Help valuing a car

I am the original owner of 1 1988 BMW M3. After driving it for 30 years I am ready to let someone else have the pleasure of driving an amazing car.

I have taken good care of it, but I have put 84,000 miles on it, so it is not perfect. The paint is all original, with the exception of the rear wing where the clear coat peeled, I assume from water sitting in it at time. Also a small scrape on the right from bumper from a curb. The engine is in fine shape with very good compression. I had to have the bolster of the drivers seat recovered because of wear. There is some tape on the bumper that has deteriorated for some reason. The hood has some chips which have been repaired. There are a couple of sap marks on the roof. It was undercoated so the bottom has very little rust, mostly at corners of transmission and rear-end. I could use a new antenna which is missing a boot. The wheels have been scraped on the curb over time. The numbers on the trip computer are worn as two detailers over the years decided to use an electric buffer on it.

The exhaust system is not original, as it was not available at the time. I put in a Stebro. Also the disks are not OEM. They were replaced 3 times in 15,000 miles because they kept warping - first try with no asbestos.

There was a small chip in the windshield which has been drilled and repaired.

The Alpine radio is non functional, as electronic buttons don’t function.

I believe it is a very good Condition two. How can I get this confirmed? Are there people that can look at it to give an evaluation/appraisal?

Thank you for your consideration.


Hi Larry, I am the assistant editor for the Hagerty Price Guide and I’d love to help give you some direction. Based on your description of the car, I would put it on the upper scale of “Good” or a #3+ condition. Please don’t take that as a knock against your car. For a car that has been enjoyed for 31 years and has seen use, you are going to expect a few chips, oxidation on bare metal parts and curb rash. What I look for when determining a car as a #2, we are talking more technical errors than cosmetic flaws, which may exist but are near negligible.

Based on your description looking at what is currently for sale, has recently sold and comparing it to the Hagerty Price Guide value on the 1988 M3, I would ballpark a value somewhere in the high $60,000 range, topping out in the low $70,000 range to account for this being a one owner car. I’m not going to pin an exact value on it as Hagerty does not perform appraisals, although we can assist you in finding someone certified in your area. If you wish to PM me your location (to keep it private from the rest of the forum), I can send you a list of who we know of in your area.

Thank you Greg. That was very helpful.

FYI My wife is an art conservator with a degree in Chemical Engineering/Material Science. She supervised a team that dismantled, treated to stop rusting, and reassembled a V2 rocket. While some wanted to make new parts for it, museums want as much of the original material as possible. I realize that is not the same as a car.

This car runs like it did when it was new. The interior is almost as good as new, except for the carpet on the drivers side. The trip computer irks me because the people that did the work didn’t know what they were doing.

Externally, the paint is in very good condition, except for some small chips on hood. And a few spots where sap fell.

I have seen restored cars, and they look like they just came off the showroom floor. This does not, but I have seen many cars with less miles that don’t look as good. I can understand replacing wheels because the damage to them may affect handling at full speed. I have complete confidence in the drive train and suspension. The A/C always took power away from the engine if you wanted to drive it hard.

If I was looking for a used M3, this is in the shape I would want. I have seen some where they stripped the car down and completely rebuilt it to almost show room, and then want top dollar for it, even thought is has a non-stock engine or other equipment. So that is why I have not rebuilt it.

I would like to have someone appraise it. Is there anyone in the Midwest that can do it justice? The two people I talked to a few years ago said $15K. Totally wrong - they looked it up in Kelly.

I live in Omaha.

Thank you again for you information and help.


I had talked with several people in the local BMW Car Club a few years ago. They thought it could sell for $70k 3 years ago. I have not driven it much since then for a variety of reasons. Mostly I don’t trust drivers in Omaha. I was hit 3 times in other cars while I was stationary. And I see accidents that I can’t believe happened.

I had someone interested in it, and he wanted to have it checked out by a mechanic. He lives in Ohio. He talked to a big dealer in Cleveland that restores BMW. Dealer said he would have to spend $75K or more to fix it, even though he hadn’t seen it. Scared off the customer.

But then the dealer contacted me. Offered me $30K sight unseen. Said he would have to cut the pillars of the windscreen and rebuild it because they always rust there. And the floors would have to be rebuilt because they rust out. He sent me a picture of the bottom of one that somehow photo-shopped to show all of the rust underneath. I sent him a picture of mine and he did the same thing and there were just minor issues on the corners of the tranny and rear-end.

So I am seriously interested in selling it, and naturally I want to get the best price I can for it, without ripping anyone off. And this is my baby and I know I am biased about it, but I am fairly certain that it has the same performance it always had, although I haven’t pushed it in years.

So I am interested in a good appraisal. And ideas on things that can be done to it that will enhance the value with out breaking the bank.

Kind of like doing some work on a house to boost the sale price. We are also looking at downsizing the house. We currently own half a house in the midland of England. We will own it all when my Mother-in-Law dies. She is 93. We replaced the boiler which was shot, the wiring which was not up to code (wired in 1960 by my father-in-law, who was an electrician). Also had to replace a floor that had woodworm. I have done the equivalent to the M3. It was all minor. Compression test was all cylinders at 10.5 (?) +/- 0.2 or so.


I think that in that case, an appraisal is a great idea. A good appraiser can absolutely give you an idea of where to improve the value. A good appraisal will likely cost a few hundred dollars, but you should expect an in depth assessment of the car, documentation of the inspection, and listings of recent comparable cars which have sold or listed. Just like a math problem in school, a good appraiser will show you the steps they took to establish value. It is always better to have it inspected in person as nobody can really appreciate what any car is without seeing it in person. This will help you identify areas you can improve your car as well as give you a little more power in selling the car if the buyer wants to haggle with you.

We do not have any individuals in Omaha, but we do have the name of a professional appreaiser who travels to Nebraska.

Appraisals by George
303 358-6860

He’s in Colorado. Let me know if this lead turns into a dud and I will dig around some more for you. That end of the Midwest isn’t as saturated with appraisers like we are in the Great Lakes region.

Thank you Greg.

A year or so ago I had the BMW dealer do a thorough inspection of the car. The only thing they found was that there seemed to be a leak of the valve cover gasket, but it had just been replaced and there might have been a bit of whatever they put on the gasket that looked wet. It was not actually wet. The seals (?) on the transmission had also been replaced and they thought there might be a leak there. But we left it on their floor overnight and there were no drips. This was the inspection that BMW does to certify a car for resale.

I will contact George(?) and see what we can work out. And is it better to advertise it or send it to auction?

Thanks for your information.


Best answer is “it depends” with an auction, you need to figure that you have registration fees, seller’s fees after the sale, transportation and travel expenses if you wish to be there when it goes on the block. Unfortunately there is not a nearby auction to you. You may consider Bring a Trailer as an auction possibility since their fees are lower for the seller by a big margin and you don’t have the transportation costs as it is an online auction.

Listing is a good idea. I’d lean towards a paid listing service along the lines of Hemmings. Paid services do tend to weed out the tire kickers to an extent. BMW enthusiasts have a strong forum presence, so a site like Bimmer Forums might be worth considering.

Thank you.

I did communicate with George. We didn’t get very far. I was willing to pay him to come out, but then didn’t get much more info from him. I figured it would cost $1000 and I was alright with that, but he didn’t get back. I called him today and he sounds old and tired, like me.

The one thing I think the car could use is the rims to be repaired - I scraped them on curbs. I did not see anyone that repairs them, but I know they used to and George said they can be repaired. Other than I might look of a trip computer. Mine was damaged when someone detailed it with a power buffer: number were worn off. A small item is the cover for the roof antenna is missing.

I will check with a couple of friends that are into cars. They might know someone that can fix these few items. And I will check into Bring a trailer and Hemmings.

I am looking for an appraiser near Charlotte NC for a 1963 Mercedes, can you provide any suggestions? Thanks

I can look for someone in our system and I’ll send you a private message with some suggestions.