Most expensive cars ever sold at auction
What is the most expensive car ever sold at auction? We list the most valuable cars ever to go under the hammer
The classic car market is one of the best places for the world’s rich and famous to invest their large sums of cash, and these rare and highly desirable machines are some of the most sought-after investment pieces in the world. As a result, rare classic cars dominate the top ten most expensive cars ever sold at auction.
Cars built by Ferrari naturally dominate the list, cementing the Italian brand as one of the world’s most desirable and prestigious carmakers. However, the most expensive car ever sold is not a Ferrari, but a Mercedes - one of two in the top ten -.
All of these cars have sold at auction since 2013, showing just how popular the market for these highly desirable and expensive cars has become. The title for the world’s most expensive car changes frequently, and the number one spot is currently occupied by a car sold earlier this year.
With major car auctions taking place annually at events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach auction and the RM Sotheby's Auctions at Monterey and Maranello, it wouldn’t be surprising to see new entries make the list in the near future.
While some cars are rumoured to have sold for even higher prices privately, there’s no way to verify these sales, so rumours and sales outside of official auctions don’t feature in our rundown. For example, A Ferrari 250 GTO was believed to have been sold for £52million ($70million) to an American businessman at one stage, but the sale can’t be confirmed through an auctioneer, so it won’t appear in our list.
The sums involved in these deals are staggering, and while a classic Ferrari may be a wise investment, you’ll undoubtedly get better value for money and more peace of mind being behind the wheel of a supercar or a hypercar, which cost a fraction of the price. With that being said, here are the top ten most expensive cars ever sold at auction.
10. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM
- Auction: RM Sotheby's, Los Angeles, California, 2018
- Price: $22,005,000
Ferrari developed the 290 MM to challenge for the 1956 World Sports Car Championship and the Mille Miglia – the legendary race which gave the car its name.
Scuderia Ferrari raced this particular 290 MM in the 1956/57 seasons, with drivers including Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill and Sir Stirling Moss driving it to victory for a private team.
9. 1956 Aston Martin DBR1
- Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, Monterey Sale, 2017
- Price: $22,550,000
The 1956 Aston Martin DBR1/1 is one of the most recent additions to this list, having sold for a mind-blowing $22.5 at Monterey Car Week in 2017, and is currently the most expensive British car ever sold at auction. It was the first in a run of five DBR1s and enjoyed notable racing success in the 1959 Nürburgring 1000 in the hands of Sir Stirling Moss.
8. 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 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, which included 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.
7. 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*S NART Spider is one of only 10 ever built. It sold for £16million in 2013, aided by a detailed history which included 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.
6. 1956 Ferrari 290 MM
- Auction: RM Sotheby's Auctions, New York City, 2015
- Price: $28,050,000
This 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 had ever sold at the time. 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 and was raced by the likes of Alfonso de Portago and Wolfgang von Trips.
5. 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 five-time Formula One world champion Juan Manuel Fangio, a provenance which 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!
4. 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. The car has competed in everything from the Sebring 12 Hours to the Mille Miglia and even Le Mans. Due to Euro/Dollar exchange rates, its exact position on this list is somewhat contentious - but it's a worthy contender nonetheless.
3. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
- Auction: Bonhams, The Quail, 2014
- Price: $38,115,000
This 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta became the most expensive car ever sold at auction in 2014, a record it held for four years. It was built to contest the 1963 FIA World GT Championships, which it went on to win.
Ferrari built just 39 250 GTOs, and this particular 62-63 example is not only one of the best surviving examples but also has a genuine racing pedigree.
2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
- Auction: RM Sotheby's, Monterey, 2018
- Price: $48,405,000
Another 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO comes in at second place, and this car was sold at auction at RM Sotheby's sale in Monterey in 2018.
This particular 250 GTO - chassis number 3413 GT - was owned for two decades by Ferrari enthusiast and vintage racer Dr Gregory Whitten before its 2018 sale. It was driven to the auction block by five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell – and the auctioneer opened bidding at a staggering $35million. Three bidders competed for the car over the course of ten minutes, with the final sum reaching $48,405,000.
1. 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe
- Auction: RM Sotheby's, Stuttgart, 2022
- Price: $142,000,000 (estimated)
One of two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes, this car was sold at an exclusive, invite-only auction at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, for an incredible £114million.
Incredibly, the starting bid for this German racer was higher than the second-place Ferrari 250 GTO's winning bid. Bought by a private seller, the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who drove the car to European events. It was been owned by Mercedes from new, covering only 3,756 miles in seven decades.
While neither 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was raced, they did feature an upgraded 302bhp 3.0-litre straight-eight taken from the iconic two-time Grand Prix World Championship-winning W196 R, driven by Juan Manuel Fangio.
More of the world’s most expensive cars sold at auction…
- Duesenberg SSJs - 2018, $22,000,000
- Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - 2015, $18,500,000
- Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - 2014, $18,400,177
- Ferrari 250 LM – 2015, $17,600,000
- Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider – 2015, $16,830,000
- Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale - 2015, $16,500,000
- Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa - 2011, $16,390,000
- McLaren F1 - 2017, $15,620,000
- Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - 2014, $15,180,000
- Ferrari 250 LM - 2013, $14,300,000
- Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato - 2015, $14,300,000
Next, check out our story on the world's fastest cars...