Understanding the Legal Requirements for Selling Classic Cars

Prices for classic cars fluctuate dramatically. They also depend on what a car is considered: antique, vintage, or classic.

Dealerships are usually not the best place to sell a classic car. They’re in the business of selling new cars and may not appreciate the value that your classic has.

Title Requirements

When you purchase a new or used car, the agency that regulates vehicles in your state will typically require you to provide them with a valid title, proof of insurance, and emissions testing or safety inspection certification. This is also true for classic cars registered as vintage, antique, or collectible. However, the titling process for these types of cars is not as straightforward as for standard automobiles.

This is because classic cars may not have a clear ownership history and often miss the VIN (vehicle identification number) required for most vehicle titles. Depending on the laws in your state, you might not even be able to obtain a new title for a classic car without a VIN or a bill of sale from the original owner.

The best way to ensure you can get a proper title for a classic car is to contact your local DMV office and speak with an official about the specific rules in your area. They are likely to be able to guide you through the process. You might also consider getting a professional valuation of the classic car, which will help you establish its value and may even be able to help you get a more favorable title in your state.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, unlike a regular car, classic cars are generally not required to have a title if they are 25 years old or older. This means that if you want to sell a classic car under 25 years old, you might need to provide other documentation, like a notarized bill of sale and other forms confirming your right to transfer ownership of the vehicle to the buyer.

If you’re unable to obtain a proper classic car title in your state, you may be able to use a court-ordered bonded title. This involves purchasing a surety bond that demonstrates that you are the true owner of the car and can prove it if a claim is made against you.

Bonded Titles

Unlike new or used cars, classic cars don’t always have an official title. That’s why it’s important to know the rules for your state when selling a classic or antique car. If you’re unsure, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (or a similar agency) to learn the requirements and regulations for vintage or classic cars.

A bonded title is a way to legally transfer ownership of a car, trailer, vessel, or snowmobile when there is no title present. A bonded title works much like a regular title, and you can still register the vehicle, insure it, or even sell it. The difference is that the vehicle is connected to a surety bond, which the harmed parties can access should there be any legal issues.

While a bonded title is a great solution for situations where the previous owner hasn’t provided a proper legal transfer of ownership, it’s also useful for people who need to buy or sell vehicles that don’t have a title. For example, many ‘vintage tin’ vehicles don’t have titles because they were never registered or transferred to the current owner. Whether you’re buying or selling such a vehicle, be sure to get a bill of sale from the seller and proof of ownership, like the VIN.

Another option to consider is working with a classic car dealership. Dealerships can provide quick, easy, and professional car sales. They’re able to handle the complicated paperwork and ensure you’re getting the best value for your classic car. Plus, dealers can help you avoid the tire kickers plaguing private sellers and ensure that all legalities are handled.

State Requirements

Many states have their own rules on what qualifies as a classic car. For example, an M series BMW produced in the 1990s might be considered a classic by some, but others might think it’s just a modern car. In the same way, some cars produced in small numbers and with limited production might be considered collectible by some but not classics by others. Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer and seller to decide whether a particular vehicle is a classic.

The laws regarding how a classic car is sold also vary by state. Some allow private sales or dealer sales, while others prohibit either one. Still, even among states allowing private sales of classic cars, the process can be long and drawn out. It’s important to keep this in mind when deciding which method is the best fit for you and your classic.

When selling a classic car, it’s also crucial to determine the vehicle’s actual value. While price guides like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book may be helpful, requesting a vehicle history report from an auto specialist is also worth requesting a vehicle history report. This will give you an idea of how many owners the vehicle has had, whether it has been in an accident, and more. It can help you make a better decision on pricing, particularly if you’re selling an out-of-state vehicle.

Another option for selling your classic car is to use a local newspaper or magazine. This can give you a more focused audience, lessening the risk of scams. This is especially true if you sell through a classified section of a locally owned newspaper or magazine, which typically doesn’t charge for listings.

You can also consider using an online marketplace like Facebook’s Marketplace. With over 3 billion users, this gives you access to a vast market. However, be aware that not all buyers are serious, so you’ll want to carefully screen potential customers. Additionally, if you’re selling an out-of-state car, it’s critical to consider the logistics of shipping. This will add to your costs, so be sure to factor this into your budget.


Whether you have just a couple of classic cars in your garage or a fleet of rare metals, it is important to know the rules of the road when it comes to taxes. Like regular vehicles, classics must be registered with the agency regulating automobiles in your state. This can be your local Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Revenue. You will need to provide them with a title with your name, proof that you have passed the emissions and safety inspections, and evidence of automotive insurance. However, classics may be taxed at a higher rate, unlike regular vehicles. This is due to the fact that many collectors view their cars as investments and not just a way to get around town.

For example, a 1972 GTO that has been restored and maintained by the right person can increase in value and become a blue-chip investment. These vehicles are extremely rare, and their limited production numbers can create a lot of hype that drives the price up. If you buy a classic car at an auction and then sell it for more than you paid, you will have to pay capital gains tax.

This is why it is essential to hire a professional who understands the laws of your state when selling your classic car. Registering your collection as a business and avoiding paying sales tax by getting a dealer’s license can be tempting, but this can be very risky. If you are caught, it can not only result in fines but could also make it difficult to obtain the proper automotive insurance that classic car owners need.

When you do decide to sell your classic car, it is recommended that you choose a reputable classic car buyer who can help you through the entire process. They can handle all the paperwork and ensure the transaction goes smoothly. They can also recommend a professional who can handle the necessary inspections.

Additionally, a trusted classic car buyer can also help you decide which route is best for selling your classic car. For instance, if you want to trade it in at a dealership, they can also take care of that. This can save you time and money in the long run.