I had my first experience with vintage car appraisals back in the late 90s with a ’59 Plymouth.
I needed an appraisal for insurance and they definitely wanted an assigned value because this car was insured with a regular policy.
A ’59 Plymouth was a mystery ride to an insurance company so they insisted on an independent appraisal from a professional appraiser.
I remember being disappointed with the appraisal because it came up about $8000.00 short of what I had in the old Belvedere. I knew it wouldn’t hit that mark but based on my own research (found in similar cars sold in various magazines, value guides and auction results) I thought it should have appraised about 3K higher.
I was so disappointed, I thought the lower number was set because the appraiser was a hardcore Chevy guy.
This was in the late 90s so the Internet was brand new to me but I could definitely see the upside plus I documented every phase of the project with a digital camera and video. The appraiser really appreciated the extra documentation because the digital world was in its infancy.
I also kept every receipt for parts and labor on the Plymouth so the appraiser had a lot of information. The insurance company required an updated appraisal about every three years so the appraiser worked off the original information and updated the information two more times. My educated guess came within 500 dollars of the next appraisal and hit it right on the numbers for the last appraisal. The car had gone up 7000 dollars but I did have to pay for every appraisal because the insurance company wanted a professional assessment. In other words, my opinion wasn’t enough.
Fortunately insurance companies have come to really understand old iron so this world is far less complicated for them. Some of them have been involved with old iron for years—Hagerty Insurance, for example, has been a big player in the car hobby since 1991 so they truly understand the game.
I asked them about the do it yourself appraisal side of the equation and they are committed in a big way because they offer the tools to help their clients come up with a number. This would have been a huge life raft 15 or 20 years ago for the old Plymouth but like they say, “Better late than never”.
They offer a Hagerty Valuation Tool and it eliminates a lot of legwork. I bought a lot of information via magazines back in the late 90s to get a personal value for the Plymouth but they offer this as a public service. It’s very accurate because it uses real world results. They base it on updated sales information from auctions, dealer’s asking prices and private sales.
Hagerty doesn’t just punch all this information into a computer—they base these evaluations on their own wealth of experience so again—this is real world stuff. I punched in ’59 Plymouth and they walked me through the process with ease—you get some great information like what constitutes 1-4 condition and they’ll go back years if you want to see fluctuations.
There are other factors like documentation of receipts and a realistic attitude about your beloved car (it’s probably not concours). If you’re realistic about this you will come up with a realistic number on your own that Hagerty will accept as an agreed-upon value.
So yes—you can be a do-it-yourself appraiser.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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