How to Increase the Value of Your Classic Car

A Conversation with David Burroughs,
Founder of Prove-It®


Classic vehicles are like snowflakes. Many look alike, but no two are exactly alike. So, how can you reliably distinguish one from another? 


Visualize two nearly identical and highly optioned 1957 cars side by side. One is white the other red. Each indicates about 35,000 miles on their odometers and each is strikingly beautiful. Which one do you want in your garage? Some might say “It makes no difference, they are both great. I’ll take either one.” Others may have a significantly different point of view.


The owner of the white vehicle claims his vehicle has matching numbers, is all original, and has been undefeated in car show competition. When asked if anything exists to support his claims, the owner proudly states he bought years ago at an auction and that’s what it said on the sign and during the telecast. The auction announcer added it was also once owned by a Hollywood movie star. What could be better than that?

The owner of the red car is silent; he doesn't say a word. You are handed a dozen photographs of his vehicle taken when brand new. The small, black dates in the margin of the Kodak prints are still clearly visible. Each photo also reveals the same options you see on the car today. Furthermore, the owner produces a window sticker authenticates by a forensic laboratory (name, location and contact information included) which further supports the original color and options.

The owner of the red car next produces current, high resolution photography of the engine stamps, VIN tag, and other critical codes which are accompanied by signed affidavits from well-known authorities substantiating their authenticity. The owner offers you the courtesy of having the photography and actual stamps subject to examination by authorities of your choice, as well.

Tim Wellborn with copies of his vehicle documentation
Furthermore, the owner shows you photos of each of the three previous owners standing beside the vehicle when each of them owned it, including the garages in which the vehicle was stored by each owner. Finally, you are shown bills of sale documents documenting the mileage at each ownership change. They all correspond in ascending order and fit with the indicated mileage on the black car today. 

So, if the cars described above were in exactly the same condition with exactly the same options, shouldn't they have the same value? One might think so, but due to the credibility added by authentic paperwork, historic photography, and compelling testimony from independent third party sources, the difference in value can be very significant.


People want to feel comfortable and confident when purchasing a vehicle and don't want to be surprised or embarrassed later when learning something is not what they were told, assumed, or expected.  Proper documentation will increase the comfort and confidence level for everyone - buyer and seller. Therefore, increasing the comfort and confidence associated with a vehicle adds value. 


For some owners, that may depend upon the amount of money at risk. It depends on the mentality of the seller/buyer/owner and to some degree it will depend upon the type vehicle: pre-war European race car, a 1950’s average condition hot rod, or whether it was once a celebrity’s car.  Is it an original restored or unrestored muscle car? Is the vehicle a historically significant record holder?

What most owners miss is the opportunity to record the details about their Classic that differentiates it from a seemingly identical vehicle. Your Classic doesn't need to be a rare example of a vehicle either, but you need to convey why yours is different and to provide the proof. 

Vehicle + differentiations + proof = $$$ 


Feeling comfortable and confident is a very desirable state.  Both add value and are worth paying for; that is proven every day in areas far beyond classic automobiles. Also, people will pay for confidence in their choices. Therefore, if documentation increases comfort, and documentation is worth time and money, you need to invest to create it.


Why not?

  • Think it is too much work
  • Don't intend to sell the vehicle soon
  • Don't want to know what may be learned  
  • Don’t know how 
  • Don’t know who, how or when to call for help. 
  • Can't separate "relevant documentation" from "worthless documentation.”
  • Simply never thought about it.
  • Belief such stuff is for those considered to be excessively detail orientated - they just want to drive it. 
Some or all such reasons/excuses are typical and often heard. But should all Classics be appraised in interest or value based on some average, or should the passion and commitment to create and record something unique should be recognized?

For some, this is a challenging issue. Others have taken the time to preserve photos, receipts and notations defining the "what and how" of all maintenance, repairs and modifications given their classic. Those are the cars buyers will actively seek to acquire and are willing to pay for the detail and documentation as well as for the car.

Learn more here, and read what the experts have to say...

Safe driving and keep recording those memories.

The Garagistry Team

This post was originally entitled: 

"Documentation Really Does Matter"