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Is it wise to sell a classic car at an auction with no reserve price?

We have inherited two Mercedes-Benz Pagoda. One is a white manual 230SL made in 1964 with with previous owners and 75,000 miles. The second is a 1970 280SL Coupe Auto, 71,000 miles with one previous owner. Both have hard and soft tops. Both cars have been in a dry garage for the past 45 years. One has a personalised plate worth possibly £5,000. Neither car has an MoT or been run in that time. A leading auction house has suggested selling these without reserve and anticipate they could fetch £15,000 - 20,000 for the 230SL and £17,000 - £22,000 for the 280SL. They also suggest leaving the personalised plate on as it would be too expensive for me to get an MoT to enable me to transfer it. I know little about classic cars but I feel very uneasy about the advice I have received and do not believe they should ever be sold without a reserve.

Asked on 2 May 2017 by EM

Answered by Keith Moody
Let's start with the numberplate - the auction house is correct - you will need an MoT (and tax) if you want to retain the numberplates. I've no idea what condition the car is in so it's impossible to say whether getting an MoT would be prohibitively expensive or not. There's a chance having an MoT will increase its value. Selling a car at auction is fairly hassle-free - you won't have to deal with endless inquires from buyers, but the price you get will often be slightly lower than it would have been if you'd sold the car privately. Costs to watch out for include a 'listing fee' and a 'commission fee' (often a percentage of the sale price, plus VAT). Ask the auction company to provide exact details of their pricing structure. Whether or not you choose to sell your car without a reserve or not is up to you. If you don't want to, then don't. If you're happy with the guide prices they've offered, pick a reserve that is in the middle of the high and low estimates. If you're not certain about the guide values, do some market research to find out what similar models have sold for. You could also contact a few different auction houses in the same way you'd contact a few different builders for quotes for work on your house. The cars you have for sale are very desirable so make sure you get the best possible price you can.
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