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How to Sell Classic Cars

Updated on June 19, 2013

What's that Classic Car worth?

Knowing what your car is worth in its current shape is important.  Is this car worth anything?  I don't know, do you?
Knowing what your car is worth in its current shape is important. Is this car worth anything? I don't know, do you? | Source

Selling Classic Cars is not Simple, Sorry.


Selling newer vehicles is rather straight-forward. They have a fairly easily verified value—the National Auto Dealer’s Association Yellow Book or the Kelly Blue Book are references that banks and other lenders as well as car dealers use every day. A car with these options, that many miles, and in this condition is worth from X – Z dollars.

Insurance is also simple, your agent has the same reference tools at their disposal. The online quotes have databases that cover virtually every car from the last 15 years, but once you get beyond that, the waters get murky.

What Questions do All Car Buyers Ask?


The things that buyers of Classic Cars want to know are much the same as what buyers of modern cars want to know:

  • How many miles are on the car?
  • Has the car ever been in a wreck?
  • Has the car received regular service?
  • How many owners has the car had?

What Questions do Classic Car Buyers Ask?


They also want to know things that you just wouldn’t ask about on a newer car:

  • Has the engine ever been rebuilt? If so, when?
  • Do the numbers match?
  • How old is the paint?
  • Is the car original or a restoration? If restored, when?
  • Is the Vehicle Identification Number correct for the trim on the vehicle?
  • Was the car put together from pieces of other cars? How many?
  • Was it repaired using after-market parts?
  • Has it ever been modified with hydraulics or something similar?

And the list goes on and on.

How Low does your Ride go?

If you've ever seen what hydraulics do to a vehicle's suspension, you know to avoid them!
If you've ever seen what hydraulics do to a vehicle's suspension, you know to avoid them! | Source

NADA Guide

Released three times a year, the NADA Classic book is still no replacement for an appraisal.
Released three times a year, the NADA Classic book is still no replacement for an appraisal. | Source

Do you Speak the Lingo?


You not only have to know what kind of shape the vehicle is in structurally and mechanically, you have to be a historian of the brand. You have to be able to talk intelligently about the manufacturer as well as the specific vehicle. Details such as how many were produced, what options were available (and which options yours has), and how many are estimated to still be in operable condition are questions that are often asked.

How do you Determine Value of a Classic Car?


Next, you have to have an idea of what your vehicle is worth. What you paid for it isn’t really a good measure. If you bought it long ago, it’s probably appreciated in value. If you paid too much, it may never catch up to your purchase price. If you took a family keepsake and rebuilt it from the ground up, you may have no clue what the finished product is worth.

Where can you get an idea of the value? An appraisal is probably the first place to start. It’s also essential when you insure these vehicles. You absolutely cannot own an antique car or truck and drive it unless you have an up-to-date appraisal.

Next, check out the online marketplace. Craigslist, Hemmings Motor News, and eBay are just the start. There are uncountable marketplaces online. Online ads for vehicles, forums on collector websites, and classifieds on the various collector group forums are all good places to look.

Another alternative is to simply pass the buck. A lot of the places that do appraisals, the lots that consign antiques, and the auction houses that deal with your type of ride may sell your vehicle for you on commission. You still need to have a rough idea of what your car is worth before going down this road.

1957 Chevy Bel Air

That's a sweet looking '57 Chevy.  What would you give?  Do the numbers match?  Was it pieced together?  These are questions a buyer should ask.
That's a sweet looking '57 Chevy. What would you give? Do the numbers match? Was it pieced together? These are questions a buyer should ask. | Source

Be Prepared for Calls


Once you figure out what your vehicle is worth and you’ve chosen various places to list your car, you need to get ready for the calls. Be prepared to answer all the questions outlined above. Be ready to show documentation proving mileage. Be prepared for them to bring a mechanic with them and expect them to go over the car head-to-tail with flashlight and tools. And be ready to dicker. Like selling horses or going to a flea market, selling cars is not a “the price on the window takes it” business. Know what your bottom dollar is and what your negotiation range is. You can’t over-price the car hoping to get down to what you want, but you also can’t expect to put your bottom-dollar price on the car and expect it to be paid without argument.

Also, be prepared to recommend places that lend money on antique cars. Most banks avoid it like the plague. Likewise, be ready to talk about companies that insure antiques. While the major auto insurers will insure almost anything, the guys who insure the classics often have far better rates.

Have your state’s paperwork ready for the buyer. Does it require notarization? Be sure you know the ins-and-outs. If you’ll just drive your classic to a near-by used car lot, they’ll probably be glad to quickly explain to you what you need and give you the forms (or point you to the right website) that you need. As a rule, car dealers love old cars and can be quite helpful.

Cold hard cash, eh?

If your buyer shows up with fives, you better go buy a bill counter.  Better yet, go to your bank.
If your buyer shows up with fives, you better go buy a bill counter. Better yet, go to your bank. | Source

Closing the Deal: Cash or Credit?


Most importantly, be prepared to accept payment. Will you accept a check? Do you need to accept an escrow payment until the balance is paid in full? If they want you to hold the car for them, require a substantial deposit—such as 25% of the purchase price. If they merely want you to hold it a day or two without taking it off of the market, 10% is probably an acceptable number. If it’s cash, do you have a counterfeit pen to check those hundreds? Pick one up at an office supply store. A couple of bucks may save you from a nightmare.

Finally, don’t give them the car, the title, or anything until payment has been received in full and all of the paperwork has been signed. Since it can often be fairly simple to request a “lost title” on an antique, releasing the car without full payment can be a disaster.

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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, I had not thought of many of these complications- though to be fair, I've never sold ANY car before. Thanks for the tips and the useful questions! This is an awesome guide.

    • DougBerry profile image
      Author

      DougBerry 5 years ago from Abilene, TX

      My wife and I bought her a new car last year and gave my father her old car because we didn't want to sell it. Selling cars is like pulling teeth. Selling antiques just adds another level of crazy to the equation.

    • daveyboy1957 profile image

      David W. Braddock 4 years ago from Lake Villa, Illinois

      for myself I use several guides to find a vehicles actual value. Most appraisers who sell a vehicle for you base it on what they have sold comparable vehicles for. For me I check Black Books "Classic" version and Hemmings Motor News Collectible Vehicle Value Guide and Old Cars Price Guide. Finally I run several "Auction" websites to determine the actual prices being paid for the vehicle in question. These are all used to finally determine what a vehicle will sell for. The actual CONDITION of the vehicle and DOCUMENTATION of its history are however the ultimate determining factor and that requires someone who actually knows these vehicles and their values based on those 2 primary things. There is nobody and I emphasize the "nobody" - that is an expert on all models and all cars so try to find someone who deals in your particular vehicle.

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