The 20 Most Expensive Cars Sold at Auction

1953 Ferrari Berlinetta Competizion

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the auction, where money still can’t buy you happiness, but will buy you some of the rarest – read: most expensive – automobiles in the world. When the hammer strikes at big time auction houses like Barrett-Jackson stateside and RM Auctions around the globe, the world takes notice as serious collectors shell out millions to take ownership of the rarest of the rare in automotive machinery. Turns out you can put a price tag on history, as evidenced by 20 of the most expensive, and unique, vehicles ever sold at auction.

What does it take to buy one of the 20 most expensive cars ever auctioned? Besides a fat wallet, many events require a registration fee which assures you a seat up front where your raised paddle can be more easily seen. Many auctions do offer general public viewing for kicks, but what’s the fun in that? Auctions are held in designated cities around the world (typically four a year), the locales of which can be found on each entity’s respective websites, as can all registration information. And while independent transactions – like the sale of a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO in 2013 for a whopping $52,000,000 – continue to raise the stakes, there’s no better place for fast-paced action than the auction.

On to the list. Keep your checkbook close just in case you’re feeling spontaneous.

(Note: Cars shown in images are not necessarily the exact model sold at auction.)

1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

Sold: May 2010, Gooding & Company
Price: $30,000,000 – 40,000,000

Rather than being auctioned, this car was actually sold privately by Gooding & Company to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA – but we still think it deserves the top spot. In a list full of track-centric speedsters, the Bugatti 57SC stands out as a throwback to pre-World War 2 European automotive elegance. Hailed by many as movable art, the 57SC actually was a force to be reckoned with in its infancy; paired with a supercharged engine, it was capable of achieving north of 120 MPH – impressive by 1930’s standards.

Photo by Thesupermat

1954 Mercedes Benz W196

Sold: July 12, 2013, Bonhams, West Sussex, UK
Price: $29,600,000

A palpable buzz surrounded this automotive Holy Grail even before it was sold for record money in 2013 at Bonham’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. The Grand Prix Benz, driven by five-time world champion and racing ‘Maestro’ Juan Manuel Fangio, brought historic new technology and pure dominance to Formula 1, winning 8 out of 16 races and two championships between 1954 and 1955. It’s a minor miracle that the W196 made it out of Mercedes’ clutches and into public domain, given its significance to both the brand and automotive history as a whole.

Photo by Edvvc

1967 Ferrari 275G TB

Sold: August 17, 2013, RM Auctions, Monterey, CA
Price: $27,500,000

Most of us would be happy with a run-of-the-mill, six-figure Italian supercar fresh out of the box, but most of us don’t have $28 million in disposable income. Actually, Ferrari’s 275G TB could be considered a good investment since only ten were made. The one that sold at RM Auctions in 2013 had screen legend Steve McQueen’s fingerprints on it; the actor reportedly bought it in ’67 while filming “The Thomas Crown Affair”. This one probably won’t be used in any car chase scenes.

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

Sold: August 21, 2011, Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, CA
Price: $16,390,000

There’s just something about the number 250 – maybe the attachment to Ferrari has something to do with it. Another make with established racing ties but known more for its historical significance, Ferrari’s ’57 Testa Rossa acted as the prototype for the brand’s esteemed series. Of 22 made, the one taken for $16 million was sold in 2011 to someone with plenty of loose change lying around.

Photo by Thesupermat

1964 Ferrari 250 LM

Sold: November 21, 2013, RM Auctions Original
Price: $14,300,000

The car that has been called “an Italian operatic masterpiece of sound and color” is good enough for the fifth spot on the list. Blessed with generous good looks, the 1964 Ferrari 250 LM also receives points for its at-the-time innovative mid-engine layout and for being the last Ferrari to take victory at the 24 hour Le Mans Iron Man race. It rides low, looks sleek, and has historical significance on its side – what more could you want? Maybe 14 or so extra millions to make it yours…

Photo by ignis

1953 Ferrari 340/375 MM Berlinetta ‘Competizione’

Sold: May 25, 2013, RM Auctions, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy 
Original Price: $12,812,800

Another Ferrari with strong racing ties (get used to it), the number 14 Ferrari had three different World Sports Car Champions at its helm. With a V12 engine boasting 340 bhp (brake horsepower) roaring beneath its classically defined lines, the 340/375 would be the centerpiece of any collector’s garage – although its natural habitat will always be the track.

Photo by Thesupermat

1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa

Sold: May 17, 2009, RM Auctions, Maranello, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Price: $12,402,500

Another ’57 250 Testa Rossa, this one snapped up by an anonymous buyer – over the phone.

Photo by Lebubu93

1936 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster

Sold: August 19, 2012, Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, CA
Price: $11,770,000

Breaking a string of Ferraris, the “Special Roadster” is aptly named; one look and you’ll know why. This 540K Benz was built on special order prior to World War 2 for the aristocratic Von Krieger family. It’s finished in black with pigskin upholstery and a way-ahead-of-its-time radio. No mention of a monocle holder, however.

1960 Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Competizione Spyder

Sold: August 19, 2012, Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, CA
Price: $11,275,000

It may sound like a mouthful, but it doesn’t take a lot to figure out why this 1960 California Spyder is in such high demand within the collector world. With looks good enough for Connery’s Bond (shame he was such an ardent Aston guy) and enough power to get into and out of trouble, this Ferrari is bound to keep appreciating as time ticks by.

1968 Ford GT40

Sold: August 17, 2012, RM Auctions, Monterrey, CA
Price: $11,000,000

The first American cracks the top 10 and it’s well deserved. Decked out in powder blue, this Ford GT40 also has ties to the legend that is Steve McQueen. It starred in his movie Le Mans, in which the entire roof was shaved off for proper breathing room. At the time of sale, the GT40 set an all-time price record for American made autos.

Photo by David Merrett

1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

Sold: May 18, 2008, RM Auctions, Maranello, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Price: $10,894,900

Surprise, surprise, another Ferrari has made itself at home on the list. Light, sporty, and fast, you may know the Cal Spyder model for its (spoiler) tragic role in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This isn’t the one featured in the film, but it can still be used as a source for automotive movie trivia: it was owned once by the late, great James Coburn.

Photo by

1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe

Sold: August 21, 2011, Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, CA
Price: $10,340,000

“The world’s finest motor car” has certainly lived up to its reputation. Boldly defying Depression Era conditions, the Duesenberg cost $17,000 back in 1931, which was 50 times what the standard Model A Ford went for. One of six Duesenbergs owned by Gold Rush heir George Whittell Jr., the Model J still has just 12,500 miles on its odometer.

1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe

Sold: November 17, 1987, Christie’s, London, UK
Price: $9,800,000 (Adjusted price $20,343,468)

One of six built, the 15 foot Royale was originally built to be shipped to, well, royalty. 25 of these beautiful beasts were originally slated for production until the Depression put the clamps on even the wealthiest of the wealthy. This particular model was a part of Ettore Bugatti’s personal collection.

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster

Sold: August 20, 2011, RM Auctions, Monterrey, CA
Price: $9,680,000

German engineering has deep roots, as evidenced by the 540K, a living monument to the brand’s ever-evolving automotive expertise. If you want to take it for a spin, you’ll be allowed just one passenger to take along – but there’s the matter of actually getting your hands on it first. Don’t worry, though; prior to its sale in 2011, it was thoroughly inspected by two veteran Benz experts from Stuttgart – it passed.

Photo by Edvvc

1957 Ferrari 250 GT

Sold: January 17, 2014, Gooding & Company, Scottsdale,
AZ Price: $9,460,000

It’s about time another Ferrari graced us with its presence. This 250 GT with chassis 0703 GT was the second to last to be produced in the model series. Immaculately dressed in Italian racing red, the car helped lead Ferrari to three consecutive GT World Championships back in its heyday – which I’m told is impressive. Even more impressive is its $9.4 plus million dollar price tag currently.

Photo by granada_turnier

1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM Testa Rossa Spyder

Sold: May 20, 2007, RM Auctions, Maranello, Emilia-Romagna,Italy
Price: $9,281,250

The only 4-liter Testa Rossa ever built, this is also the last front engine-mounted racer built by Ferrari. That means something, not only in terms of historical significance, but also because the manufacturers had plenty of experience in getting this one just right. Fame can be a detriment to some, but not for the incomparable Testa Rossa. That’s why collectors are willing to pay inconceivable amounts to get their hands on it.

1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spyder

Sold: August 16, 2013, RM Auctions, Monterrey, CA
Price: $9,075,000

1953 was a good year, especially if you were behind the wheel of the 375 MM Spyder. Owned by one Charles Weiss for 45 years and the beneficiary of some very high quality restorative procedures, this Ferrari is decked out in innovative performance features that would still give some top cars today a run for their money. Speaking of which, you’ll need several millions to make it yours – that is, if the current owner is willing to part ways with it.

1958 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder

Sold: January 17, 2014, RM Auctions, Scottsdale, AZ
Price: $8,800,000

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but most will agree that the California Spyder represents the pinnacle of Ferrari craftsmanship. The long wheelbase and open top make for an impressive combination of stunning good looks and just plain coolness. While this car seems perfect for open road cruises along jagged coastlines, it still bears racing roots – though you may not want to get too aggressive out there; a smashed side panel would surely cost a few million in depreciation.

Photo by Rex Gray

1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante Coupe

Sold: August 17, 2013, Gooding & Company, Pebble Beach, CA
Price: $8,745,000

What a difference a year makes. Compared to its 1936 cohort, the ’37 57SC seems like a bargain. Each model is unique in and of itself; this one features a supercharged 3.3 liter engine capable of hitting 170 MPH. Distinct, decadent, and built to be showed off, the 57 series has been called the world’s first supercar – and that moniker carries with it a super price tag.

Photo by Rex Gray

1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

Sold: August 18, 2012, RM Auctions, Monterey, CA
Price: $8,580,000

It’s no surprise that another California Spyder rounds out the top 20. This model boasts covered headlights (a feature found on just 37 models) and the same mystique that defines the rest of the squad. Let’s go through the checklist: dashing good looks, tons of racing history powering its pistons, and unmistakable class. Add everything up and you’ve got a car worth millions of dollars.

Honorable Mention-1929 4.5 litre Supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentley Single-Seater

Sold: June 29, 2012
Price: $8,471,288

We felt we needed to mention one of the more unique and important automobiles still in existence. The year of the Stock Market Crash also birthed Bentley’s new 4.5 litre racer that doubled as a touring model. The track version boasted 130 horsepower (compared to touring model’s 110 HP) that was driven by an unquestionably modern supercharged engine. While it won’t set any speed records today, there’s no questioning the Blower Bentley’s place in automotive history.

Photo by Craig Howell

3 thoughts

  1. Good article, however you left out the 1967 Ferarri 275 GTB/4*S NART Spyder that sold at auction in August of 2013. It sold for 27.5 mil (including fees) and ALL proceeds went to charity. It was a very well documented sale.

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