Most expensive cars ever sold at auction

22 Aug, 2016 12:17pm Jake Groves

What is the world’s most expensive car ever sold at auction? Find out as we list the most valuable cars ever to go under the hammer

The classic car market is showing no signs of slowing down. The world's super-rich are only getting richer and classic cars seem to be one of the safest places to invest large sums of cash. That means demand for the rarest cars money can buy has boomed in recent years, as our list of the most expensive cars in the world shows.

Below you'll find 10 most expensive cars ever sold at auction, the models that oligarchs, CEOs and billionaires choose as means to squirrel away their cash. The records for the most expensive cars in the world have been beaten with growing regularity of late and a few prestigious auction events seem to dominate the global market. The Bonhams sales at The Quail and at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Goodings & Company Pebble Beach auction and the RM Sotheby's Auctions at Monterey and Maranello account for the lion's share of the mega-money car sales we see each year.

World's fastest road cars

Predictably, Ferrari dominates the list you see here, as it takes seven of the places in the top 10 most expensive cars in the world. At one point, this list consisted of nine Ferrari models but there'sd currently representation from Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar too. Tellingly, ever car on the most expensive cars in the world list has been sold since 2013, a good indicator of which way the classic car market is headed.  

From the outside looking in, the sums involved seem unbelievable and the theatre in the salerooms as these multi-million Dollar deals are done is incredible. The idea of a scratch of your nose at an inopportune moment landing you a £10million 1950s Ferrari is enough to have anyone sitting on their hands.

The most expensive cars in the world

So here we go, below are the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction. We’re restricting this most expensive car list to auction sales as these can be easily verified.

Cars are regularly rumoured to have changed hands for even larger amounts in private sales. A Ferrari 250 GTO is believed to have been sold for £32million in 2013 but that was a private deal between two collectors so it doesn’t make our list of auction records.

It’s a similar story with the 1936 Bugatti Type-57 SC Atlantic that was reportedly sold to the Mullin Automotive Museum in California for between $30million and $40million in 2010. 

The models below are listed in reverse order and we've given the prices in US dollars as that's the currency in which the vast majority of them were bought... 

Top 10 most expensive cars sold at auction

10. 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione

Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2014
Price: $18,400,177 

The Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione was built purely for use by the Ferrari works racing team with a 4.9-litre V12 mounted in the front. It finished second at the Mille Miglia in 1954 with Umberto Maglioli at the wheel. The car topped £11million at the Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in 2014.

9. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider

Auction: Arcturial, Paris, 2015
Price: $18,500,000 

A true barn find, this Ferrari 250 was intended for an eventual museum exhibit by owner Robert Baillon, but it whiled away the years in a collection with around 100 other cars. When 59 of them eventually went to auction, this Ferrari blew away the competition, and its $18.5 million pricetag went a long way towards the $28m total generated by the auction. 

8. 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring

Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, Monterey Sale, 2016
Price: $19,800,000

This gorgeous Alfa Romeo two-seater changed hands at the 2016 RM Sotheby's Monterey auction. The Lungo Spider is arguably the Italian definition of a grand tourer – big, comfortable and surprisingly practical. Complete with a 2.9-litre straight-eight engine with dual supercharging, this particular 8C is one of only 12 Touring Spiders ever to have existed. The car's chassis has also been comprehensively researched by Simon Moore in a book: "The Immortal 2.9". Moore contacted all of the owners of the surviving cars to compile his findings.

7. 1955 Jaguar D-Type

Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, Monterey Sale, 2016
Price: $21,780,000

This gleaming Jaguar D-Type muscled its way into the top 10 after the 2016 auction at Monterey in 2016, after selling for more than $21m. It was the first production D-Type, with chassis number XKD 50 and ended up winning the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s finished in Scottish blue, with white stripes and roundels, as part of the Ecurie Ecosse team colours.

6. 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti

Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, Monterey Sale, 2014
Price: $26,400,000

This £15.7m Ferrari is even rarer than the fabled 250 GTO. It's one of only three Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale models that were built by the Maranello marque in late 1964 and early 1965 to homologate its new 275 GTB race car. The Ferrari 275 GTB was designed and built to challenge the Ford GT40 and Shelby Cobra Daytona at Le Mans in 1965. It was the first Ferrari to feature independent rear suspension and represented the evolution of the successful 250 series cars, including the iconic 250 GTO.

With aluminium bodywork, a lighter chassis and a tuned V12 engine (with an extra 70bhp) mounted lower in the car to bring the centre of gravity closer to the track, the 275 GTB/C Speciale was significantly lighter and faster than a standard 275 GTB road car. This particular 275 GTB/C Speciale never saw competitive action on the track but one of the other cars took third place overall at Le Mans in 1965. 

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

Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, Monterey Sale, 2013
Price: $27,500,000

The fully-restored Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider was one of only 10 in the world when it sold for £16million in 2013 and had a detailed history including an appearance with Steve McQueen in the film The Thomas Crown Affair.

The NART spiders were the brainchild of car importer Luigi Chinetti who recognised the desire for open-topped sports cars in the American market. He requested a series of convertible 275 GTBs from Enzo Ferrari that carried the familiar NART (North American Racing Team) badge on the rear. 

4. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM

Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, New York City, 2015
Price: $28,050,000 

The ex-works Ferrari 290 MM sold in New York City, setting records for the most expensive car sold in 2015, the most expensive car sold in New York City, and the most expensive car RM Sotheby's has ever sold. It was built for Juan Manuel Fangio to race in the 1956 Mille Miglia, and went on to a distinguished career afterwards.

It's one of only four of its kind in existence, and is attached to names like Alfonso de Portago and Wolfgang von Trips, who raced it through the cars lifetime.

3. 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196

Auction: Bonhams, Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2013
Price: $29,600,000

This Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix car was driven by 5-time Formula One world champion Juan Manuel Fangio and that helped it to a £17.7million sale price at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013. The car was sold in ‘authentic’ condition with visible blemishes and a thin layer of grime as if it had just rolled off the track. You pay all that money and they don’t even run it through a car wash for you!     

2. 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti

Auction: Artcurial, Paris, 2016
Price: $35,700,000 

The impossibly curvy Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti pictured here has a racing history as long as your arm - and that's responsible for its place on this list. From a first race in the Sebring 12 Hours, through the Mille Miglia and eventually Le Mans, the car has done it all. Due to Euro/Dollar exchange rates its position on this list is somewhat contended - but it's a worthy contender nonetheless. 

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

Auction: Bonhams, The Quail, 2014
Price: $38,115,000

This 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta is the most expensive car ever sold at auction, for now. It was built to contest the 1963 FIA World GT Championships and the 250 GTOs won that year as well as in the following 1963 event.

Only 39 250 GTOs were built by Ferrari and this particular 62-63 example is one of the best maintained and most raced of them all.

More of the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction…

11. Ferrari 250 LM – 2015, $17,600,000
12. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider – 2015, $16,830,000
13. Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale - 2015, $16,500,000
14. Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa - 2011, $16,390,000
15. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - 2014, $15,180,000
16. Ferrari 250 LM - 2013, $14,300,000
17. Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato - 2015, $14,300,000

Which of these cars whould you bid on if you had a few million quid kicking about? let us know in the comments section below. Then check out our story on the world's fastest cars.

For more breaking car news and reviews, subscribe to Auto Express - available as a weekly magazine and on your iPad. We'll give you 6 issues for £1 and a free gift!