It can be real tricky to put a real-world valuation on your prized Corvette. It's one thing to know how much you paid for it, or how much you've invested (whether in blood, sweat, and hours or through checks you've written) in building the car of your dreams. But how much is it really worth? Pricing can be very subjective. After all, in a free-market economy, the price of anything is whatever a potential buyer is willing to pay and a particular seller is willing to accept-especially in the world of modified cars where no two are exactly alike. It can be a very worthwhile investment to hire a professional auto appraiser to establish an objective value for you.
To help take the mystery out of the whole appraisal process, we called on an expert, Jeff Hyman of Classic Auto Appraiser in Orange County, California, who has been in the appraisal business for 15 years. "Early in my appraisal career," Jeff tells us, "I realized that one of the most popular types of vehicles that I was being asked to inspect was Corvettes. So, in order to learn more about the only true American sports car, I took a part-time job at Corvette Mike's." For over a year, Jeff spent every weekend and some occasional weekdays selling Corvettes both at their current Anaheim showroom and the previous one in Orange. "It was like a crash course in Corvette knowledge! It would have taken me 10 years to gain the experience that a year on the showroom floor taught me."
We also talked Jerry Bentley into volunteering his highly modified '62 roadster to be appraised, so that we could watch Jeff in action. Jerry's '62 has graced the pages-and the cover-of VETTE before ("Radical Revisionist," Aug. '01), and was appraised by Jeff several years ago, but Jerry has done more modifications to his Vette since then. Thus it was time to update its established value.
When and why should you get your corvette appraised?
There are many reasons why someone may need to have their Vette professionally appraised. As Jeff explains, "By far, the most common reason that vehicles get appraised is for insurance purposes. However, there are also a multitude of financial and legal reasons, including bank loans, tax donations, divorce, diminished value, estate sales, or simply because an out-of-touch owner wants to know how much to sell his or her car for." An appraiser provides an independent, unemotional evaluation of your car's worth.
The owner of a restored, matching-numbers '67 big-block 427/435hp car has little need for a professional appraiser to tell them what that car is worth because there are numerous published price guides (including the one published annually in the May issue of VETTE) that, as long as the condition is established honestly, will give you an accurate actual cash value of that vehicle. Even a rookie adjuster can look up the value for a C5 coupe automatic, but it takes an expert in specialty cars to comprehend what the real worth of a modified mid-year with electronic fuel injection is.
If your Corvette looks anything like Jerry's radical '62, it's vital to get it professionally appraised. Should the unthinkable happen and your Vette is either wrecked or stolen, you need to have proof of what it was worth. "As an appraiser, I get a couple calls every week from owners whose custom automobiles were wrecked or stolen," Jeff tells us. "They are beside themselves because the insurance company wants to settle with them for a fraction of what they have invested in the car. Or worse still, after a small accident, the insurance company wants to total their pride and joy because the adjuster feels that the car is worthless. Owners often feel like they are being ripped off twice-once by the car thief and again by the insurance company!" It's best to have a professional appraisal done and present the report to your insurance company so your policy can be based on the agreed value.
If your Corvette has been modified or customized; is unique, very rare, or just plain special; and is now worth significantly more than a stock or restored version of the same car, you should really think about getting it professionally appraised. The same goes for a completely stock car with matching numbers, a rare factory-equipment package, one that's an unrestored virgin, or one that has some unique history behind it. Anything that might make a car be worth significantly more than an "ordinary" counterpart had better be confirmed by a professional appraisal-whether the Vette is a classic or a late-model.