10 Facts About Car Appraisals
That Might Surprise You

December 8, 2023

It may not have ever crossed your mind before unless you were involved in a car wreck, but there are several other reasons and scenarios in which you should get your vehicle appraised. Here are 10 things about professional auto appraisals you probably didn’t know, and the benefits to you for getting your classic or custom ride appraised.


1. Professional Appraisers Thoroughly Inspect Your Vehicle

Getting your car appraised is far more involved than just test driving the vehicle, though that is part of the process. A test drive of approximately 3-5 miles provides information about its performance and handling and to see if there are any obvious signs that something isn’t working properly. 


The appraiser also does a thorough inspection of the body and undercarriage to look for signs of damage from unreported accidents, poorly done body work, rust and other signs of water damage. They will inspect the interior of the vehicle, noting the condition of the upholstery, accessories, mirrors, dome lights and custom or aftermarket parts. 


The appraiser will take thorough notes about the condition of the vehicle to take into account when comparing similar vehicles to correctly determine its actual value. 

2. Independent Appraisers

Insurance companies aren’t the only places you’ll find car appraisers, believe it or not! There are also small businesses and independent contractors who provide professional auto appraisals. Having a good independent appraiser in your rolodex is a good idea.  


There are many reasons that would require you to hire an independent appraiser, such as filing for bankruptcy, getting divorced or settling an estate or probate case.  It’s usually in your best interest in any of the aforementioned situations to hire your own independent appraiser who is not affiliated with an insurance company or appointed by the court. 


A car accident is another time that you might hire an independent appraiser, especially if you’re not the at fault driver.  You might be surprised to know that the insurance company doesn’t always offer you what your vehicle is worth after you’ve been in an accident. 

An independent, third party car appraiser, who isn’t affiliated with either side, will fairly assess your car’s value pre accident to determine its worthIf your car has customizations, is a classic or collector vehicle, or is an exotic or luxury vehicle, this could mean getting thousands more dollars from the insurance company.


3. Before purchasing a pre-owned vehicle

f you’re looking at buying a used car, there can be a lot of unknowns.  An appraiser will be able to tell you if the owner is being honest about it ever being involved in a wreck, if body work has been done and if it was done well, if there have been modifications and provide their professional opinion about the real condition of the vehicle.  This can be especially helpful if you’re looking at a vehicle in a different city and can’t see it in person. Hiring a local appraiser in the area to assess it  can give you peace of mind if you decide to move forward with the purchase. The appraiser can also advise you to steer clear, no doubt saving you thousands of dollars in future repairs. 

4. Before Selling Your Ride

appraisal to potential buyers, can decrease the amount of time it takes to sell it, and give your buyers peace of mind in knowing everything about the vehicle has been documented in the report. 


When selling your vehicle to someone, you’re required by law to disclose certain information about the vehicle, such as if it has ever been in a flood, if it has a salvage title and if it has been completely rebuilt. The appraisal is a certified report that documents that information, as well as any custom work completed. It will tell you exactly what your car is worth, which is us

useful for collector, classic and custom vehicles whose values can’t be found in KBB or NADA.


In the case of the aforementioned vehicles, your buyer can take the appraisal to their insurance company in order to have it insured for the correct amount for an agreed value, also called ‘guaranteed value’, insurance policy.


5. Book Value Doesn’t Always Apply

Book value applies to vehicles that are 1981 and newer that are stock, without aftermarket modifications. Classic, collector and custom cars don’t fall into this category. Exotics and rare models, and vehicles with special circumstances, like famous cars, obviously can’t be properly valued using an online estimator, either.  If you are an owner of one of these types of vehicles, you would obviously want to insure it for the actual replacement value, and not just the book value.  


To insure vehicles like these for the full replacement value, insurance companies require a professional appraisal.  The appraisal will account for upgrades, modifications and labor invested into the vehicle and officially document it as part of its value. Companies like Auto Appraisal Network certify their appraisals, which satisfies the insurance company’s requirements for verification of the cars’ worth.   


The level of experience of independent appraisers is an important factor to take into account. In order to properly value a vehicle, finding comparable vehicles is necessary and should be included in the final report. Finding an appraiser who is familiar with classic, collector and custom cars can affect what the value is determined to be.  Auto Appraisal Networks appraisers have years- even decades- of experience and have a nationwide network to rely on. 

6. An Appraisal Can Determine Diminished Value After an Accident

If your vehicle is involved in an accident, it immediately loses value that can never be recovered even after it has been repaired.  This is called the diminished value.  It's the amount of value lost when a vehicle is involved in an accident, even if the damage is minor. Depending on the type of vehicle, this amount can be thousands- even tens of thousands- of dollars.  In most states, the insurance company should include this dollar amount in their offer, but they often do not because it's not something that most people know about, nor something the insurance company is forthcoming with information about.


The best way to prove the amount of money lost, or the diminished value, is with a professional appraisal.  It’s in your best interest to hire your own independent appraiser for this, instead of relying on the insurance adjuster.  An independent appraiser, such as the appraisers at Auto Appraisal Network, are unbiased third parties not connected to the insurance company and without interest in the vehicle.  


If you feel that you’re owed more than what the insurance company offered, then before accepting it, you have the right to hire your own appraiser at your expense to challenge the offer.  

7. When your car has been totaled

In the event that your vehicle is in an accident and determined to be a total loss, you’re entitled to get a second opinion, whether it's to challenge it being called a total loss, or to challenge the payout offered by the insurance company.  


As long as you weren't the at-fault driver, you are entitled to the actual cash value of your car, less your deductible, plus tax, title and license fees.  There is a good chance the insurance company is not offering this amount to you, but the burden of proof falls on you.  In order to prove the value of your vehicle to the insurance company prior to the accident, you must hire a qualified independent appraiser.  


This can be especially important if you plan on rejecting their offer to total the vehicle and instead choose to have it repaired yourself; the appraisal will help you determine if the cost of repairs needed is worth it. 

8. Appraisals are More Affordable Than You Might Think

There is a common misconception that car appraisals are only for wealthy people with entire car collections. However, this isn’t true! Getting your car appraised is actually pretty affordable, especially when you consider your reasons for needing the appraisal. If it's for insurance, the cost is a small amount compared to a loss you might incur in the event of an accident and not having your car insured for its full replacement value. 


Getting an appraisal to determine the vehicle's pre-accident value after a wreck can result in getting paid thousands more dollars on your claim, making the cost of the appraisal well worth it. An appraiser can probably tell you over the phone if it's worth getting the appraisal done in this situation, as well as let you know the cost of the appraisal itself. 


Generally speaking, however, the cost of an appraisal is far less than the benefits are, in most cases. 

9. Appraisals Aren’t Just For Custom or Antique Vehicles

There are appraisals for just about any type of vehicle, including boats, motorcycles and RV’s,  that you can imagine. While appraisals are more commonly done for modified, classic, and custom automobiles, appraisers routinely examine a wider range of vehicles. There are even appraisers for small aircraft!


For example, you may own a motorcycle that’s more than two decades old. It may be considered a classic at this point. Perhaps you made a few modifications to it over the years. That would make it a custom cycle. In order to determine the current market value, it would make sense to arrange for a custom motorcycle appraisal. Even if you don’t plan on selling it any time soon, the information that you learn from the appraisal may help you make decisions about how much and what kind of insurance to maintain. Same for boats, watercraft and recreational vehicles, such as motorhomes, four wheelers and other off-road toys. 

10. Appraisals Don’t Expire But They Do Lose Impact After Six Months

There is nothing in an appraisal that automatically makes it expire after a certain amount of time. Even so, it will only serve a purpose for a relatively short while. That’s one reason many collectors have their vehicles appraised annually. Doing so provides up to date information about not just the condition but the market value. 


When selling a vehicle an appraisal older than 6 months could be considered irrelevant by potential buyers, especially with the recent market fluctuations. Plus, if there have been recent modifications made to it, you’d want those documented in a recent appraisal. 

Auto Appraisal Network® is a nationwide network of certified professional appraisers.  Whether you need a vehicle appraised for insurance purposes, obtaining financing, for divorce or bankruptcy proceedings, or after its been involved in an accident to determine its diminished or prior-to-loss value.  

Appraisals can be especially helpful when preparing to sell your vehicle, or if you’re in the market to purchase one through a private party. A certified appraisal from Auto Appraisal Network® will determine the car's actual value for a variety of reasons.  Appraisals from {organization name} are accepted by insurance companies, financial institutions and the legal system nationwide.  Contact us today to set up your appraisal at {phone number}.



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