When it comes time to sell your collector car, you may be able to get the best price for it by advertising it at a car show. These events are organized as gatherings for enthusiasts. They attract hobbyists, collectors and restorers who usually have a greater appreciation for special-interest cars than car buyers in your own neighborhood who are looking mainly for transportation.
To offer your car for sale at a show, you’ll have to know where and when shows are scheduled. Start with shows in your own area: check classified ads in local “car shopper” publications or even the cars-for-sale classifieds in your hometown newspaper. If there’s a car club or cruise night in your area, contact participants to find out about local shows; they’ll know them all.
Hemming’s Motor News has national and regional shows listed online at www.hemmings.com. If you subscribe to hobby publications or marque-specific magazines, check their Calendar of Events for show dates and locations.
In certain cases, shows a bit further away may be the best place to sell your vehicle. Marque-specific events (like Bloomington Gold for Corvette owners) may be the ticket if you want top dollar for a rare Corvette. Other types of “shows” like auctions, vintage races or power tours are other options. Cars seem to sell everywhere that hobbyists get together.
When you go to a show to sell a car, get to know the rules. Some events provide a “Car Corral” section for sellers. You’ll be charged a fee to sell there, but you’ll get concentrated access to all of the serious buyers. If you put a “For Sale” sign on a car outside the car corral, you’ll be invited to leave the show.
After finding out where to sell, you’ll want to use one or more at-the-show advertising techniques. These will vary from event to event but can include window signs, flyers and ads, podium announcements, on-site display of the vehicle and word-of-mouth advertising.
Window signs should be large enough to catch the attention of buyers. Bold, bright red or bright orange “For Sale” lettering helps. Be sure that the sign provides at minimum: the year, make and model of car, the mileage and your contact info. Even better is a sign telling all equipment, work done on the car, awards the car won, technical specifications and how rare the car is.
Signs that clearly state an asking price usually attract more interest. If you used a reference/pricing guide like Old Cars Price Guide or NADA to establish the price you want, you may want to show a photocopy of the pricing tables to show the asking price is based on a recognized source. Today, many For Sale signs seen at shows will include the seller’s cell phone number so he can be contacted quickly.
Many car shows provide bulletin boards so sellers can post for sale ads. It’s also common to see such ads taped on restroom walls with duct tape. Because the majority of buyers close deals near the end of a show – or even days later – it’s wise to print up handouts or “fringe” the bottom of your sign with your phone information so the potential buyer can take your contact information along.
Though not common, using a PA system to advertise can help so take advantage of it if it’s available. Such announcements will be heard by thousands of people and may inspire someone to visit the car corral specifically to see your car (especially if it’s one “just like Uncle Charlie used to drive.”)
Showing off the car and advertising it as much as possible also gets people talking about it. Your flyer, or the vehicle itself, may catch the interest of someone who really loves cars but doesn’t have the money to buy one. A few hours later, he may run into one of his friends who knows nothing about cars but has the cash to buy one. It’s not rare for the enthusiast’s passion to rub off on a friend and turn him into the next owner of your car.
John "Gunner" Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis. , and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.