What's the Value of my Classic? - Part One - Book Values


We repeatedly receive "ads" for Classics up for sale, asking us to "forward" if we know someone who might be interested. We see other Classics advertised on classified sites. In almost all cases, we get the same details...none. Year, make, model, description, a few photos and a price. Nothing verifiable. We did find one that said, "Information is to the best of our knowledge".
With prices and interest continuing to increase, Classic car owners need a better way to estimate the value of their cars. This is important for a variety of things, such as; when purchasing or renewing (home, auto & umbrella) insurance, personal property taxes and when buying or selling a vehicle. In some cases, the value of your Classics might be needed for other purposes, such as calculating net worth, divorce, wills or estate planning. So to help set a reasonable value for any of your Classics, here are a few things worth looking into.

It's something we learn while attempting to purchase a car with a trade-in. Regardless of the "book value", your estimate is likely to suffer a significant cut and expressed as "Do you know what will happen if you try to get a check from that book? NOTHING, because 'books' don't buy cars".(OUCH!) Unfortunately and regardless of what is displayed on the numerous online sites featuring Classic car values, "book values" alone are inadequate to the goal of properly assessing the value of your car.

Unless you never watch TV, it is hard to imagine you have yet to witness one of several shows about pawn shops or restoration garages that buy Classic cars on the spot. Or the "picker" and auction shows where the value of items uncovered are based on a good guess. These tactics are great for TV shows, because they are all planned. But it's not a good way to evaluate the value of your Classic. 
Besides, if someone actually asked, "What's your 'I don't want to sell it price?", do you have any idea of a factual answer?
Unfortunately, a very high percentage of owners are relying on similar substandard efforts when determining the value of their cars. There is no reason to keep guessing or stay in the dark.
We combined our personal experiences, business background, and research efforts with feedback from automotive historians, accredited collectors and average owners for reliable insight. The following is based on those results.

STEP #1 - Look up Book Values
There are a few sites to choose from when searching for a realistic "book value", but our search for the value of a 1955 Chevy 210 Sport Coupe revealed three sites with available information. Each listed three or more categories. Two had additional choices regarding factory installed options. We are going to focus on the "Grade A=Concourse Quality", "Grade B=Above Average" and "Grade C=Average 'Driver":

Grade                                            B                       C  
Site #1- High =   $33,600 • Mid = $19,600 • Low = $11,200
Site #2- High =   $28,300 • Mid = $18,600 • Low = $13,000
Site #3- High = $112,900 • Mid = $40,674 • Low =  $5,950

Book values help to begin, but as you can clearly see, there is a significant difference in each column. Obvious to the value is condition and authenticity, but imagine if you were looking at three '55 Chevy's. All three look fantastic, run well and drive great. All the cars are priced at $28,000. Are you buying a grade A car at a discount or are you ready to overpay $15,000 for a grade C car? What about properly insuring your Classic? Do you insure it for $28,000 or $100,000? Without more than a guess, how can you validate the replacement cost?
None of these companies will insure a Classic worth $28K "book" for $90K unless the value is documented
STEP #2 - Documents Rule. Get Them in Order

Another answer often provided to prospective buyers asking more about a Classic car is,"It's what you can see". Conversely when someone wants an estimated value, they are told "It's worth what someone will pay" without regard for the details of history or restoration.  

Unlike a home improvement, where building codes are used as "minimum standards" to insure the work performed by a licensed contractor has been done correctly and inspected, there is no such thing regarding a Classic car. Could you imaging asking if the newly renovated house was up to code, to be told "It's what you can see"?

If you want to establish the most accurate valuation of your Classic, you will need to use the same thing as the "blue chip" owners...documentation; restoration records, photos, known provenance and history. That does not mean you need every possible form of documentation that ever existed, nor does it mean your Classic has be historically significant. It means you need every document available to you.

Don't get scammed

What's the Value of My Classic? - Part Six - Condition
What's the Value of My Classic? - Part Seven - Stories