Most expensive cars ever sold at auction

What is the world’s most expensive car ever sold at auction? 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 the 10 most expensive cars ever sold at auction, the models that oligarchs, CEOs and hedge fund 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.

Predictably, Ferrari dominates the list, taking several places on the top 10 most expensive cars countdown. At one point, this list consisted of nine Ferrari models but there's currently representation from Mercedes, Aston Martin, Duesenberg and Jaguar too. Tellingly, every car on the most expensive cars in the world list has been sold since 2013, a good indicator of the escalating sale prices we've witnessed this decade.

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 scratching your nose at an inopportune moment and landing a £10 million 1950s Ferrari by accident 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 was believed to have been sold for £52 million ($70 million) to an American businessman at one stage, but that was a private deal so 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 $30 and $40 million 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. Duesenberg SSJ

  • Auction: Gooding and Co. Pebble Beach, 2018
  • Price: $22,000,000

There were only two Duesenberg SSJs ever built. Thanks to this rarity this particular SSJ, which was once owned by Hollywood star Gary Cooper, became the most expensive American car ever when it was sold for $22 million in July 2018 at Pebble Beach. 

With a 400bhp supercharged inline eight-cylinder engine, the SSJ was one of the most powerful cars of its era. It was also one of the quickest with a top speed of 140mph. With those performance stats, it’s no wonder Duesenberg quickly became the go-to automobile for stars of the silver screen to be seen in.

9. Ferrari 290 MM

  • Auction: RM Sotheby's, Los Angeles, California, 2018
  • Price: $22,005,000

The 290 MM was developed by Ferrari to challenge for the 1956 World Sports Car Championship and the Mille Miglia, which is how the car received its MM moniker.

This particular 290 MM was raced by Scuderia Ferrari in the 1956/57 seasons, with drivers including Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill and Sir Stirling Moss who drove it to victory for a private team.

8. 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 been sold for a mind-blowing $22.5 at Monterey Car Week in 2017, also making it the most expensive British car ever sold. 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. 

7. 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. 

6. 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 £16 million 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. 

5. 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 in existence, and is attached to names like Alfonso de Portago and Wolfgang von Trips, who raced it through the car's lifetime.

4. 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 and that helped it to a £17.7 million 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! 

3. 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 exact position on this list is somewhat contentious - but it's a worthy contender nonetheless. 

2. 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.

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.

1. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

  • Auction: RM Sotheby's, Monterey, 2018
  • Price: $48,405,000

Naturally it's another 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that takes top spot, becoming the most expensive car ever 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 prior to its 2018 sale. It was driven to the auction block by none other than five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell, and bidding was opened by an auctioneer at a staggering $35 million. Three bidders competed for the car over the course of ten minutes, with the eventual sum of $48,405,000 surpassing the previous record total by more than $10 million.

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

  • 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

Now check out our story on the world's fastest cars.

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