The Value of a Restored VW by Jerry Vreeman

Once a month or so someone stops by or calls us with this question: “If I restore my 19?? VW bug with you guys, will I be able to get my money out of it if I try to sell it?”

The simple answer to that question is, “No.”

Why? Because most folks who will plunk down $20-40,000 restoring a bug (or bus, or Thing, or Ghia, etc) do so because they have some kind of emotional attachment to that specific car. True, it may be that a particular year, or model, or even color moves them. But, most likely they will invest in a high quality restoration primarily because a piece of their life is connected with that specific vehicle.

Of course, that is also true of most other classic or antique cars. The monetary value of any original or restored vehicle is that which the owner (or buyer) is willing to pay for a certain model year, depending on its condition or originality. Yet what truly drives the market are the emotions of those who are restoring or buying these vehicles. If these folks have a strong emotional connection with a particular car or truck, and also have the resources, they will pay almost “whatever it takes” to have possession of what they want.

Now, some of these “emotional” folks may also become investors, because they recognize that they are not alone in their deep attachment to a particular vehicle. Most investors, however, are not involved in restoration. Rather, they will attempt to buy their treasure when someone who has emotionally invested in the restoration of a vehicle either loses the attachment, or finds himself in a financial bind.

So, how does that help you make a decision about restoring your vehicle?

First, be honest with yourself and with the significant others in your life. Restoring an old VW is rarely a financial investment from which you can expect significant monetary return. It may be a labor of love, if you do it yourself. It may be a hobby. It may be that you are building or creating your own “treasure,” which you hope to leave for another generation. It may be something “you’ve always wanted to do” because it brings back good memories and allows you to tell stories about it. It may be something that gives you great joy and satisfaction because you are preserving a piece of history that is precious to you. It may be that you love the car show circuit and the unique trophies and awards that come to vintage or custom VW restorations. All of these are good reasons to do a VW restoration. But, don’t expect to turn around in a year or two and “make” money doing it.

There are, of course, exceptions to this “rule.” But, they will be very rare. Most likely it will take a unique encounter with someone who just happens to have a little stronger emotional attachment to your vehicle and a little more money than you do!

Secondly, ask yourself “What is my ultimate restoration goal?” Do you just want to drive an old Volkswagen again? Do you want a show car? Do you want something that will last for your children or grandchildren? Do you want something that is original or would you like to “soup it up” a bit? Do you want a custom interior, or paint job, or engine, or sound system?

There are still thousands of old “bugs” and busses on the road. Many of them may make a good first impression, but they hardly fit the qualification of “restored,” or even “original.” As a true “people’s car,” the typical ’50-70’s Volkswagen has usually gone through a number of renovations, additions, paint jobs, and owners. Many of these vehicles are still being used as cheap transportation, just as they were originally intended. So, ask yourself what you intend to do with your bug. Will it continue to be cheap transportation in a vintage style, or will you make it your treasure?

Third, recognize the difference between an old used “bug” and a full restoration. Yes, it is possible to license a $600 repainted bug, get it to pass emissions, and use it as basic, somewhat reliable transportation. This assumes, of course, that either you or someone in your community is able to maintain it and/or fix it. A full restoration, however, is like purchasing a brand new vehicle. Most reliable shops which do full body off restorations will end up literally taking the entire car apart and putting it all back together again by hand. The end result: a brand new, hand crafted car!

At Motorworks Restorations we specialize in hand crafting the Volkswagen you want. While we could just help you maintain or even fix up your old used car, our true mission is to help you create a vehicle that meets or exceeds your goals and expectations.

Some ask, “Why does it cost so much?” The answer is quite basic. We are custom making a new car for you.

Have you have ever looked at the difference in price between custom made kitchen cabinets and those you can buy off the rack at Home Depot? Not only are you comparing something hand made with what is not, but the quality and choice of the materials is much greater. The same is true for a Motorworks restoration of your Volkswagen. Not only are you getting a hand-crafted creation according to your specifications, but you will have an almost infinite number of choices from the highest quality materials.

So, what is the value of your restored Volkswagen?

There are appraisers who will tell you what it might sell for in certain markets. There are VW lovers who might be willing to offer you a sum within their comfort zone. There are the invoices which remind you of what a full custom restoration costs. But, ultimately only YOU can determine the value of your precious VW. No one else.