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How to Get the Most Out of Your Classic Car at Auction

I have had success selling cars at auction because I focus on three main areas,

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We talked earlier about buying a car at auction and what to look for on a car when you can’t drive it, hear it run or even talk to the owner about the car and its history. There is nothing like looking a person in the eye to determine if you’re getting the straight story or not. I love classic car auctions, where else can you look at hundreds of cool cars all at once.  I’m not sure if I’ve been lucky, good, or a combination of both but I have never bought a car at an auction and sold it for less money than I paid for it plus improvements. Maybe it’s because I have a narrow field of cars that appeal to me so I’m rather familiar with the things to look at and the values. Or maybe it’s simply the market for good solid cars have remained strong and I have simply enjoyed a positive car market. I am by no means an expert in auction buying and selling, it’s just a matter of doing your homework. I have had success selling cars at auction because I focus on three main areas, I place a realistic value on the car, I am very honest about the car in my auction description and I make sure the car is detailed and looks good.

The value of the car is probably one of the most difficult things to set, not because it’s difficult to research and establish but because sometimes reality often gets in the way of fantasy. Take a look at various sites like Hemmings Motor News, Classic Auto Trader and EBay to see what similar cars are selling for. Unless you’ve got a full on pro street car typically cars closer to original bring more than highly modified cars. Numbers matching classics usually bring more than non-numbers matching cars. Numbers matching means cars with the engine and transmissions they were born with as documented by the block numbers matching the VIN numbers. Repainted cars as long as they are well done and the original colors are okay, but be careful. For instance, don’t present a base coat clear coat 1968 Camaro as “original;” Camaro’s were not clear coated back then. It doesn’t mean the car doesn’t look great, is desirable, and will bring good money, it’s just not original.

Set a realistic value of the car in your head then set the reserve at the bare minimum you would ever accept; don’t forget that you are going to owe the house a commission for the sale. At auction, once an interesting car hits the reserve mark and the auctioneer announces that “the reserve is off,” the bidding sometimes gets active because now people realize the car is going to sell. Be aware, when your car is on the block one of the members of the auction house is going to be standing with you very often encouraging you to lift the reserve. They do this because they only get paid when they sell the car but also to spur bidding activity.

If I am selling a car at auction, I like to hang out a car or two away from my car so as to not look or act like the owner and listen the what others are saying about the car. This might give you an idea if the car is going to generate some interest or not and help you form a strategy with your reserve.

When writing your description for the car to go into the auction catalog put your marketing hat, be truthful but tell the story in the best possible manor. Was it restored or was it “professionally restored,” did you paint the car or “painstakingly painted and rub it out to a mirror finish,” you get the idea. If it’s a numbers matching car, say so, if not then say so. If you have all the paperwork and are willing to provide it with the car, make sure you say so, these things mean a lot to a potential buyer.

The last piece of the auction selling puzzle is to clean and detail the car, completely and everything. The body and interior are easy; everybody knows how to do that. The details are in the hard stuff, the engine, the under carriage and the wheel wells. I wrote an earlier post about what a great tool my four post lift is. This is another reason I say that, spend a couple hours under your car with some Simple Green and a few rags and you’ll raise the value of your car by thousands. When a potential buyer looks under the car and sees how clean it is, it gives the car the look of a fresh restoration. Just stand around the car and listen to the comments when they see that!

I had a 1969 Road Runner with the black stripes on the hood. Whoever originally painted the stripes did not use the factory paint for these stripes so they never looked original. In addition I had a dime size chip in the paint on top of the rear quarter panel were it meets the hood. I took the car over to my local body guy who also happens to be a classic car nut like me, and he fixed both issues for a couple hundred bucks. It looked so good my only regret was not fixing these issues when I first bought the car. When I took the car to auction, it looked perfect and blew away my expectations for how much money it would bring. The lesson here, get any major aesthetic issues fixed, it will more than pay for the cost of repair.

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