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Calculating Classic Car Values in 2023

Calculating Classic Car Values in 2023
Austin Kilham
Austin KilhamUpdated February 28, 2023
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The value of classic cars can vary considerably depending on a number of factors. For instance, the condition of the vehicle is important, as is how popular the make and model is, and how much demand there is for the vehicle. Read on to learn more about determining classic car values, plus things you can do that might help increase the value of your classic car. 

What Is a Classic Car?

Unfortunately, there is no one set definition of a classic car. Sometimes “classic” is defined by the vehicle’s age. Some insurance companies consider a classic car to be between 20 and 40 years old. But there is variation. For instance, American Collectors Insurance specifies that classic cars must be older than 20 years of age. In addition, the company defines cars manufactured in 1975 or earlier as “antique,” and those made between 1919 and 1930 as “vintage.” By comparison, the Classic Car Club of America defines a car produced between 1915 and 1948 as a “full classic” car, and considers them to be “fine” or “distinctive” automobiles. According to this definition, classic vehicles were typically expensive when new and were likely produced in limited quantities. The Club does not consider mass-produced cars to be classics. 

Classic Car Value Explained

Classic car value can be tricky to determine. This is partly because a lot of classic car sales are private, while only a relatively small number go through auctions and dealerships. The value of a classic car depends on a number of factors. Chief among these is supply and demand. Buyers have to want the car. Demand may drive how popular a vehicle is and its condition. Collectors generally pay more for cars that are fully and professionally restored. Cars that are relatively rare tend to command higher prices. In fact, the rarest automobiles can fetch prices in the tens of millions of dollars. Recommended: Financing a 10-Year-Old Car: What Are My Options?

What Information Do You Need to Calculate the Value of a Classic Car? 

To determine the value of your classic car, gather the following information: You’ll also want to pull together as much information as possible about the condition of your vehicle. Get documentation about how and when it was restored. As mentioned, collectors tend to prefer fully restored vehicles. It can be difficult to value a partially restored vehicle. Finally, is there something about your car that makes it unique? Was it once owned by anyone famous, for instance? Anything that makes it stand out could help increase its value.

Calculating Classic Car Values

Using the information above, there are a number of methods you could employ to calculate the value of your classic car. First, you might want to hire a professional appraiser. This professional will use one of the following five categories (listed in order from highest to lowest value) to price your vehicle. 
  • Excellent: A perfectly restored car or one in original condition. 
  • Fine: A car in good condition with many of its original equipment manufacturer parts. 
  • Very Good: A fully restored car in good working condition. 
  • Good: A car that needs further restoration. 
  • Restorable: A car in poor condition that could be made roadworthy again. 
  • Parts Car: A car that cannot be restored or made driveable again, but that could supply parts for other restoration projects.
Appraisers will also look at recent sales of vehicles of the same make and model to assess your car’s value in the current market. Another option: You could research the car’s value yourself based on recent sales. Check out a classic cars value blue book, such as the Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association guide. These resources may help you estimate the vehicle’s value based on year, make, model, and trim level. Auction records, classified ads, and lists of cars for sale might also help you determine how buyers and sellers are pricing various vehicles.  

Accuracy of the Classic Car Book Value

The book value, or any other value you find for the make and model of your car, is only an estimate. The ultimate price will depend on the condition of your vehicle and how much work has been done or needs to be done to it.

How Frequently Does the Value of a Classic Car Change?

The value of your classic car could change relatively frequently. Over time, fewer examples of a particular make and model may exist, which could drive up your car’s price. However, the popularity of vehicles ebbs and flows, and cars can fall in and out of favor. It’s worth determining the price of your classic car on a regular basis — say, yearly — to make sure you are insuring it for the appropriate amount. 

Does the Value of Your Classic Car Matter When Refinancing?

There are a variety of methods for financing a classic car, including auto loans. If you’re at the point where you’d like to refinance auto loans, the value of your car is important. Because the car is the collateral for this type of loan, lenders typically look for vehicles that retain their value. As a result, it’s generally easier to refinance more valuable classic cars. As you’re exploring refinancing options, you’ll also want to find out the required credit score for financing a car loan. Individual lenders may have varying criteria. Shop around with different lenders to see what kind of auto loan refinance deal you may qualify for, including the best interest rates available.Recommended: Can You Get Guaranteed Auto Refinancing?

Tips for Increasing the Value of a Classic Car

There are a few things you can do to maintain or help increase the value of your classic car. First, restore as much of the vehicle as you can, and keep detailed maintenance records. Next, if you need to replace any parts, do so with parts from a car of the same year, make, and model. While new parts may be more efficient and last longer, they can lower the value of your vehicle. When restoring or repairing, look for new stock parts or find parts from a parts car. Recommended: Pros and Cons of Refinancing a Car

The Takeaway

Classic car values can vary widely. And the value of classic cars may change frequently depending on the demand for them. However, it’s important to determine the value of your classic car and then stay on top of it for insurance purposes, in case you need to sell it, or if you want to refinance an auto loan.If you’re in the market for a refinance loan, shop around for the best terms and rates. With Lantern, you can compare refinancing rates from top lenders and prequalify in minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the average value of a classic car?
How can you determine the value of a classic car?
Do you need to know the value of your classic car to refinance your auto loan?
Photo credit: iStock/shaunl

About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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