Sellers Guide: How to Sell a Classic Car

If you need to know how to sell a classic car, you should know that there are three primary ways to do so. You can sell your classic car through a classic car dealer, at an auction, or directly to another collector or private buyer. If you want to sell your car quickly, classic car dealers are the best option. If you want to focus on getting the highest price, you should sell your classic vehicle directly.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: May 9, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • Three options of selling: classic car dealer, directly to another collector, and an auction house
  • Classic car dealers are your best option if you want to sell your car fast
  • Prepare your classic car for sale through: cleanliness, fixing simple things, and detailed records

There are many reasons why you may be looking to sell your classic car. Maybe you’re looking to downsize your collection. Maybe you’re flipping a car you’ve restored –– and, let’s face it, it’s tough learning how to restore a classic car. Or maybe you’re trying to acquire funds for a bigger purchase. Maybe you’re just looking to reduce expenses like classic car insurance.

Depending on your motivations, the process of how to sell a classic car is different. This guide will try to steer you towards the path that works best for any classic car seller.

If you happen to be the one on the buying end — or if you’re selling your classic to get a new car — you’re going to need to find a good deal on auto insurance. Find the best auto insurance rates with our free rate comparison tool right now.

What Counts as a Classic Car?

When is a car considered a classic? Nearly everyone would consider a 1956 Ferrari or 1947 Rolls-Royce classic car, but you might be unsure whether the vintage vehicle you’re looking to sell counts as a “classic.”

The Classic Car Club of America has an approved list of vehicles they consider classic cars. They generally consider these criteria:

  • Made between 1915 and 1948 (required)
  • Not mass-produced
  • Considered a high-end vehicle at the time
  • Contained new mechanical developments or accessories

As you can see, this is a pretty restrictive definition — that 1956 Ferrari actually doesn’t qualify. 

Insurance providers, on the other hand, have broader definitions of “classic cars,” and they have other special designations such as “antique” for their policyholders. These definitions vary by company.

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How are You Selling Your Classic Car?

First, you need to decide how you’re selling it and who you’re selling it to. Your main options are:

  • Classic car dealer
  • Directly to another collector
  • Auction house

The path you choose will depend on your initial motivations for selling your classic car and how you want the selling process to unfold. Consider the following:

  1. How soon do you want to sell?
  2. How much work are you willing to do?
  3. How much are you trying to maximize your profit?

Selling to a Dealer

The greatest advantage here is speed. Do you want to sell your car this weekend? Going right to a classic car dealer is your best option. Dealers are professionals and know how to buy a classic car. 

This doesn’t mean you should take the first offer you get. Do research on what your car is likely worth and shop around for offers so that you’re not taken advantage of by a single low-ball offer.

With a dealer, you’ll receive less money than the other two options. Dealerships make money by buying your car and selling it for more, so this is not the way to maximize your return. 

Selling Directly to a Collector

For those trying to maximize profit, this is your best option. By cutting out all middle men, every dollar the potential buyer spends on your car goes into your pocket. 

The downside is that you’ll need to do all the legwork including:

  • Meeting with prospective buyers
  • Setting and negotiating price
  • Legal paperwork

Selling on your own is a slow process which is good or bad depending on your point of view. On one hand, it could take a long time before you have cash in hand. However, if you don’t need to sell right away, you can take your time to see if someone blows you away with a huge offer.

Selling Through an Auction House

If you want lots of buyers to see your vehicle, a classic car auction is the way to go. Additionally, all negotiation happens during the auction. No haggling between you and any prospective buyer.

Of course, auctions have disadvantages too:

  • Auction houses have seller fees.
  • Buyers cannot do a test drive so may not pay as much.
  • You have no say over your car’s new owner. The highest bidder wins. 

Preparing your Classic Car for Sale

Regardless of how you’re selling your classic car, these simple things will help you get the best return for your classic car value.

  • Cleanliness – Like dressing up for a date or job interview, first impressions mean a lot.
  • Fixing simple things – Is the mirror cracked? Does the radio work? Easy fixes like these show that you’ve been a caring, responsible owner.
  • Detailed records – Who performed maintenance on the car and how often? How was it stored? Who were the previous owners? Reducing the number of unknowns on a car’s history can ease a buyer’s mind and make them comfortable paying a larger price.

Setting the Price

If you’re selling the car to a dealer or another collector, you should have an idea of what you’re willing to accept for your vehicle before meeting them for the negotiation.

This means doing your research.

Classic car price guides exist both online and in print. Consulting these is important, but remember that every classic car is different even if they’re the same model. Remember these are guides not requirements. 

Don’t Price with your Emotions

It’s hard to set a value on something you’ve poured thousands of dollars and days of work into. Unfortunately, a prospective buyer doesn’t care how hard it was to find a replacement taillight or how expensive reupholstering the backseat was. Trying to remain objective when negotiating is a very difficult but necessary step in the process.

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You’ve Sold Your Classic Car, Now What?

Whether you’re planning to replace your car, still have an ample collection, or are left with just your everyday driver, take this opportunity to review your insurance situation. We can help you find the best policy for whatever vehicles you still have.

Just search, compare, and save — with our free quote comparison tool

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