Currently reading: The most expensive cars ever sold
Classic cars can sell at auction for more than £25 million these days – and here are the priciest cars ever sold

Think of the world’s most expensive cars and your mind might immediately go to modern, high-performance models like the Ferarri Enzo, Bugatti Veyron or the Pagani Zonda

However, despite attracting multimillion-pound prices, these cars barely command a fraction of the sums achieved by more classic and exclusive models. 

For example, the $4.8 million (£3.8m) required for a one-of-29 Koenigsegg CCXR Trevita wouldn’t even get you into to the top 100 most expensive cars ever sold. 

If you think a lottery win will help, you may still need to recalibrate, because the top classics now change hands for the sort of amounts usually reserved for old masters.

So here are the most expensive cars on the planet based on the price paid when the cars changed hands. We’ve quoted the prices in dollars because most of the cars featured were sold in the US, but the converted figures in pounds sterling are correct at the time of writing and are equally eye-watering.

Now, take a deep breath and hang on to your wallet.

1. The world's most expensive car: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé 

1955 Mercedes benz 300 sl studio front three quarters

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé is the most expensive car ever sold, having gone under the hammer for a staggering $135m in 2022 - the equivalent of £114.4m. 

Previously owned by Mercedes-Benz, the car was sold by RM Sotheby’s at the Mercedes-Benz Museum to an anonymous buyer. The winning bid was placed on the mystery buyer’s behalf by Simon Kidston, head of historic car specialist Kidston SA.

The £114.4m hammer price is the current world record price for any car, more than doubling the previous record, which at the time was held by the Ferrari 250 GTO in third place on this list. It was so expensive that the SLR’s opening bidding price was higher than the final price of the 250 GTO.

Just two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupés were made by Mercedes-Benz and they take their name from the firm’s chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. 

The car was designed as a road-going version of the W196 R grand prix car, with an enlarged 3.0-litre straight-eight engine allowing it to hit speeds of up to 180mph.

The car sold was chassis 00008/55 - the second of the two cars built and the one that Uhlenhaut himself used frequently. The sale makes the 300 SLR one of the top 10 most expensive items ever sold at auction. 

All proceeds from the sale, Mercedes says, will be used to establish a worldwide 'Mercedes-Benz Fund'. RM Sotheby’s added that the fund will aim to “provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonisation for young people.”


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Source: RM Sotheby's

2. Ferrari 250 GTO - $70,000,000 (£52,300,000)


The most expensive Ferrari ever sold is this Ferrari 250 GTO, which fetched an eye-watering £52m in a private sale by German racing driver Christian Glaesel to US car parts mogul David MacNeil. 

The car has an illustrious motorsport history, winning the 1964 Tour de France and finishing fourth in the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours, among various other appearances. It's also never been crashed, which experts say is the key to its immense value. 

Source: CNN

3. Ferrari 250 GTO Tipo $51,705,000 (£41,455,000)

You’re looking at the most expensive Ferrari ever sold at auction - and it’s another 250 GTO. It went under the hammer at an RM Sotheby’s auction in New York, though the auction house declined to reveal who paid the sky-high sum.

It’s a special Ferrari, this. Built in 1962, this GTO Tipo is one-of-one and is the only works model to be driven by a 4.0-litre engine from new, and one of just 34 GTOs built with Tipo 1962 coachwork.

It also bears an illustrious motorsport history. It’s the only GTO Tipo 1962 ever raced by Scuderia Ferrari and featured in the 1962 Le Mans 24 Hours and the Sicilian Hillclimb Championship. Previous owners include a chairman of the Ferrari Club of America.

Despite being an auction record, the 250 GTO Tipo still fell short of RM Sotheby’s initial bid estimates of $60,000,000, according to the New York Times. Still, the seller looks to have made an unbelievable profit, having originally bought the car for $500,000 in 1985 - the equivalent of $1.4m today.

Source: RM Sotheby's

4. Ferrari 250 GTO - $38,115,000 (£30,750,300)

76893fer 1962 63 ferrari 250 gto berlinetta

It will come as little surprise to many that three of the four most expensive cars sold at auction to date are Ferrari 250 GTOs, although this example is merely fourth in the overall rankings. No other car in the world has earned such a reputation and mystique, much of that built on previous record-smashing auction results. More importantly, the car itself is one of the finest of its era, thanks to its powerful 3.0-litre V12, superbly balanced chassis and immaculate race pedigree. Only 39 were made and this one was raced by Jo Schlesser.

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Source: Bonhams

5. Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti - $35,700,000 (£28,801,940)


This 1957 Ferrari was another record breaker when it sold at the start of 2016 to become the most expensive racing car ever sold at auction. Previously owned for 40 years by a private collector, it caused huge interest, because it had been raced by Peter Collins and Maurice Trintignant in the 1957 Sebring 12 Hours. After that, it competed in the Mille Miglia with Wolfgang von Trips at the wheel. Provenance like that in this market leads to such a high price being paid.

Source: Artcurial

6. Mercedes-Benz W196 - $29,600,000 (£23,880,600)


This amazing Mercedes grand prix car is the second appearance from the three-pointed star in our list, and what a car it is. Raced by Juan Manuel Fangio, it won the German and Swiss Grands Prix in 1954. It was the most expensive car ever sold at auction at the time of the sale in 2013.

Source: Bonhams

7. Ferrari 290 MM - $28,050,000 (£22,630,100)

Ferrari 290 mm56

More Ferrari racing history makes it into the upper end of our list. This one was built for the 1956 Mille Miglia and was also driven by the great Juan Manuel Fangio - his name always adds considerable prestige and value to any car he competed in. Only four 290s were made, and this one enjoyed further racing success after the Mille Miglia, too.

Source: RM Sotheby's

7. Ferrari 275 GTB/4 S NART Spider - $27,500,000 (£22,186,365)

Ferrari 275 gtb 4 s nart spider

The North American Racing Team (NART) campaigned Ferrari cars in the US to raise awareness of the brand during the 1950s and 1960s. However, it also ordered special road cars from the factory, and this Spider is one of only 10 that were made. Adding to its appeal, it was also owned for while by actor Steve McQueen, who used it in the film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’.

Source: RM Sotheby's

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9. Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale - $26,400,000 (£21,298,910)

Ferrari 275 gbtc speciale

Any Ferrari 275 is a wonderful car and one that commands a high price nowadays, but this GTB/C Speciale was made to race. It has an aluminium body for lighter weight and its 3.0-litre V12 engine was tuned from the factory to give an extra 70bhp. Unusually, this example was never raced when new and that curiosity value helped push up its auction price, which was paid in 2014.

Source: RM Sotheby's

10. Aston Martin DBR 1 - $22,555,000 (£17,716,275)

Aston martin dbr 1 front three quarter

This is arguably the most important model in Aston Martin's illustrious history. It is the first of just five that were made, won the gruelling 1959 Nürbrugring 1000km and was raced by Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Carroll Shelby. No surprise, then, that this World Sportscar Championship racer is the most expensive British-built car ever to be sold, with bidders pushing the price to $22,555,000 (£17,716,275) when it was sold in Monterey.

Source: RM Sotheby's

11. Ferrari 410 Sport - $22,005,000 (£17,285,587)

Ferrari 410 sport

Produced by Ferrari between 1955 and 1956, the 410 S was intended to be an endurance racer for the 1955 Carrera Panamericana and an evolution of the 375 Plus that preceded it. In standard form, it was powered a 5.0-litre single-plug V12 that produced 330bhp before being upgraded to twin plugs per cylinder and a 369bhp output. Given its racing heritage and small production run, it became a highly collectable item, with a single-plug car selling for $22,005,000 (£17,285,587) in Monterey.

Source: RM Sotheby's

12. Jaguar D-Type - $21,780,000 (£17,571,600)

Jaguar d type rsf303

The Jaguar D-Type won at Le Mans three times from 1955 to 1957, and this is the car that took the win in 1956 with the Scottish racing team Ecurie Ecosse. It later resided in a private collection, where it was still used for occasional race outings. With a superb motorsport background and limited numbers, it was no wonder that bidders pushed the price so high.

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Source: RM Sotheby's

13. Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider - $19,800,000 (£15,974,180)

Alfa romeo 8c 01

This stunning coachbuilt Alfa Romeo is one of an elite band of cars to interrupt Ferrari’s dominance of our list, and it’s easy to see why. Its body was made by Touring in Italy and it’s based on the legendary 8C 2.9 chassis and engine, which is a supercharged straight eight, to make sure the speed matches the looks. One of only 12 made, it was a dead certainty for auction success.

Source: RM Sotheby's

14. Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $18,500,000 (£14,925,370)

Ferrari 250gtswb california spider

The 250 GT SWB Spider already had mythical status, even among the Ferrari faithful, but this car raised it to a whole new level when it was unearthed from a French warehouse. Robert Baillon bought it with the intention of displaying it in a museum, but it wasn’t until after his death it resurfaced from years of dormancy. Still in working order, it was snapped up in 2015.

Source: Artcurial

15. Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - $18,400,000 (£14,844,695)

375 Plus spider competizione

You’ll notice a lot of these belong to Ferrari’s racing past and this 375-Plus is no exception. Better still, it was made from new to be used by the Scuderia and finished second in the 1954 Mille Miglia. Small wonder, then, that buyers were fighting so hard over it when it sold back in 2014, with bidding maxing out at $18,400,000 (£14,844,695).

Source: Bonhams

16. Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione - $18,150,000 (£14,643,000)

Ferrari 250 gt lwb california spider competizione

As well as rarity, looks and a racing pedigree, a flawless history is essential to the value of classic cars at this level, and that's something abundantly clear with this version of the 250 GT SWB. Only nine Spider Competiziones were made with alloy bodies, and this car has continuous history of ownership from day one. A documented racing background and latterly plenty of awards at concourses make the hefty price tag seem like a shrewd investment.

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Source: Gooding & Company

17. Ferrari 250 LM - $17,600,000 (£14,199,270)


The 250 LM’s name tells you all you need to know about this model: it was built to race at Le Mans. Just as importantly, it started the mid-engined era at Ferrari, which promptly went on to win the 1965 Le Mans race. Fewer than the required 100 were made to qualify as a GT car, so it raced as a prototype. Only 32 were built and that now guarantees rarity and high prices, such as what was paid for this one in 2015.

Source: RM Sotheby's

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robtheme 12 January 2024

More significantly, its powerful 3.0-litre V12, well-balanced chassis, and impeccable racing heritage make it one of the best of its period. 

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