a car is still a functional item, and the ability of that item to again perform its function is a critical component when considering its value -- even if you are not intending on driving the car regularly or taking it to many classic car shows.
Unless the car is correctly advertised as being non-functional, always try to start the vehicle and verify not only that it begins smoothly and runs well, but also that it doesn’t produce any strange sounds or smells.
If possible, taking the car on a road test can be one of the best ways to verify the car’s condition.
If Buying Remotely, Verify That the Seller Is Trustworthy
Make sure to get the vehicle’s paperwork, such as its title, and its VIN. This will help you trace the history of the car and verify it remotely. It will also allow you to pursue additional information, such as whether the car’s engine, transmission, and rear axle are original.
Alternatively, try if possible to go through a service which authenticates and verifies vehicle sellers. Depending on the service, some offer an additional sense of community in addition to providing peace of mind that the seller is who they say they are.
Factors That Affect Classic Car Value
Share this Infographic On Your Site (Copy & Paste)
Classic Car Value Guide
If, after this, you are left with a desire for more information, and you want to pursue acquiring a classic car further, we would recommend looking into the classic car guide, which is a free download. Available from the link below, the classic car guide provides more general advice and information about buying classic cars from experts in the field.