The most popular classic car auctions in the USA

The most popular classic car auctions in the USA


A staggering nine million cars are sold at auction every year. Classic car auctions are an excellent way to find your dream car at a reasonable price. It’s also a great way to see some cool classic cars and meet like-minded classic car enthusiasts like yourself.

If you’re ready to start your classic car collection, we’re here to help. There are several places to look for your dream vehicle. You could spend time trawling auto sales websites, sign up for their newsletters, or visit local car lots. However, there’s a much better way to find the car of your dreams. Why not attend one of the many popular classic auto auctions and collector car auctions regularly held across the US? 

If you’re not sure what to do, don’t worry. In this article, we introduce the most popular classic and vintage car auctions and share some useful tips.     

What happens at a classic car auction?

At a classic car auction in the USA, many makes, models, and years of cars are brought together. The vehicles come in a variety of conditions, so you’ll find as many pristine vehicles as possible restoration projects. 

Prospective buyers turn up, pay admission, and bid on vehicles, with the auction company taking a fee somewhere between 10-20%. You may also have to pay fees and taxes on any purchase made at the event.

Once you’ve made your purchase, you’ve then got to get it home. We’ll look at how you can do that further down the page. 

The people who buy tickets for these events are not just prospective buyers. For many, it’s a chance to see some fantastic vehicles and mix with others who have a shared passion for unique, rare, antique, and otherwise valuable cars.

There’s also a lot going on in the periphery of the event. There might be exhibitors, memorabilia for sale, speakers, and other entertainment.  

Looking for your dream car? Don’t miss these auctions

Dreamed classic car

Classic car auctions are the ideal place to spot interesting and rare models, whether you’re a collector, buyer, or simply an admirer. Classic car auctions are held across the United States, and we’ve compiled a list of those you shouldn’t miss. 

Barrett-Jackson: Holding auctions for nearly 50 years

Classic car enthusiasts have been attending Barrett-Jackson auctions for almost 50 years, coming from all over the world. Attend one of these auctions, and you’ll have the opportunity to buy some of the most desirable classic cars. Even if you don’t want to buy one, you still get the chance to admire some of the most beautiful vehicles all in one place.   

Where are the auctions held?

Barrett-Jackson auctions are hosted in various locations across the United States. They are in:

  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Palm Beach, Florida
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Mohegan Sun, Connecticut

If you can’t get to one of these locations, watch them live on the History Channel, and FYI. It might not be quite the same as being there, but you’ll still see some unique and valuable vehicles.

Incidentally, this year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the auctions have been held online. The hope is that next year safety protocols will be in place, things will be back to normal, and you’ll be able to attend one of the events.  

Can anyone bid at these auctions?

If you want to bid on one of the vehicles at the auction, you must comply with certain financial requirements. Then you can register as a buyer.

You must pay a registration fee and provide specific documentation, including a recent photo, a copy of your driver’s license, proof of auto insurance, and payment method. You also must prove your creditworthiness and guarantees.  


Gooding and Company

Gooding and Company is another leading automotive auction specializing in classic cars, antique and racing vehicles. The auction house hosts three auctions every year. They are held in:

  • Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Amelia Island, Florida
  • Pebble Beach California

The last two locations are on the coast, which means you’ve got breathtaking views as a backdrop for some jaw-dropping vehicles. 

You can also see the best that this auction house offers via live webcast, which is good to know during the current pandemic restrictions. 

Registration requirements

Whether you bid from the comfort of your own home or attend an auction, the registration process is simple. As well as completing a Bidder Registration Application, you’ll also need to provide a bank letter of guarantee, driver’s license, or passport identification. 

Gooding and Company has had some notable sales

Gooding and Company hold much smaller auctions than Barrett-Jackson, but it has nevertheless seen some exciting sales, reaching into the millions. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic: Sold in May 2010 for a staggering $31 million.
  • 1957 250 Ferrari Testarossa prototype: Sold for $14.9 million.
  • 1997 McLaren F1: Sold for almost $8.5 million. 



Bonhams is a privately owned international auction house. It was founded in 1793 in London and auctions off far more than just vehicles. Its Motoring Department, however, holds auction sales of rare classic cars and motorcycles. 

The company recently launched a sister MPH division, which widens the audience to include more modern and modestly priced collector motor cars. 

Bonhams hosts car events in London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and New York. Attend one, and you’ll have the chance to see some of the rarest classic cars in the world. The next planned US auction is in Scottsdale at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa on 21 Jan 2021.  

Have any famous cars been sold at Bonhams

Bonhams is closely associated with many celebrity names. Elvis Presley owned a Roll Royce Phantom V that was sold by Bonhams. Another legendary ride sold by Bonhams was Pat Boon’s 1954 Mercedes 300 SL “Gullwing.” 

The Mecum Auction Company

The Mecum Auction Company started life as a family business, but it has grown considerably over the last thirty years. In 1988, the company held its first official auction at the Rockford Airport. Since then, the event has earned a reputation for being one of the leading events for collector cars, vintage and antique motorcycles.   

Where are these auctions held?

The headquarters of this famous auto auction house is in Walworth, Wisconsin. It hosts a famous collector car auction in Kissimmee, Florida every year, and hosts other events across the US. How many cars does this company auction every year? Estimates are that more than 20,000 vehicles go under the hammer annually. 

What is the Mecum rule?

Dana Mecum introduced a rule that comes into play if the reserve on a vehicle isn’t met. Dana asks the highest bidder to meet the reserve, and if they agree, the hammer falls, and the car is sold. No other bids are accepted. 


RM Sotheby’s: The world’s largest collector car auction house by total sales

RM Sotheby’s is one of the biggest car auction houses for investment-quality automobiles. This auction house started in 1976 as RM Auctions and has transformed the car auction scene worldwide. In February 2015, RM Auctions officially partnered with Sotheby’s to become RM Sotheby’s. It has ranked number one, from 2014 to 2018, by the total value of cars sold and the number of cars sold for over $1 million.  

Where do these auctions take place?

RM Sotheby holds more than ten auctions across six US states and four countries each year. It is also the “official collector car auction house for manufacturers such as Porsche, Aston Martin, and Ferrari. In addition, it hosts several important car events, including:

What was the most expensive car sold at RM Sotheby’s?

Some very expensive vehicles have fallen under the RM Sotheby’s hammer. They include a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that became the most expensive car ever sold at an auction. In 2018, it sold for $48.4 million. The car maintained many of its original parts and was one of only 36 made. 

Worldwide Auctioneers

Worldwide Auctioneers promises to sell world-class cars and offer a VIP experience. It’s a great auction to attend if you’re looking for rare pre-war vehicles, vintage European racers, or American muscle cars in mint condition. 

This auction house can curate an excellent inventory thanks to its chief auctioneers and automobile specialists’ experience.

Compared with the other auction houses in this list, Worldwide Auctioneers is smaller, but it has a philosophy of quality over quantity. Both buyers and sellers get to enjoy a relaxed, fun, and personal experience that sets it apart from other much bigger collector car auctions.    

Classic Car Auction Group

The Classic Car Auction Group takes place in the northern Rockies. It’s a wonderful place to go if you want a better deal on a classic car at auction. Auctions are held online and in Salt Lake City, Montana.   

McCormick’s Palm Springs Classic Car Auctions USA

McCormick’s is another lesser-known auction house but still offers a great choice of classic cars. As you might expect, the collector car auctions take place in Palm Springs about twice a year. 

Copart Auctions

Copart Auctions is not so focused on antique and collector vehicles, so it’s also a great place to shop if you’re looking for a great deal on an everyday motor. Thousands of antique car auctions are held every year, some online only and some in person. On any given day, this auction house has more than 125,000 vehicles available. 

Russo and Steele

This underground auction house considers itself to be “by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts.” The focus is on European sports cars, hot rods, customs, and American muscle cars. It has a very unique auction format that puts buyers, sellers, and observers together in the same space. Everyone sits in a 360º setup for an “in the ring” style of auction that is very entertaining and drives excitement and competition. 

What you need to know before attending classic car auctions

Attending classic car auctions

When you attend muscle car auctions or collector car auctions, you’ll be blown away by the fun, thrill, and excitement of the experience. However, all this can make it very overwhelming, especially if you’re new to such things. Let’s give you some tips, so you don’t feel like a duck out of water. 

Pre-register to bid if possible

If you wait until the auction day to register to bid, you might find yourself standing in line waiting to fill out all the necessary paperwork. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the auction items and have more time to check out the cars, register to buy in advance online. 

Research any cars you’re interested in ahead of time

The best car auctions publish lots of information online before each event. Do you know as much as you should about your dream car? The smart thing to do is research what it’s like to own one, whether it’s easy to care for, and what you expect in terms of problems. 

Plan how you’re going to transport your car home

Purchasing your dream car is only the first step. If yours is the winning bid, you’ve then got to get it home. Here at SGT Auto Transport, we’ve got the experience you need. We’ve been arranging classic car transport for many years and can offer enclosed auto transport, so you’ve got peace of mind knowing your vehicle is well protected.

Get an insurance quote in advance

If you’ve got a particular dream car in mind, it’s best to get a quote from your insurance company before the auto auction in the USA. That way, your vehicle will be covered as soon as you’ve finalized your purchase. 

If you ship your new purchase across country using an auto transport company, it will be insured during transportation. However, it’s a good idea to have your own coverage in place as well. 

Don’t leave until the auction has finished

It’s always worth staying until the end of the auction because some of the best deals are often right at the end. It’s typical for the audience to thin out towards the end, which means you’ve got a better chance of winning with a lower bid. 

Remember to add fees to your bid

It’s always a good idea to calculate how much you can spend, but don’t forget to factor in the fees charged by the auction house. These fees are generally 10% but could be as much as 20%. There are also federal, state, and local taxes you must pay on the purchase, the cost of auto transport, and insurance fees. 

If you don’t take these additional costs into account, you could end up paying more than you bargained for. 

The ten most expensive cars sold at a public auction

Classic car auction tips

Some very expensive cars are sold at the auction houses mentioned above. So, what have things been like in 2020? Here is a list of the top ten most expensive cars sold at auction this year. 

  1. 1934 Bugatti Type 59 Sports: Sold for $12,681,550 at the Gooding London 2020 auction. It is the second Bugatti ever to have sold for more than $10 million at public auction.  
  2. 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante: Sold for $10,447,150 at the Gooding London 2020 auction. This is the third Bugatti to have achieved more than $10 million at auction and set a new model record for any Type 57 version.    
  3. 1932 Bugatti Type 55 SuperSport Roadster: Sold for $7,100,000 at the Bonham Amelia Island 2020 classic car auction. Only 38 Type 55 SuperSport chassis were produced. 
  4. 1928 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix: Sold for $5,233,550 at the Gooding London Classic Car auction, and it set a new model record for any Type 35 version.  
  5. 1932 Bugatti Type 55 Two-Seat Supersport by Figoni: This was the highest result at the Bonhams Paris Classic Car Auction and the most expensive car sold at any of the Paris Retromobile 2020 famous car auctions. The car’s new owner paid $5,070,000.  
  6. 2001 Ferreri 550 GT1 Prodrive: Sold for $4,290,000 at the Monterey Car Week 2020 auction. It set a new world record for the most-expensive car ever sold in an online-only auction. This Ferrari Prodrive was the second of only 12 built by Prodrive for Care Racing Development.  
  7. 1971 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV Speciale: This Miura set a new model record when it sold for $4,265,310 at the Gooding London sale. This price was almost double the previous prices paid for this model. 
  8. 1955 Aston Martin DB3S: This very rare Aston Martin sold for $4,004,630 at the Gooding Passion of a Lifetime London 2020 sale. This car set a new Australian Land Speed Record in 1957, averaging 143.19 mph. 
  9. 1965 Shelby GT350R Competition Model, “Flying Mustang.”: This earned the moniker of being the most expensive Mustang ever sold when it was bought for $3,850,000 at the Mecum Indianapolis 2020 collector car auction.  
  10. 1968 Ford Mustang GT “Bullitt”: This 1968 Ford Mustang set a new model record when it sold for $3,740,000 at the Mecum Kissimmee 2020 collector car auction. The high price is all due to it being driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”  

What are the best car auction sites?

Best classic car auction sites

We’ve already looked at some of the most notable classic car auctions in the USA. Many are currently running online auctions due to the COVID-19 restrictions. 

Several other lesser-known sites can also bring some action to your laptop. Some of the best online car auction sites in the online automobile auction world include:

  • Salvage Bid: Specializes in fixer-uppers. 
  • eBay Motors: Has a trusted history as one of the best online car auction sites. 
  • Auto Auction Mall: Allows those without a dealer’s license to bid on dealer-only auctions. 
  • Purple Wave: Offer a wide selection of vehicles from cars to tractors, and they only charge a 10% buyer’s premium. 
  • IAAI: Provides services to both non-licensed and licensed buyers. 
  • Cranky Ape: Pay a first-time user fee of $50 and an annual fee of $45 and enjoy services such as “buy now” privileges and absentee bidding. 

How to get your car home from an auction

Auto transport company

If you are successful and end up winning an auction for a classic car, you’ll likely want to ship your car to your home rather than drive it. The odds are you don’t live very close to the auction site. And if you did, driving a classic car is a risk because it increases the likelihood of damage and general wear and tear. 

To avoid the stress and risk of driving it all the way home, the best option is to ship your classic car. It’s much easier than you think, and you have a few options. 

Open auto transport vs. enclosed car transport

When you book an auto transport service, you choose whether they transport your car in an open or enclosed trailer. Both options have their pros and cons. 

Open car transport

Choose open car transport, and a carrier will transport your vehicle in an open car trailer. These trailers are typically 75-80 free long and have two levels. They can transport as many as ten vehicles at the same time. The trailers have no sides and no roof, so they expose the vehicles inside to the elements. 

Open car transport is suitable for all types of vehicles and is the most affordable and flexible option. 

Enclosed auto transport (Recommended for shipping from classic car auctions)

Choose enclosed auto transport, and a carrier will transport your vehicle in an enclosed auto trailer. The trailer has a roof, and four sides, which means your vehicle is safe and secure throughout the transportation. Because of the enclosing walls’ restrictions, trailers of this kind typically transport fewer vehicles. 

Enclosed auto transport tends to be the service of choice for owners of extremely expensive, rare, classic, custom, or antique vehicles. It is entirely safe, but it is more costly, by around 30%-40% extra. 

Next time you’re thinking about buying a car at one of the best car auctions, don’t forget to arrange the transport of your new purchase. Call (864) 546-5038 and speak with our shipping advisors because we’d be proud to help you get your new baby home. We also have a Live Chat option and an online instant quote calculator so you can find out how much it costs. 

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