How Do I Sell My Classic Car?

grey classic car on stage for selling at Sothebys auction

Whether your tastes have changed, you need more room in the garage for a new acquisition or if you just need some additional capital, every classic car owner is likely to face the question of how to sell their classic, antique or luxury car.

If you’re selling a vintage auto this year, there are some simple things you can do to capitalize on the sale.

Just as the purchase process has a lot of questions, so does the other side of the transaction. How do I determine my car’s worth? Where will I find the right buyer? How will I market my car and what’s the best way to transfer funds? Am I even ready to let this vehicle go?

If the answer to that last question is a clear “Yes, let’s do it!” then read on:

Prepare Your Car:

This first step is a no-brainer: You have to get your car in as good a shape as you possibly can, without incurring too much expense to get it out the door. The easier you make it for the buyer to say yes, the quicker you’ll have cash in hand.

Clean it, detail it, polish or wax it, take care of any necessary minor mechanical work that’s needed (unless it’s a parts car, of course). You want to remove any reason to doubt about the value of the car you’re selling, and if buyers see a dirty car or a car that has basic things that still need fixing, they may see an owner they can try to take advantage of.

Finally, gather all your paperwork into a binder: Service records, original purchase documents, vehicle manuals for the glove box and the title. Have a bill of sale ready for the future purchaser to sign, including information like the odometer reading, space for the purchase price, delivery date and a notation that the vehicle is being sold as-is (if it is, which is likely - if you negotiate a warranty, include those details as well).

Price Your Car:

Figuring out how to check the true value of your vehicle is perhaps the most important part of the sales process. Luckily for you, we have a few different ways to help with that.

We’ve outlined a few different things to keep in mind in our guide on how to figure out true classic car values before buying or selling. Also, remember that as a member of the Hagerty Drivers Club, you’ll have full access to our valuation tools, including Market Ratings and Collectors indices.

For sellers, one additional thing to consider is how quickly you want your car to sell. Everyone wants to get as much as they can for their classic car, but if you need to move the vehicle quickly or liquidate its value as soon as possible, don’t overthink the price - just find a fair (or even below) market value for the make, model and condition of the vehicle and the right buyer is more likely to make a quick decision.

If you’ve got a vehicle that’s currently in high demand and you’re able to wait a few weeks (or months) to find the right person to take your classic car, consider setting the price slightly higher than the rest of the market and let a motivated buyer work with you on the final number.

Is a Classic Vehicle Auction Right for Me?

Depending on what kind of car you’re planning to sell, an auction might be the way to go. Online auction sites draw car lovers from around the world who might be interested in bidding on - and potentially fighting over - the chance to own your car.

An in-person auction also draws big money and attention from around the globe, and an in-person buyer is more reliable than a faceless account on eBay Motors. There may even be specific auctions for your type of vehicle (European sports car, luxury vehicle, Brass Era, Corvette) and while you will incur some costs in shipping and prepping the vehicle for one of these auctions, it could very well pay off better in the end. (Two words: Bidding war.)

You’ll need to make sure car is prepared and priced properly, you’ll also want to get a VIN report to share as well as a catalog listing prepared, have a reserve price in mind, factor in the cost that the auction house or broker will take and be ready to answer questions about every little detail about the vehicle.

From there, you should be ready to sit back and let the auctioneer do the work.

Advertising or Marketing your Classic Car

If you’ve decided to take this on yourself (and go without the services of a professional classic car broker), you’ll probably need to create a classified ad to post online or in print. There are a number of nationwide sites for you to host your sale vehicle on, but many of the same rules apply as in an auction.

Quality photographs, likely professionally shot, are mandatory. If you choose to place an ad in a local/regional newspaper you may be able to avoid some hassles (figuring out shipping, remote buyers asking for more details or photos) but casting a wider net is more likely to find you the right buyer at the right price.

You’ll also need to write up the info about the car you’re selling, so if you’re not a professional copywriter here’s what you need to include:

The year, make, model of the vehicle, color (interior and exterior), details about the engine type and size, mileage, options, any modifications, plus the price and your general location. Don’t exaggerate anything, or misrepresent the vehicle in any way (lest it come back to haunt you in court later).

Be honest about the car’s condition and mechanical status, but be positive about the vehicle in general and try to think of it as though you’re doing someone a favor by selling this car to them. You bought this car for a reason, and so is whoever acquires it off of you. Make sure they can enjoy it as much as you did.

Making The Sale (and Getting Paid)

When a buyer comes to look at the car, you’re almost to the end of the process - but this is make or break time. If you’re not a professional salesperson, it can be uncomfortable to assert your position on how much the car is worth and what you’ll accept. Know ahead of time exactly how much you’re willing to bend on price if the buyer insists on pushing for a price beyond what you’ve advertised.

Watch out for scams - especially if the vehicle is high in value. Trust your gut, especially if someone asks for extra financial information or wants to involve a third party. And never let them take it for a test drive without you in the shotgun seat.

When it comes time to transfer the funds, a personal check or cashiers check will often be the way your seller wants to pay. Only hand over the keys and the title once you’ve confirmed with your bank that the funds are available.

There are lots of online funds transfer options as well, but note that many of these have daily transfer limits (Venmo limits you to transfers of just under $5K; Chase Bank caps ACH transfers at $25K) so higher-priced vehicles will need more than just an app to make payment.

Remember the bill of sale we talked about earlier? Now’s the time for you both to sign on the proverbial dotted line … and requesting a certification from a notary public as a witness isn’t a bad idea either, especially if you’re at the bank already.

All of this may seem like a lot, but once you get rolling you’ll hopefully find plenty of enthusiastic car lovers like yourself that just want to give your vehicle a friendly new home with lots of miles to drive in front of it.

At the end of the transaction you get some money in your pocket, some more space in your garage and the satisfaction of knowing someone new is enjoying a great ride. And just maybe … you’ll be back on the buyer’s side of things again soon.