Whether you’re shopping for a collector car or have a classic car of your own that you’re thinking of selling, understanding the estimation process is key. After all, the last thing you want to do is pay too much (or ask too little).

But valuing cars is both an art and a science. When it comes to collector car estimates, the process works differently than it does for valuing a typical car.

Here’s what you should know about gauging collector car prices.

Collector Car Estimates: How is Value Determined?

When you’re valuing cars, several factors come into play. Of course, the car’s condition and mileage are key.

But while a typical car gains value when it’s altered or when it gains features, a classic car gains value when it’s restored with original equipment and parts. Age plays a role, too; collector cars tend to command a higher price with greater age, unlike typical cars.

The market value of a collector car also depends on factors such as:

  • Supply and demand
  • Historical sale price
  • Current asking price of similar cars
  • Car color (especially significant on muscle cars!)
  • Manufacturer
  • Rarity (how many were made)

Valuing Classic Cars: How to Determine a Reasonable Price

Whether at an auction, dealer or private seller, follow these steps when valuing cars:

1. Search Collector Car Value Guides

Start your evaluation process online. Several websites offer classic car valuation guides. While each collector car is unique, an online estimate is a great place to get a ballpark valuation.

Try these online estimator tools:

  • National Automobile Dealers Association Classic & Collectible Car Value Guides
  • Classic Automobile Appraisal and Research Guide
  • Collector Car Market Review

2. Check Historical Auction Prices

Look at historical auction sale prices to get an idea of your car’s potential value. Sites such as ConceptCarz and Classic & Sports Car offer information on past sales.

3. Look at Available Inventory

Finally, check out the competition. Search for similar cars to compare listing prices. Sites such as ClassicCars, Hemmings, and AutoTrader are great places to start.

Evaluate and Rate Your Classic Car

Of course, no two classic cars are exactly the same. Looking at a range of similar cars can help you get an idea of a car’s value, but each car must be individually evaluated. The way a car has been maintained, modified and repaired will affect its value.

Fortunately, there’s a standard collector car rating system. Known as the Chet Krause system, this rubric utilizes a 1 to 6 scale to evaluate collector cars:

  1. Excellent: Perfect original, operating condition or restored to maximum professional standards (usually a show car that’s never driven). An extremely rare rating.
  2. Fine: Restored to near original condition in superior condition. Car has minimal wear and is driven less than 1,000 miles per year.
  3. Very good: An operable original or a good restoration with minimal signs of wear. Most cars at car shows are in “3 Very Good” condition.
  4. Good: Car is drivable and needs only minor work to be functional. Useable but definitely needs some repair.
  5. Restorable: Body, chassis and interior require complete restoration. May or not be operable, but is fixable.
  6. Parts Car: Stripped, rusting, weathered or wrecked; may or may not run. Only good for parts.

With today’s booming classic car market, an understanding of how cars are priced is an important skill in any toolbox. Though each collector car is unique, being able to “gauge” a car’s value helps you make buying and selling decisions.

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