Who Needs to Have Their Car Appraised? 

Owners of both modern and classic cars can benefit from a professionally-done appraisal. Issues involving disputes with insurance companies, matters of probate, estate taxes, charitable donations - all these situations require the knowledge of a professional appraiser.

If you currently own and drive a classic or collectible automobile, and if there is no up-to-date, professionally-done appraisal on file with your insurance company, you will find yourself, understandably, in serious difficulty with that insurance company when it comes time (and let’s hope it never does) to make a claim for the loss of this vehicle. You can easily come up thousands of dollars short when all an insurance company has to go on is a demolished or missing automobile! 

Have you carefully read the insurance policy now protecting your classic or collectible car? Is it a “Agreed Upon Value” policy from a specialty insurer, who places  restrictions on your use and method of storage? Or is it a “Stated Value” policy issued by a “normal” insurer, who also writes up the everyday modern vehicle you drive? 

In a “Agreed Upon Value” policy, appraisals are often required, and  you will recover what you expected in case of a loss, presuming your claim is proven legitimate and that it meets the policy’s rules and regulations. 

In a “Stated Value” policy, there is often a difference in opinion between insurer and insured as to the fair market value of a special automobile. A certified appraisal in this case would be a crucial factor in your favor. Without an appraisal on record, it is almost certain that you will not be satisfied with the amount offered by your insurance company, and this will require that you enter into arbitration, which is expensive, or worse yet, into a legal action. 

Aside from these worst-case scenarios, which hopefully you will never experience,  appraisals are also extremely useful when you are buying or selling a collector car, settling an estate or divorce agreement, or donating a vehicle to charity (in certain cases, the IRS requires an appraisal). 

Can Appraisals Be Done By Mail? 

Some appraisers do offer this service as an economical alternative to an on-site inspection. Quite frankly, this type of appraisal cannot stand legal scrutiny and is often defeated in arbitration and/or legal hearings. I personally will not supply an appraisal by mail, but I will offer a very economical Market Analysis for potential Buyers or Sellers. (See Appraisals and Services). 

Why Can’t I Just Go To a Local Car Dealer or Car Club For An Appraisal? 

You can, but here again you are risking a defeat under any type of scrutiny by an insurer, a legal entity or the government. The reasons are numerous, but the two biggest problems are (a) a car dealer or club official is not presumed to be a totally impartial party, since he/she may have an interest in the car or in a similar car they own, and (b) he/she is usually not equipped to supply the proper photos, forms and documentation that are required for a legitimate appraisal. 

What should I look for in a good appraisal? 

1. The impartiality of the appraiser, i.e., that he/she not be a dealer, broker,  restorer or club member. 

2. A clear presentation of the appraiser’s experience and other relevant credentials. 

3. The inclusion within the appraisal report of comparable cars for sale, price guide listings, current auction results, perhaps even testimonials taken from experts. 

4. A comprehensive photographic documentation. 

What should I Expect To Pay For An Appraisal? 

This depends on a number of factors, including the rarity of your car and the amount of travel time involved; however, it should NEVER be based on the value of the car. This is considered a violation of the standard Code of Ethics that any legitimate appraiser abides by. 

On the average, an on-site inspection and full appraisal should range from $175-225 for most postwar cars within the appraiser’s local range. Race cars, hot rods, one-offs and extremely rare cars may be significantly higher, and travel time may be a factor as well. Allow 5-7 days from the time the appraisal is done to the time you receive your documents. Payment is presented at the time of the actual appraisal.

There is a great deal of confusion about the terms “classic”, “collector car”, “collectible car”, and some good definitions are long overdue. Here is what the appraiser feels is a general professional consensus concerning these terms: 


A classic car is an automobile that is listed by the Classic Car Club of America, selected for its particular attributes, whether they be of a historical nature, a design breakthrough or a marketing trendsetter.  Generally speaking, a true “classic” had to be a very special car the very day it was made. At present, there are no classics listed after 1948, and certainly not all cars made before 1948 are classics! A complete listing of all certified classics is available on our links page

Milestone Car  

This term came about as an attempt by the Milestone Car Society to more precisely identify potential future “classics”, based on the presumption that the Classic Car Club of America would continue to add to their list. One sees this term used now and again, but it really hasn’t caught on in common usage within the old car community. Milestone cars include specific cars built between 1945-1972, and are well thought out. A more common label one hears for cars in this state of limbo is “future classics”, which is an unfortunate term and not the fault of the Milestone Society. Many predictions like this have failed to come true (remember when we were all supposed to buy 1976 Cadillac convertibles and DeLoreans? For a complete list go to the links page

Collector Car  

Quite simply, any car that is actively collected by a discernible number of hobbyists, and for which a market has been established and a club formed. A '60s Ford Galaxie convertible would be a good example of this, as would an MGB. 

Collectible Car  

There is a subtle but important distinction between a collectible and a collector car, in that a collectible car could have only a relatively few devoted hobbyists who are interested. So, theoretically, a collectible car might not have any club associated with it, or any particular value attached to it--all this term really means is that someone, somewhere, is saving and perhaps restoring this type of car, for better or worse. (Everybody is somebody’s baby). 

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