In addition to benefitting from a trove of data, Hagerty Insider also relies heavily on the expertise of veteran market watchers, including Dave Kinney, appraiser and publisher of Hagerty Price Guide. In this column, he will answer often-asked questions about collector car values and buying and selling. While Dave can’t put a value on an individual car in this column (that’s what people pay him to do in his appraisal business, after all), he can field questions about the appraisal process, how to go about buying and selling classics, and the industry as a whole. Have a question of your own for a future article? Ask in the comments section.
For this installment, Dave digs into a question about one of our most insured models as well as a couple practical questions about interacting with an appraiser.
Corvette Conundrum: I’ve had a desire for a Corvette for some time. It’s become one of the very few items on my bucket list. I’m now completely retired and am blessed with excellent health. I love driving and have been captivated by the Corvette since test-driving a buddy’s a few years ago. I have the funds for a modest investment (about $25,000). The problem for me is I’m not experienced in a technical/mechanical sense. Most of the cars I can afford are at about 100,000 miles. I’ve had cars over that mileage, but I had maintained them and knew their condition. I don’t have the expertise to evaluate a local used car, and some of those I’ve reviewed are across the country and would be bought “as is” and “sight unseen.” I can afford the purchase but wouldn’t be able to fund unanticipated, expensive repairs. I know there are no guarantees, but there has to be something better than shooting in the dark. What’s your advice?—Wes Barker
DK: Wes, let me introduce you to the C5 Corvette, built from 1997 to 2004. It’s all Corvette and has the look and the drive of a “mostly” modern car. (Full disclosure, I own a 2003 Anniversary Edition and I love it). I think with your $25,000 spend limit, you can easily find an under-50,000-mile car, possibly always garaged, and maybe even one that is still with its original owner.
Some quick tips: Do your research about model years and body styles—in this era there were actually three body styles, so identify the one you like best. Test-drive a few, watch for known problem areas, and home in on which year, equipment, and colors suit your needs and personal style best. I have watched some very good C5s come through auctions recently, so you can get a good feel for what they are selling for in public. My best advice is to join a local chapter of a Corvette club and get to know some folks there; they love talking shop. Some of them might even have a C5 for sale.
Good luck, and let me know how your search goes!
Dollars and cents: How do appraisers get paid?—Ralph Johnson
DK: Two methods of payment are “normal” in the world of appraisal: an hourly fee or a set fee, which is what I usually do at my business, USAppraisal. Our pricing is listed on our website. Our “Basic charge” is for a production car—think of something like a 2003 Ford Thunderbird. With many prewar cars, special builds, hot rods, restomods, outlaws, exotics, one-of-a-kind cars, race cars, and those with a significant history, the fees go up. If there is travel involved (in my case, usually more than 50 miles each way), we charge for that. No one likes big surprises, so fees must be disclosed and discussed in advance, and a good appraiser knows to limit their expenses when traveling on someone else’s dime.
I’d advise against hiring an appraiser who values stuff based on a percentage of value. That’s something I saw in the last century and have always been wary, as I think that is bad business practice.
We almost always ask for a deposit before we go flying off to look at something, unless it is an established client. And the final bill is customarily due when the appraisal is delivered.
Imagery: Do you have to see my car in person, or can you write an appraisal using photographs? Can I provide the photographs?— Brad Little
DK: This is one of those questions that gets a “Yes, but…” answer. In some cases, the car just isn’t available to be seen. It’s been stolen, burned, or otherwise destroyed. It’s been moved to another country or, in the case of a dispute, its caretaker will not grant permission to see it.
Often the cost of going to see just one car is prohibitive. In that case, I’ll most often try to find a qualified appraiser who is physically closer to the car. In some instances, I’ll find a way to combine jobs in a geographical area so that my travel costs are shared among a group of people.
It should come as little surprise that when Covid became something that all of us had to deal with, the rules were relaxed a bit. At our office, we took a few jobs that relied on photographs and descriptions provided by others for our valuation.
I much prefer to have myself or a trusted associate “put eyes” on a car we are valuing. Photos and videos are a great resource, but touching, feeling, and smelling a car can often tell you a lot. What might be fine for a $20,000 car might not work as well for something worth $2 million. If I feel I can do a credible job without viewing the car, I will. If I can’t, here comes another road trip.
If you’ve got a burning question to Ask the Appraiser, leave it in the comments below and stay tuned for Dave’s next column.