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Determining the Market Value of a Classic Car


Man Looking Under Hood of Classic Car
Cavan Images/Stone/Getty Images

Whether you’re buying or selling a classic car, you will want to determine its fair market value. Publications such as the Old Car Buyers Guide, Hemmings or NADA's Classic, Collectible and Special Interest Car Appraisal Guide & Directory are a good place to start. Their price guides rate a car's value using 6 categories according to their conditions that range from “pristine” to “basket case”.

To appraise your car and determine what category it fits into, rate each of the following items on a scale of one to five, using five as the maximum value. Then total your points for all 20 categories. Compare the points you have given the car to the 100 point maximum. Use this six category valuation to determine the car's market value.

  • Category 1 would be a 90+ point car.
  • Category 2 would be a 80-89 point car.
  • Category 3 would be a 70-79 point car.
  • Category 4 would be a 60-69 point car.
  • Category 5 is would be a 40 - 59 point car.
  • Category 6 is any car under a 40 point car.
Inspect and Rate the Exterior
  • Stand 2 to 3 feet in front of each headlight and taillight individually so that you can view the side panels at an angle to inspect for waves or bulges or any signs of poorly done body repair.
  • Check for paint blisters for signs of rust, especially over wheel wells, along rocker panels and around headlights.
  • Use a magnet over various parts of the body to check for body filler, signs of previous damage and those typically known for rust.
  • Check for uniform gaps between the body and the doors, trunk and hood.


  • Check to see if the doors sag when they are open, particularly the driver-side, as this will be a sign of worn hinges.
  • Look for signs of aging and cracking in the weather seals around the doors and windows.
  • Check for paint blisters that would indicate rust, especially along the bottom edges.

Hood and Trunk

  • Inspect the hood for any rippling, denting and underlying rust.
  • Check under the carpeting in the trunk and around the wheel housings for rust.
  • Are the hood and trunk aligned properly so they close and latch easily?.
  • Originally convertibles built prior to 1950 had canvas tops, vinyl tops appeared in the 1950s. Is the top made from original-type material?.
  • Is the material worn or discolored, is the stitching coming apart?.
  • Convertibles built from 1965 into the 70s usually had glass rear windows. Is the rear window of the convertible top of the original type?.
  • Check the condition of the convertible top mechanism, does it lower and raise easily and does it fit snugly in place.
  • Check for dents on vehicles with metal tops.
  • On vinyl covered metal-topped cars, inspect its condition and assure it's sealed tightly without rips or other damage.
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