How old does a car have to be to be considered a classic?

We throw around this term classic car as if we all know and understand its exact definition, but do we? Is the term classic interchangeable with vintage and antique? There’s actually quite a lot more to it than you realize. In today’s blog, we’re taking a closer look at what really is the definition of a classic car.

What is a classic car?

According to Wikipedia, a classic car refers to “an older car, typically 20 years or older, though definitions vary.” That last part is the biggest problem of all! There are differences in opinion on what age or period the car is from to make it a “classic.” The common thread that most of the theories share is that classic cars are those of historical interest that people feel are collectible and worthy of either preservation or restoration.

In other words, in the minds of many, a classic car is simply one that has some kind of collectible, historical, or powerful nostalgic value to many, to the point that they can’t bear to scrap it and would rather preserve it instead. The key word here is “collectible.” For a car to be a real classic, there seems to be a need for some market force behind it; a demand from people to add the car to their collections.

Age is clearly an important factor, too, as we will explore in more detail below. However, age is not necessarily the most important defining feature of a classic car. There are hundreds of old cars. If age were the key factor, then everything from a 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 to a 2000 Toyota Prius would be considered classic. There hardly seems to be a clamor of buyers lining up to buy a “classic” Prius. Therefore, we can surmise that collectibility and historical value have more real bearing on what is or isn’t a classic car. This can be seen especially by browsing the types of vehicles that we have for sale at GR Auto Gallery, not every old car is a classic by default. 

In a sense, then, classic cars are really just a subset of collector cars, and the term refers generally to street-legal car models --- typically 20 or more years old --- that have a high collector’s value. But what about vintage and antique, where do they come in?

Classic Vs. Vintage Vs. Antique

The other big question is how to differentiate more accurately between the other associated terms when it comes to looking at older cars. The three big terms commonly used are “classic,” “vintage,” and “antique.” Here’s how these terms are generally understood:

  • Classic refers to collectible cars that are 20-44 years old
  • Vintage refers to collectible cars that are 45+ years old
  • Antique refers to collectible cars built between 1919 and 1930

Once again, it’s one definition held by certain people, but others have their own ideas. One group that makes its own definitions very clear on these types of cars is insurance companies. Arguably the best-known nationwide dedicated provider of classic car insurance is Hagerty, and they divide their classic car periods into 2 distinct zones: 1980 and newer, and pre-1980 classic and collector cars.

Even cars from the last 20 years qualify for Hagerty collector insurance if they are, for instance, a limited or special edition, a supercar, or some kind of special interest or imported vehicle. That shows that Hagerty is even speculating as to what will become a “classic” by offering insurance to those who have not yet crossed that 20-year threshold but still hold clearly collectible and interesting car models.

What Adds to Classic Car Value?

We have already mentioned the key point that what really makes a classic car is collectibility, but what are the factors that add so-called collector value? Being in the business of classic car sales, and helping clients buy/sell over 10,000 cars, we have the decades of experience necessary to help you determine the value of your vehicle. At GR Auto Gallery, we initiated our vehicle consignment program as a way to help owners get the true value out of selling their special interest car online. 

1. Rarity

It’s basic economics that scarcity raises prices, and the same is true for classic cars. The rarer or harder to find a car is, the more naturally valuable it becomes. It’s not an absolute or universal rule, of course. Ford stopped producing the deadly Pinto models, but their rarity now doesn’t make them more valuable. So, on top of rarity, there needs to be more.

2. Iconic Status

Cars that are perceived as the greatest of their generation, or cars that were heavily featured in popular culture --- think the Ford Mustang in “Bullitt” or the 1963 Aston Martin DB5 in James Bond --- will certainly have massive collector value. They can sometimes amass a cult-like status. What’s interesting is that this can happen to all kinds of cars, from exotic supercars to the VW Beetle (thanks Herbie).

1963 Aston Martin DB5 in James Bond, “Goldfinger.”

3. Originality

Finally, collector value is garnered massively from whether or not a car still has its original features: exterior paint, upholstery, dash features, steering wheel, side mirrors, etc. The fewer modern components that have been substituted, the better. Serious collectors don’t want retromods! 

Should You Sell Your Vehicle at a Classic Car Auction?

Do you have a classic car sitting proudly in the garage? It might have been your pride and joy for a long time but now the time has come to sell it and move on. You might need the money for something important, or perhaps the car has reached a peak in value and there’s no more point hanging onto it as a further investment. Whatever your reasons, you’ll have multiple channels through which you can sell the vehicle, the fastest of which would be a classic car auction.

However, for reasons we will go into in more detail below, we are here to make the case against classic car auctions and advise you why you in fact should not sell your car this way.

Why People Think Classic Car Auctions are Good

First, let’s get some background on why people think that selling their car at auction is a good idea in the first place.

Convenience and Speed

It’s hard to deny the speed and ease of an auction sale. Once the car is listed, reserve prices are agreed, you just need a date for it to go under the hammer and chances are it will sell and then you’re done. The auction house helps deal with all the paperwork and the entire transaction is over without having to worry about advertising, viewing, or test driving.

Better Price

By and large, auctions will bring in better prices than you’d get by selling a car to the dealership, which attracts many to selling at auctions. Of course, for classic cars, dealerships aren’t often an option since classic car dealerships are rarer.


Reputable auction houses lend a sense of grandeur and occasion to proceedings and can sometimes reassure sellers that the buyers that come forward are legitimate. When selling privately it is sometimes hard to filter out the time-wasters. Auctions often attract some really serious and solid buyers who come with the express purpose of buying items they’ve already viewed in a catalog, or what they see and love while visiting the auction.

Reality: Why You Shouldn’t Use Car Auctions for Your Classic Car

In fairness, the benefits that we described above for auction are generally valid. It’s not to say that there are no redeemable features of classic car auctions, but rather that, on balance, they are not ideal for the private seller. Here’s why:


Even if you get an apparently better price at auction than you might even get from a classic car dealer, you still then have to contend with fees like the commission, which can be anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of the sale price depending on your price point. If your classic car is especially valuable and will fetch a strong price, your commission would be lower, but you still have to hand over a quite big chunk of change. 

It’s Just a Commodity to an Auction House

Whatever their marketing pitch says, at the end of the day your beloved classic car is just another commodity to an auction house. If you want to get the best possible deal, you should sell the car directly to people who both understand and appreciate the asset that you have in that car. It’s not just about getting a better price --- which you will --- but also about getting a better feeling that your car is going to the right place. Even more effective than taking the time to sell directly on your own, would be to work with a classic car consignment dealer. This style combines the convenience and reliability of an auction house, but reduces the commission and ‘commodity mentality’. 

At an auction, you are totally blind as to why people might be interested in buying the car. Heaven forbid, they might just want it to strip it down for parts to use in a restoration project they are doing.

You Can Sell “Harder” Outside of an Auction House

When selling privately to a fellow enthusiast, or when talking to a special interest vehicle dealer, you can take your time to pitch your car in the right way. You can introduce the various aspects of care that you have employed to ensure that the paint and other features are properly taken care of. In addition, you can demonstrate the condition of the engine, suspension and drivetrain, as well as point out the preserved original features...the list goes on.

In other words, you can really work the sale to try and get the best deal. That ability to properly express what’s great about the car is better for getting the optimum deal. Other ways will always leave you short, especially a classic car auction. As previously mentioned, at GR Auto Gallery, we believe that selling your vehicle online through consignment is the most effective way to ensure fairness in the process. If you want to learn more about how we can make you the most money for your special-interest car, contact us today! 

How To Sell A Car Online

What to watch out for when selling a car

When it comes time to sell a classic car online, there are several things that you must look out for.  One of the most common warning flags to be aware of is when a buyer is offering to purchase the car without looking at it or asking questions.  Typically, this type of buyer will offer significantly more money than the listing price, even if there are no other bidders.  This level of eagerness is a red flag to be aware of.  

Some other signs to be on the lookout for are buyers promising to make payments instead of paying with a lump sum, asking for unnecessary personal information, and offering to pay with a check or other unprotected mediums.  Being cognisant of these signs can be a daunting process, which is why working with a consignment car dealer such as GR Auto Gallery is an effective way to reduce the risks. 

How to sell a car without getting scammed

According to the FBI, from May 2014 to December 2017, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received nearly 27,000 complaints, totaling over $54 million in losses. It is important to note that this only includes individuals who submitted their losses to the IC3, which naturally does not include all of those who were affected. It is clear to see that there is a risk when it comes to selling a vehicle online. 

The best way to safely sell a vehicle on the internet is to hire a third party to do the selling for you.  At GR Auto Gallery, we offer vehicle consignment as a way to reduce the headaches and risks associated with online car selling. In this process, we do all of the marketing, back and forth with buyers, and shipping if needed.  Consignment gives our clients peace of mind and awareness that they are being protected from fraud.  Visit our blog page to learn more about selling a car on consignment

Best way to sell a car online

As previously stated, the best and most safe way to sell a car online is to hire a third party to do all of the work for you.  If you need to sell your car quickly, companies like Carvana are good solutions for selling a car in a timely manner.  For sellers who are willing to be patient to ensure they get the most money for selling their car, consignment dealers are an incredibly effective solution.

If you still want to sell online on your own, here is a list of best practices:

  • Be sure to list your vehicle on as many selling websites as possible, such as, Autotrader, Facebook Marketplace, etc. 
  • Avoid red flags like the ones listed in this article.
  • The more photos and videos of your vehicle, the better. 
  • Any relevant information about the car will aid you in selling, such as the history of work done, receipts from garages, and other information. 

What is Consignment?

Consignment is a business agreement in which the business agrees to pay the seller once the item(s) sells, typically taking a small fee as a result.  Most commonly, the business will take a percentage of the sale once the item sells. 

This isn’t always the case, however.  For example, at GR Auto Gallery, we do not take a percentage of the total sale price.  Instead, we have the seller determine their ideal sale price, then we sell for above that asking price, allowing us to make the difference. 

Types of Consignment

There are many types of items that are commonly sold on consignment.  Some of the most common products are clothes, sports gear, antiques, classic vehicles, and furniture.  Businesses that sell clothes through consignment, will allow the seller to list as many items as they want, and then they would take a percentage of the total sale price.  There are businesses that provide vendor space, meaning that the seller sets up their own booth to showcase their items.  Other businesses will take the items from the seller and do their own marketing and other means to generate revenue.

Consignment Sales

As stated previously, when sales are made through a consignment business, that business typically will take a percentage of the total sale.  On top of this percentage, some businesses will charge fees for the set-up and use of their platform.  

The charges vary from industry to industry.  For example, a clothing consignment store may have fewer charges per item, as they are focused on selling a higher quantity of inventory.  An antique furniture seller may have higher charges per item due to the fact that their volume of sales is lower in quantity. 

Vehicle consignment

When it comes to selling a car on consignment, the process is unique from dealer to dealer.  For the sake of this article, we will explain the process that we have. For vehicle owners that are located near one of our three locations in Grand Rapids, Detroit, or Traverse City, the first step is the transportation of the car to the nearest location. 

Then one of our consignment managers goes around the vehicle with the owner to ensure we have the correct information about the car.  This includes a basic safety check, a list of work done to the vehicle, and license plate removal.  Once this is complete, our recommended sale price is determined based on the information that was gathered.  

Vehicle consignment agreement

The agreement that the owner of a car would sign has several important aspects.  The first being the right for the dealer to sell the vehicle in place of the owner.  Without this element, no dealer would be able to authorize the sale on their own.  Having this within the agreement drastically speeds up the entire process.  The agreement also allows the dealer to change the price of the vehicle to entice a sale, as long as it does not result in the seller not getting their ideal net. 

It also states that the seller can not come to the business and remove their vehicle whenever they choose.  It must stay at the location for the duration of the contract, in our case being 90 days. The agreement additionally allows the business to make minor repairs to the vehicle, such as minor scratch repair, without the consent of the owner.  This is to speed up the process involved with storing the car.  The agreement is reviewed in full with the owner of the vehicle during the consigning process.  

Classic car consignment fees and Exotic car consignment

The owner then pays the consignment fee, in our case being $295, and a detailing fee (if necessary) of $189.  These fees are used to cover the costs associated with giving the vehicle a full detailing, the photography required for marketing and costs that are generated from listing the car on all of our partnered websites. At GR Auto Gallery, this is the only fee we charge, instead, we make our profit from the difference between the seller's ideal sale price and the actual net revenue that is generated. An example of this is: if a seller wants to make $50,000 from their car, and we sell it for $55,000, we get to keep the difference.  

Sell A Car on Consignment

At GR Auto Gallery, we know firsthand how stressful and frustrating selling a vehicle online can be.  That is why we have created the consignment program as a way to remove all of the worries.  Selling a vehicle on consignment with us has never been easier! 

If you are located near any of our physical locations, the first step would be to stop by with the vehicle so we can begin our questionnaire process.  More information about this process can be read above in our previous sections.  If you are from out of town and unable to travel to one of our locations, then we would help you coordinate with a shipper to get your vehicle in our store.  Once it arrives, the process begins as normal! 

How much does it cost to consign a car?

At GR Auto Gallery, we charge a fee of $295 to sell a vehicle through our consignment program.  This fee covers the costs of photography, digital marketing, and internal processing that are required for each vehicle! 

Used car consignment

The process for consigning a used vehicle is actually the same as any other car! As previously stated, either transport or ship the vehicle to one of our locations and we will begin the process from there! 

Steps to selling a car

As with anything, we recommend the first step you take when looking to sell a car through our consignment program, is to give us a call or read online about what the process involves! We want to make sure you are comfortable during your entire time of working with us.  From there, the next step would be bringing your car to us for inspection, detailing if necessary, and photography for our digital marketing efforts! Once all of these steps, including some paperwork, are complete, the car is listed online and the selling process begins! 

Buying A Consignment Car

Buying a consigned vehicle is actually an incredibly easy process! At GR Auto Gallery, since we are the bridge between the buyer and seller, most of the headaches of buying a car online are completely eliminated.  If you see a vehicle you like, the first step is to call our office and get in touch with one of our dedicated sales team members.  They will provide you any additional information you may be looking for, as well as help with anything else you may need.  From there, if you are interested in the vehicle, we help you transfer the funds to our business and then get you behind the wheel! Our job is to handle the necessary paperwork so that you don’t have to.