Some of the Finer Points of the Appraisal Process
by Rick Beecoff
Published in Cruisin' New England (May 2002 issue)
It's finally Spring and your attention is most likely turning toward your antique
collectible car. Choosing the right appraiser and correctly insuring and registering
your car will help you fully enjoy your hobby.
Appraising Your Appraiser
If you own an antique or collectible car, or are thinking about buying one, getting
an appraisal is an integral part of the process. An appraisal is a document that
assesses the value of your collectible, antique, or special interest car for insurance,
estate, tax related, diminished value, and of course, purchase or resale purposes.
The appraiser's job is to be as objective as possible in determining the value of
car. No emotions on your part can influence the examination of your car. This can
be a tough call for many appraisers; the car might have belonged to a deceased
relative, or the cost of restoring your prized possession to it's original, pristine
condition exceeds the true worth of your car.
The appraiser's practical knowledge of basic car construction principles,
subassemblies, power train assemblies, interior, and exterior finishes, etc., as
as an astute power of observation is required to perform this important job correctly
A good appraiser also has a encyclopedic knowledge of stock versus after market or
custom items, accessories, or finishes for any given vehicle. Along with all the
required knowledge, the appraiser uses vehicle documentation, various price guides,
catalogues, auction, and resale data to help shape the dollar value placed on your
You can help make the appraiser's job easier in determining the true value of your
car if you retain all pertinent documentation, for example, receipts, bills of sale,
maintenance, restoration, or customization documentation. The appraiser is doing
his or her job correctly if they're thoroughly examining the sale and resale history
your car and documenting your car in photographs.
Don't fall prey to trying to gauge your car's value by looking at published price
guides or checking the local classifieds or auction results for similar cars. For
appraisal of your car's value, the appraiser must examine all the data about your
particular car, observe the vehicle, and research various price data. In some
instances, your appraiser will consult with other recognized appraisers or vehicle
specialists to assemble an entire package to make a final determination of your
car's value. Many times, your appraiser will consult various automotive reference
publications to give the appraiser a sense of your car model's history and
While Massachusetts law does not specifically require that the appraisal be
done by a licensed appraiser, most, if not all, insurers require that a licensed
professional provide the appraisal. The rationale is that the appraiser should have
documented knowledge; an appraiser's license is proof of that knowledge. Insurers
requirethe appraisal document bear the seal of the licensed appraiser.
In Massachusetts, you may choose your own appraiser. Your insurance company can
furnish you with a reference list of appraisers, but it cannot insist that you use
appraiser or appraisal company. Remember, it is not required that your appraisal
performed by a licensed appraiser. However, you and your insurance company should
view a licensed appraiser as an individual who has the documented knowledge needed
to determine the accurate and fair value of your car.
When you start researching appraisers for your car, be sure to look for an appraiser
who is intimately involved with the hobby of antique car collecting. This individual
better qualified to provide a valid value appraisal than an appraiser who spends
bulk of his or her professional time writing damage appraisals for an insurance
company. Damage appraisers are qualified to perform the task, but not having an
intimate knowledge of the hobby, they are generally not inclined to thoroughly
research your car's true value.
Insuring and Registering Your Hobby
There are two major components to Massachusetts auto insurance: liability
coverage and vehicle damage coverage (collision and comprehensive). Liability
is a common sense concept; consult with your insurance agent or broker to make
sure that your particular policy provides for proper coverage in all liability situations
and contingencies. In Massachusetts and most other states, you must purchase a
certain level of liability coverage in order to register your car. Unlike liability
vehicle damage coverage is optional. Damage coverage protects your car in case of
accident or theft.
If you purchase damage coverage, make sure your policy includes
proper levels of collision and comprehensive ( fire, theft, vandalism, and glass
coverage. Vehicle damage coverage is based upon the value of your car that was
determined by your appraiser. In the event of any kind of loss, this appraisal will
determine the underlying value of your car.
How many ways do you think there are to register and insure your antique car?
Surprisingly, there are four very different methods in Massachusetts. (Note that
other states have different registration and insurance requirements; be sure to
examine the requirements thoroughly.)
The first method is called normal actual cash value insurance and registration.
The value of your car for insurance purposes is determined by NADA (National
Association of Automobile Dealers) or other accredited price guides. Your
car's value is then adjusted to reflect mileage or wear and tear factors. This is
referred to as ACV or actual cash value insurance. Normal actual cash value
and registration is appropriate for most vehicles that are used as daily drivers.
In this case, vehicle values are predetermined by various price guides and are not
required to have value appraisals. There is no allowance made to add extra value
for a vehicle because for example, it is collectible. The ordinary usage of these
vehicles is not restricted other than what a particular insurer might require or
limitations on (e.g., extra coverage and premium for inexperienced or newly licensed
The second method is a called a stated value policy in which your car is insured
registered based upon a statement of value (via an appraisal) in order to accommodate
extra value due to a custom paint job, accessories, or if the car is determined to
extra collectible value. A stated value policy can accommodate newer as well as older
vehicles with no restriction of usage other than what an insured and insurer might
upon. The vehicle damage coverage in this type of policy and the premium charged
by the insurer is based directly upon the accepted appraised value of the vehicle.
Your insurer must accept the appraisal to set car value and to protect itself against
overstated value and possible fraudulent claims. Bear in mind that stated value
coverage does not guarantee that the insured will receive the full appraised amount
of the car in the event of a total loss. Depreciation and other factors, as determined
by the insurer, can affect a final settlement.
The third method is antique policy and registration. If you wish to register
your car via antique registration, your car must be 25 years or older, and will be
subject to various use restrictions as required by the Massachusetts Registry
of Motor Vehicles. You must submit notarized affidavits of use when you register
your car. (Other states have different requirements.) The vehicle damage coverage
for antique registration is based upon ACV as determined by your appraisal and
accepted as such by the insurer. Again, please bear in mind that the appraised
value of the car does not guarantee that the insured will receive the full appraised
amount of the car in the event of a total loss. Insurance companies can attempt to
use and wear depreciation to the settlement amount. Note once again that it is
Extremely important to have an accurate appraisal to make sure that your antique
car is carrying the appropriate amount of insurance coverage for your car's value.
You cannot register and insure your antique car as such in Massachusetts by
relying solely on a stated value insurance policy. Your insurance premiums for antique
registration are based upon use restrictions and subsequent risk exposure to your
Pure antique insurance policies are significantly less expensive than pure stated
policies. However, here's the catch: if you register your car via the antique registration
method, you cannot use the car as a daily driver and expect to be covered by an
insurer in the event of an occurrence or loss. Registry of Motor Vehicle stringent
regulations and your insurance policy specifically spell out when and how you can
drive your car. No exceptions are ever made to these rules.
The fourth method for insuring your car is called agreed value policies. Agreed
value policies offer vehicle damage coverage based upon the agreed upon value
of your car by you and your insurer, and by now you know that the value of your
car is best determined by a professional appraiser. An agreed value policy provides
the insured with full payment of the agreed value of the vehicle, with no depreciation,
in the event of a total loss. Because of this, it is extremely important to maintain
an up to date appraisal at all times. In the event that your car is worth more than
an outdated appraisal and insurance policy provides, a total loss will be paid only
on the outdated valuation. With agreed value polices, the age of your car must be
25 years or older, and like antique registration, there are restrictions of use and
limitations for vehicle operators. Agreed value policies in Massachusetts are usually
restricted to antique vehicles only. In some cases, your insurer might have requirements
regarding the type of facility in which you can store your car or who may drive your
These requirements are usually accomplished by notarized affidavits that ultimately
Form endorsements to your policy. And, as with pure antique policies and registration,
agreed value policies are less expensive than more traditional policies.
Regardless of the method of registration or type of insurance policy, it is critical
you and your insurer mutually understand and agree to all conditions of a particular
insurance policy. You must thoroughly understand all limitations of use and conditions
of coverage for your policy.
Because your antique or collectible car is considered a commodity, its value is
susceptible to regularly occurring pricing fluctuations. As such, it important to
your car's appraisals current with no more than a two-year lapse, and in some
instances sooner, if market or other price fluctuations dictate shifts in value.
I hope that I've clarified some of the finer points of the appraisal process and
guided you through the maze of insurance policy and registration methods. As
with any important process, you must seek out the proper guidance and counsel
that is offered by trained professionals. Remember that knowledge, as provided by
a proper and qualified appraiser, gives you the power to protect your interest in
Rick Beecoff, owner of First Appraisal Service in Peabody, MA and an avid classic
enthusiast, is a Massachusetts Licensed (No. 013727) Auto Appraiser specializing
antique, custom, classic, and modern cars. He is also a licensed Insurance Broker.
You can reach Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 978-531-4461.