Paperwork. Documentation. It’s one of the first things we ask about when considering a vehicle for purchase. Now while a lack of documentation will seldom sour a deal, the presence of thorough, well-organized paperwork absolutely can sweeten it. The term “documentation” is of course a fairly encompassing umbrella term, but we use it in reference to any items, paper or otherwise, that hold on record the date, location, and ideally mileage of a car at a given time. As someone who tends to purchase cars with the intention of reselling them down the line, paperwork can definitely add a certain level of attraction to a car. It goes without saying that it’s nice to see service records that document what has been replaced or repaired on a car, but this really isn’t the primary reason we get so caught up in documentation; the real value in paperwork is the ability to trace back the history of a car as far as possible. Has the car been in snowy, salty states? Were there any periods of extended storage? Is the mileage indicated on the odometer actually correct? Well-kept documentation addresses these would-be-buyer concerns, which then inspires confidence in the car and in turn, adds monetary value.
Fortunately for us owners and enthusiasts, most repair shops make a point to record a basic description of each car they work on. This record will typically include the year/make/model, VIN, color, and mileage. Noting the mileage of a car, though rarely thought of as such, is a very real value-add. Down the road, if someone is reviewing a car’s service history, this mileage log will play a key role in establishing a credible history of the car. Think about it, looking at the market for classic cars, so much of a car’s value is tied up in the level of originality and the mileage from new. Having the ability to reference past receipts in an effort to verify a car’s mileage, location, and original condition is a tremendous help in the selling process. It’s no revelation that a car having one owner from new adds quite a bit of value, and the closest, most accurate alternative to the story coming straight from the original owner themselves is a thorough paper trail of where the car has been and when. This is exactly why CarFax and Autocheck, though not relevant with pre-1981 vehicles, have been so successful since their inception; the more you’re able to piece together about the history of a car, the better you’ll feel about it. This paper-trail-based confidence in a particular car will actually translate to dollars when the car is put up for sale.
Lastly, it’s a pretty safe bet that if an owner had the presence of mind to hold onto all of their service receipts, manuals, etc over the years, they were fairly diligent about maintaining their car. Another confidence-booster. So in scouring the internet for your next toy and doing the homework that comes with it, don’t forget about the unforeseen value-adds. Be sure to probe, “what’s the extent of documentation you have on the car?” When the time eventually comes for you to sell the car, you’ll be glad you asked.
Written by: Jake DePierro