If you’ve been around the classic car world for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard the term “appraisal” brought up before. Getting your car appraised is a great thing to do for any classic, vintage, modified, or limited production vehicle.
What does getting a car appraised mean?
The definition of the word “Appraisal” means “an expert estimate of the value of something”. For vehicles, this means hiring a 3rd party to research and analyze what a specific car is worth in current market conditions. Appraisals are often used by insurance companies to determine replacement value.
Hiring a vehicle appraiser isn’t just a matter of getting some stranger to take a guess of what your car might be worth. It’s a much more involved process and most appraisers are actually licensed in their field.
A good car appraiser will put the time and effort into researching all of your vehicle’s details. Once they have a good understanding of its condition, rarety, and history, they’ll take a deep dive into the market for that specific model.
This goes further in depth than what a car dealership might use to put a value on your used car. They’ll go through previous auction sales, current listings, as well as examine the state of the market at that time.
What do they look for in a car appraisal?
Aside from your usual personal info, your appraiser is going to need detailed information about your car. They’ll want general stats of your car – things like the VIN number, year/make/model/trim, and mileage.
One of the biggest things your appraiser will be focused on is the condition of your car. This plays a huge role in its potential value. Some of the things they’ll be noting the condition of are:
- Door Panels
Why you need to get your classic car appraised
There are a few reasons why it’s important to have your classic car appraised. For the most part, it’s a matter of protecting yourself. Having a 3rd party come up with a value for it eliminates any arguing between yourself and the insurance company, bank, or government office. The appraiser is respected on both sides and can be trusted to provide an accurate value for the car.
This is the most common reason for getting your car appraised. If you have your car insured as a classic (and you should!) one of their requirements is to have a 3rd party appraisal done. They ask for this so they have a good idea of what the replacement cost is but it also gives them an idea of how the car is used and if it’s modified. Remember, insurance companies are all about assessing their risk.
The beauty of a classic car insurance policy is the ability to have a replacement value that both you and the company agree on. If the worst case were to happen and the car needed to be replaced, you won’t be starting negotiations at zero.
Everyone agreed what the car was worth when you insured it so there shouldn’t be a need to argue. If they do, you have a document you can use to prove your case. Having this done in advance can be a life saver – how else would you have your car appraised after it’s been stolen?
My MR2 is a great example of the need for classic car insurance and an appraisal. When I first purchased it, the car was insured under a regular policy for a couple of weeks. They came up with their own replacement value for the car of $3,000. That’s about half the price of what it would cost to replace the wheels alone!
The company saw that it was a 90’s Toyota and assumed it wasn’t worth much. Now my car is fully covered for an accurate value and my premiums are dirt cheap too.
If you’re taking a loan out to purchase a classic car, the bank or lender might want you to have an appraisal done to know the value of the car. In the event that you default on your payments, they want to make sure you didn’t pay more than the car is worth. They need to be able to sell it to recover most of their money.
Sometimes the government will want to know what your car is worth so they can charge you the appropriate amount of tax when you buy it. They usually estimate the value themselves for regular cars but if yours is unique, rare, or old, they might want some help with figuring out its value.
Insurance payout disputes
In the event that your car needs to be replaced due to theft or damage, it’s quite possible that your insurance company is going to attempt to get out of paying you the full amount. If you still have access to the car, you might be able to hire an appraiser to prove your side of the argument.
This can be a stressful situation with a lot of back and forth between yourself and the company. A 3rd party appraiser can act as a mediator between the 2 sides.
Try not to wait until something bad happens to have your vehicle appraised though. It’s best to have all of this taken care of ahead of time so you aren’t stuck scrambling at the last minute to protect yourself.
What does it cost to have a classic car appraised?
Appraising a car properly takes time, experience, and an eye for detail. In most cases, an appraiser’s report will be thorough and full of relevant information. This isn’t something that happens in a matter of minutes. They need to do their research so this process might cost you a bit of money.
In my experience, appraisers have charged me anywhere between $140 and $200 for a detailed report that insurance companies will accept. These people are well known locally with good reputations. It might be possible to find someone to do it cheaper but you can risk ending up with an inaccurate value or something that insurance companies aren’t willing to accept.
The cost of an appraisal can climb quickly depending on how in depth the report needs to be and whether or not they’ll need to travel to you. Appraising a car with significant history and value will cost more than the average classic.
Does mileage matter on a classic car?
Mileage doesn’t matter as much on classic cars. Due to their age, it’s likely that they’ve been restored in the past – essentially resetting the clock. The time since the restoration was completed as well as the quality of the work is far more important in terms of value.
An appraiser will certainly make note of the mileage on your car, but it won’t weigh as heavily on their valuation as you might think. The exception to this is if your car has really low mileage or is all original. Otherwise, it’s almost expected to have undergone some work in order to be alive and well for all these years.
A car that has been restored by a skilled expert can easily be worth more money than one with low mileage. A lack of mileage doesn’t automatically mean it’s in good condition. Many classic car owners will take the time to restore every nut and bolt on their cars, essentially making them new again. In that case, the car’s value will increase regardless of the mileage on the odometer.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: