How To Find A "Qualified" Appraiser
It's important for you-the consumer-to do your homework when it comes to finding a qualified appraiser. It doesn't require any kind of a license to become an appraiser, and "certification" by most of the various appraisal associations only requires paying a membership fee. Thus, there are no guarantees that a "professional appraiser" has any more of a clue about evaluating your car than you do.
So what should you look for in an appraiser? First, don't bother flipping through the Yellow Pages to find someone. Instead, rely on the experiences of people you can trust to help link you up with a reliable professional. An established and experienced professional appraiser is well-versed and well-acquainted with many people in the automotive hobby/industry, and they should also be a known quantity as far as most insurance companies are concerned. It takes a long time for appraisers to establish themselves as reliable judges of value, and you'll get the best value by finding someone with plenty of experience.
One of the best methods for finding an expert appraiser is to ask around for a good referral. Call your local Corvette shop, talk to members of your local club, or ask a fellow owner. Someone you know can likely connect you with an appraiser you can trust.
There are many questions that you should ask an appraiser before getting started. First and foremost, explain to the appraiser what the intended need is for the appraisal. If it is for insurance purposes, make sure that the appraiser is recognized and accepted by your insurance company, or else you'll be wasting your time and money. Also, ask how many copies of the report you will receive. You will need at least two copies-both with original prints of the photos (not color copies). One report should go in your records while the other one is for your insurance company.
You should expect an appraiser who's within a reasonable distance to come to you. Jeff says you shouldn't have to drive across the county to give the appraiser your business. "Your car may be a show car that is freshly finished or one that just isn't driven everywhere in all kinds of weather." Furthermore, any supporting documents that might be useful in the appraisal are more likely to be at hand where the car resides.
When the appraiser arrives, ask to see samples of other appraisals he or she has performed. "A good appraiser will always carry with them sample appraisals of many different types of vehicles-hopefully one that is similar to yours," says Jeff. It should be in booklet form and include many quality digital photos (perhaps 30-40) that illustrate ALL aspects of the car. A picture is truly worth a thousand words and likely thousands of dollars! The appraisal should also include a very thorough and detailed narrative explaining just what is special or unique about the car-noting all relevant serial numbers and detailing the work performed and the components used. "It should be descriptive enough that an adjuster hundreds of miles away who has never seen your car should be able to read and have a fairly good idea of what your Corvette looked like and consisted of."
The appraiser should show up well-prepared, equipped with a good-quality digital cameral (insurance companies now accept only digital photography), and with tools such as a good flashlight, a telescopic mirror, and maybe a protective cloth to place on your car as he's crawling around it. "Over the past 15 years, I have developed what has become a nine-page comprehensive checklist that I use when evaluating any type of customized vehicle," explains Jeff, "so shy away from anyone who shows up with a simple one-page carbon-copy form. They are supposed to thoroughly inspect your Vette!"
The appraiser must be familiar with and knowledgeable about Corvettes, especially the breed you have. Someone who specializes in high-dollar classics like Deusenburgs and Bugattis is less likely to know his way around a big-block Shark. The right appraiser for you should know his way around a Corvette inside and out, know where to find numbers, and be able to name and identify most of the custom components on your ride. "If he has to ask you what things are, send him away. A good appraiser keeps up-to-date with the latest products by reading magazines and attending major trade shows like the annual SEMA event."
The appraiser should also be familiar with and known by most of the local contractors such as painters, upholsterers, fabrication shops, consignment shops, engine builders, etc. and be able to recognize their typical work.
Your appraiser must also respect you and your Corvette. There's no reason for him to lecture you on what you should or should not have done or low-ball your evaluation just because your car may not suit his tastes.