The 16 Most Expensive Cars Ever Sold

A red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta A red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, sold for $38,115,000 via Bonhams (August 2014).

In the world of classic cars, all roads lead to… the auction block. Classic cars for sale can fetch vastly different sums given that the market for collector cars varies widely. Even the distinction between racing cars and road cars, for example, can separate purchase prices by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Classic car values depend on a myriad of factors including how rare the car is, originality, the state of its condition, the quality of its restoration, and the caliber of its provenance. The best classic cars sold in the last decade have achieved stratospheric sums at auction, driven by scarcity of examples, condition of the motorcar, and market demand.

So what are the most expensive cars ever sold? Our editors scoured auction results to bring you the sixteen highest prices for collector cars ever achieved, including remarkable barn finds, rare racers, and classic European cars. There are clear trends that emerge on the list: racing cars remain in a class by themselves, demand for 1960s cars is high, collectors love the color red, and Ferraris reign (you’ll find eight iconic examples included on this list). Beyond the clear winners, however, there are some chart-toppers that may surprise you. Below, see the outstanding collector cars that cruised their way to auction legend.

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Price Realized: $48,405,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 25, 2018)

Kicking off the list as the most expensive car ever sold is a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, offered by RM Sotheby’s in August of 2018. Its star racing history certainly helped it achieve celebrity status: the candy apple red motor car was driven by famed Italian racer (and known lover of Ferrari) Edoardo Lualdi-Gabardi in his winning race in the 1962 Italian GT Championship. Additionally, this remarkable example is number three of only 36 GTOs ever built, one of only four upgraded by Scaglietti with Series II GTO/64, and is one of only seven like vehicles to receive more aggressive coachwork. These rare accolades drove bidding to unprecedented levels when the classic Ferrari crossed the auction block during Monterey Car Week, ultimately selling for $48,405,000, including buyer’s premium. In doing so, it surpassed the previous auction record for most expensive car ever sold — by nearly ten million dollars.

2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta

A red 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta
Price Realized: $38,115,000

Auction House: Bonhams (August 14, 2014)

When the hammer fell at Bonhams on August 14, 2014, a 1962 Ferrari GTO Berlinetta had just become the most valuable car in history. In what was described by Bonhams as “a passionate bidding war that at times resembled a tennis match, complete with moments of silence interrupted by cheers,” the extraordinary motor car — which was offered without reserve — had ultimately sold for $38,115,000. Driving its value was its extensive mountain-climb competition history and its reputation as one of the best-known and most often raced Ferrari GTOs. Additionally, the two-seat coupe was the only Ferrari 250 GTO to remain in the same private hands for as long as it did; a colossal 49 years. This fresh-to-market example reigned for four years as the most expensive car ever sold, only to be surpassed by another 1962 Ferrari GTO in 2018 (see number one on this list).

3. 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti 

A red 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti
Price Realized: €32,100,000 (approx. $35,730,510)
Auction House: Artcurial (February 5, 2016)

One of only four Ferrari 335 S Spider Scagliettis ever produced, this 1957 beauty remained in the same private hands for more than 40 years before it reached the auction block at Artcurial in 2016. The remarkable racing car was driven by many reputable drivers over the years, including Peter Collins, Maurice Trintignant, Wolfgang von Trips, Mike Hawthorne, and Luigi Musso. Among its numerous accolades, this motor car achieved a second-place finish in the 1957 Mille Miglia and won the 1958 Cuba Grand Prix. Iron-clad provenance, extensive racing history and historical significance drove the value of this 1950s Ferrari to its lofty sale price of €32,100,000 when the hammer fell, securing its spot as the third most expensive car ever sold.

4. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM

Price Realized: $28,050,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (December 10, 2015)

The Ferrari 290 MM was designed to compete in the World Sportscar Championship, inaugurated in 1953 — just three years before this spectacular example emerged. Driven by five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, the 1956 Ferrari 290 MM achieved 4th overall at the 1956 Mille Miglia. This iconic open-road motorsport endurance race was established in 1927 and endured until 1957, only taking a brief hiatus during the tenure of World War II. With its long racing history and Ferrari Classiche certification, the ‘56 Ferrari cruised its way to auction legend when it sold in December 2015 for $28,050,000. 

5. 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S NART Spider by Scaglietti

Price Realized: $27,500,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 16-17, 2013)

They say true love lasts a lifetime, and such was the case for Eddie Smith — car collector and former mayor of Lexington, North Carolina — whose 1967 Ferrari remained in his collection until he passed away in 2007. Driving its value is its rareness; chassis number 10709 was one of only ten highly desirable N.A.R.T. (North American Racing Team) Spiders ever built. When the ‘67 Ferrari sold in August 2013 at a jaw-dropping sum of $27,500,000, it became the most expensive road car ever sold at auction.

6. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale

Price Realized: $26,400,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 16, 2014)

Coming in as the sixth most expensive car ever sold is a 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale, which was one of only three like models ever built. It’s considered to be rarer than the Ferrari 250 GTO. Although it was designed as a race car, this example was only ever used on the road. It was the first Ferrari road car to feature independent rear suspension. Its uncommon features, coupled with rock-solid provenance traced all the way back to new, this ‘64 beauty raced to a jaw-dropping $26,400,000 when it sold at RM Sotheby’s.

7. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 R F1 Racer
A silver 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 R F1 Racer with the number "twelve" painted on the side of the car

Price Realized: £19,601,500 (approx. $24,277,492)
Auction House: Bonhams (July 12, 2013)

Driving the demand behind Bonhams’ 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 R F1 Racer was its rareness and impeccable history, coupled with the fact that it was the only W196 remaining in private hands when it sold in 2013. Among its key achievements are winning two World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races, and was driven by legendary driver Juan Manuel Fangio to achieve his second Formula 1 championship in 1954. It was later driven by famed drivers Hans Hermann and Karl Kling.

Once retired from racing, this remarkable set of wheels underwent light restoration and was exhibited at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Having been authenticated by Mercedes-Benz Classic prior to its sale, this silver bullet broke a number of records when it was sold for £19,601,500 in July of 2013; surpassing the previous record for a German car sold at auction — by double.

8. 1956 Aston Martin DBR1

A green 1956 Aston Martin DBR1
Price Realized: $22,550,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 18-19, 2017)

Green with envy? As the first of just five DBR1s, it’s fair to call this 1956 classic rare. Over the course of its lifetime on the road, the racing car was driven by some of the greatest names in motor racing, including Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Carroll Shelby. When it sold for a jaw-dropping $22,550,000 in August of 2017, it became the most expensive British car ever sold.

9. 1935 Duesenberg SSJ

1935 Duesenberg SSJ
Price Realized: $22,000,000

Auction House: Gooding & Company (August 25, 2018)

Landing at number nine on this list is a remarkable — and remarkably rare — 1935 Duesenberg SSJ. As one of only two SSJs ever built, the luxury race car remained in unrestored condition, retaining its original chassis engine and bodywork when it went up for auction at Gooding & Company in August of 2018. At one time owned by famed American actor Gary Cooper, the car later remained with the same owner for nearly 70 years. In an article published before the much-anticipated sale, Forbes described the 1930s relic as “arguably the rarest and most significant road car” to appear in Monterey that year.

Founded in 1913, Duesenberg Motors Company specialized in race cars and luxury vehicles. Due to unfortunate timing following the 1929 stock market crash, only to be met later by the onset of World War II, the American car manufacturer ultimately consolidated in 1937. With few surviving Duesenberg examples in the market, the rareness of this 1935 beauty, coupled with its famed provenance, drove bidding to uncharted territory when it crossed the auction block in August 2018, ultimately selling for a resounding $22,000,000. In doing so, it set a number of records — becoming the most valuable pre-war car ever sold, as well as the most expensive American collector car sold at auction. It even surpassed the record previously set by Carroll Shelby’s first Cobra.

10. 1955 Jaguar D-Type

A blue 1955 Jaguar D-Type

Photo: Patrick Ernzen © 2016 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

Price Realized: $21,780,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 19-20, 2016)

Rounding out at the tenth spot on this list is a 1955 Jaguar D-Type. This flashy blue race car was driven by Ecurie Ecosse, a Scottish motor racing team, to win the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. After that, it passed hands only twice, and remained in the same private collection for more than sixteen years. It is thought to be one of the most important and valuable Jaguars in the world. Its impeccable racing history, together with its dynamic provenance, propelled bidding to the soprano tones of $21,780,000 when it crossed the auction block at RM Sotheby’s in 2016.

11. 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype

Price Realized: $21,455,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 24-25, 2018)

Coming in as the eleventh most expensive car ever sold is a 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype, an important part of Aston Martin racing heritage. This prototype was a unique Works Design Project, developed to compete at 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s longest-running endurance racing event for sports cars.

It underwent meticulous restoration in consultation with Ted Cutting, the car’s original designer, and was fitted with its original engine and correct-type five-speed gearbox. When this rare mint green relic of ‘60s race cars crossed the auction block in 2018, it sold for a thunderous $21,455,000 to become the second-highest price ever paid for an Aston Martin.

12. 1994 McLaren F1 ‘LM-Specification’

Price Realized: $19,805,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 15-17, 2019)

With innovative, aerodynamic designs, there are some collector cars that just look fast — the 1994 McLaren F1 that sold at RM Sotheby’s in August 2019 is certainly one such example. Equipped with an unrestricted GTR racing engine and an Extra-High Downforce Kit, it’s safe to say this road car was destined to test the (speed) limits. With low mileage — only 13,352 clocked on the odometer at the time of the sale — and serving as one of 64 like road cars built, its rareness and well-maintained condition surged bidding forward, with the eye-catching McLaren ultimately selling for a bellowing $19,805,000.

13. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider 

Price Realized: $19,800,000
Auction House: RM Sotheby’s (August 19-20, 2016)

Hailing from the collection of Sam and Emily Mann, American car collectors who are deeply respected for their eye for design, engineering and automotive history, the 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B was one of five exceptional cars from the Mann Collection to head to auction in 2016. As one of only twelve remaining Touring Spiders, the pre-war automobile was meticulously maintained, and even underwent an award-winning restoration by U.K. 2.9 expert Tony Merrick. When the highly anticipated 1939 relic crossed the auction block in August of 2016, bidding climbed to an outstanding price, with the Alfa Romeo ultimately selling for $19,800,000 and cementing its position as number thirteen on this list.

14. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta

A crimson 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B Touring Berlinetta
Price Realized: €16,745,600 (approx. $18,660,461)

Auction House: Artcurial (February 8, 2019)

Landing this 1939 Alfa Romeo on our list of the most expensive cars ever sold is its rareness; it’s one of only a handful still available. Fewer than 50 examples were ever made, and only five of the iconic Carrozzeria Touring Berlinettas. Of the four others, one is currently on view at the Museo Alfa Romeo in Italy. The remaining three, all located in North America, have been restored within the last two decades and two of those examples have taken home the coveted “Best of Show” award at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey. This remarkable relic of ‘30s engineering sold for €16,745,600 when it sold in February 2019 at Artcurial, and secured its place as one of the most expensive cars ever sold.

15. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

A black 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
Price Realized: €16,288,000 (approx. $18,500,000)
Auction House: Artcurial (February 6, 2015) 

This remarkable relic was part of the headline-grabbing barn find in France — a total of 59 classic cars that remained entombed for 50 years in an open-air, covered shed in France. With curiosity and great anticipation, the collection sped to the auction block during Retromobile week in Paris in February 2015, of which a stunning 1961 Ferrari 250 SWB California Spider was included.

The classic is one of only 37 California Spider SWBs with covered headlights, and was sold in 2015 in completely original condition. The car, too, came with impeccable provenance; not only had the car remained with the same owner since 1971, but prior to that it had been formerly owned by French actor Alain Delon until 1965. Ultimately, the car hammered at a colossal €16,288,000, far surpassing its presale estimate of €9,500,000 – €12,000,000 and landing it as number fifteen on this list.

16. 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione
Price Realized: $18,150,000

Auction House: Gooding & Company (August 20-21, 2016)

Closing out the list of the sixteen most expensive cars ever sold is, unsurprisingly, another mid-century Ferrari — a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider, to be exact. This shining example of Italian manufacturing finished fifth overall at the 1960 12 Hours of Sebring, and came Ferrari Classiche Certified — an important stamp of approval for classic Ferrari buyers. As one of only nine alloy-bodied LWB California Spiders, its rareness most assuredly contributed to its sale price, which landed at $18,150,000 when the hammer fell at Gooding and Co. in August of 2016.

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Sources: CNBC | Motor 1 | Motoring Research | WCTI 12 | Hemmings | Autoblog | Sports Car Digest | AutoWeek