Once you’ve made the difficult decision to part with your antique, classic, or collector car on an online auction, you face the even tougher challenge of pricing the car correctly so that it will sell.  Sellers can’t let emotion dictate their reserve price versus facts and analytics. A market exists whenever there is a seller offering a product for sale and a buyers who are willing to pay the seller’s price.  If a seller prices their collector car higher than what the market of buyers will bear, the seller has no market and thus will still have their classic vehicle taking up space in their garage.   While it’s always great to make a profit on a collector car, more often than not sellers need to remember all the enjoyment their vehicle provided during their ownership; the gratification that came from driving and showing off their collector car is priceless.

To help price their classic or collector car, sellers have two primary resources. The first is JD Power’s NADA Book for Classic, Collectible, Exotic, and Muscle Car Appraisal Guide Directory.  Updated three times annually, NADA relies on its extensive historical database as well as recent auction results to develop the following categories for their average retail values:

Low – vehicles that are mechanically functional that need only minor reconditioning, deteriorated or poor amateur restorations fall into this category. Daily drivers also fall into this category. Parts cars or complete, non-running vehicles requiring total restoration fall below this category and consequently will be pried lower.

Average – vehicles that are in good condition overall, which can be an older restoration or a well-maintained original vehicle.   Think of what car enthusiasts call a “20-footer”, i.e. collector cars that look amazing from twenty feet away whose minor flaws can only be detected when up close.

High – vehicles that are in excellent condition overall. These are freshly restored or extremely well-maintained original classic, collectible, exotic, or muscle cars showing very minimal wear. NADA is quick to point out that this category is not for “100 point” or “#1 vehicle” (more on that below) as those kinds or cars are no longer driven and are either in a museum or transported by enclosed trailer to and from car shows or concours judging events.

While a fantastic resource for pricing your collector car, there are three downsides of this resource for private sellers currently.  The first is that NADA’s classic, collectible, exotic, and muscle car prices are only available in a hard copy that requires a $90 annual subscription that they publish three times annually.  That’s not very practical if you are a private seller with only one car to sell, however it does make for a handy resource to have on your coffee table when you’re watching a Mecum or Barrett-Jackson on TV!  The second to keep in mind is that the values listed are retail (not private seller), consequently private sellers need to remember they will likely be offered less than what’s shown in the guide. reserve. Finally, private sellers need to be honest with themselves that it’s unlikely the car in their garage falls into the “High” category described above; consequently sellers need to be realistic and use the “Average” category as a true guide for pricing.

Another barometer for private sellers trying to determine the price of their antique, classic, or collector car is Haggerty Insurance’s Hagerty Valuation Tools® online pricing guide.  Haggerty is one of the largest insurers of classic cars and as such, they have a vested interest in confirming the correct price of each car based on condition.  Both buyers and sellers need to remember that Haggerty will only insure a collector car up to the value on their website.

Haggerty’s tool breaks down prices into the following categories based on a car’s condition:

#1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one word description for #1 vehicles is “concours.”

#2 vehicles could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 vehicles that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws, but will be able to find some not seen by the general public. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. No excessive smoke will be seen on startup, no unusual noises will emanate from the engine. The vehicle will drive as a new vehicle of its era would. The one word description for #2 vehicles is “excellent.”

#3 vehicles could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 vehicle, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior where applicable. #3 vehicles drive and run well, but might have some incorrect parts. These vehicles are not used for daily transportation but are ready for a long tour without excuses, and the casual passerby will not find any visual flaws. “Good” is the one word description of a #3 vehicle.

#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. “Fair” is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle.

Haggerty estimates that more than 80% of the antique, classic, and vintage vehicles in the market are either condition #3 or #4, so sellers need to be realistic when assessing their vintage or muscle car’s condition. Buyer’s similarly need to use the guide to make an honest appraisal of what they should be willing to pay for a collector vehicle when bidding for it on an online collector car auction.