In the past decades, car aficionados, auto enthusiasts and collectors have been traveling around the globe to auto auctions to get their hands on antique roadsters and similar cars that are worth $6 mill and going up to $40 mill. We're not talking about a brand new Mercedes SUV that costs around $60K. We're talking about a vintage 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport that, for example, sold at auction for $35,711,359. We're talking about the most expensive cars ever sold at auction in the last decade. They don't need to be new. In fact, they shouldn't be. A 1904 Rolls-Royce 10hp, for example, was sold in 2007 at $7.25 million and it looks like a carriage without its horses.
So why are all the cars on our list uber-expensive? The most significant reason is that the car should be rare. Whether only 20 were produced or 15, these are limited editions that fetch high prices precisely because of that rarity. Race history is also significant, especially when attached to a household name. Juan Manual Fangio is forever attached to a Mercedes single seater designed for racing and was sold at auction for nearly $30 million. And the 1962 Ferrari 330, which sold at auction for $9.3 million, won the 1962 Le Mans race thanks to its drivers, Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien.
So if you want to be astonished by the prices of cars here or are ready to go to Christie's with a lot of cash in your briefcase, here are the 20 most expensive cars sold at auction in the last decade.
20 1962/3 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta - $38,115,000
The Ferrari 250 was put up for auction at the Bonhams 2014 Monterey Quail Lodge sale on August 14 in Carmel, California. It became the most expensive car ever sold at public auction when it was acquired for $38,115,000. The Ferrari is so rare that it's rumored that only around 28 exist, but these come up through closed auctions. The jet-setting sports vehicle was the only one to have recently been up for purchase in a public sale. When Bonhams decided to sell the 250 GT, at the auction, they knew it would sell in the high millions because of its rarity. They were so confident that the 25 GTO was offered without any reserve. It worked.
19 1957 Ferrari 335 Sport - $35,711,359
At the Artcurial Paris Retromobile auction in 2016, the 1957 Ferrari 335 was expected to sell through the roof, and break a record in terms of price that would knock down the Ferrari 250 GTO, the most expensive car ever sold at auction. As it happened, the car sold for $35,711, 359, thus coming in slightly below the Ferrari 250. The cost may be justified. One of the reasons you buy a sports car at such a high price is due in part to its rarity, but more so because of who has raced it. This 335 has the pedigree, as it had an extensive racing history, like celebrity race drivers.
18 1954 Mercedes Benz W196R Formula 1 - $29,650,095
At the 2013 UK Speed Sale in Chichester, the MB W196R sold for $29,650,095. The single-seater designed for racing, was famously raced by Juan Manual Fangio, who rode the sports car to victory in the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix. It was also the first open-wheel MB to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race. Only 14 W196Rs were produced, and to this date, only 10 exist today. The car is expensive because it's highly valuable, as it is forever tied to Fangio driving it. So, yes, if someone famous drove a race car like this, who knows when the price will stop before it becomes simply unattainable.
17 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider - $27,500,000
In 2014, a Ferrari broke records by becoming the most expensive road-going car ever sold at auction when it was bought for $27,500,000 at the RM Auctions sale in Monterey on August 18, 2013. At the time, it was the second highest price ever paid for a car at auction. However, when the 1962 Ferrari 250 GT sold at $38 million in the same year, and so it replaced the Ferrari 275 as the most expensive car ever sold at auction. Only 10 275/GTB with coachwork by Scaglietti were ever built.
16 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 - $22,550,000
The DBR1 sold for $22,550,000 at RM Sotheby's Monterey auction in 2017, making it the most expensive car sold at public auction in 2017 thus far and the most expensive British car ever sold at auction. It's also the seventh-most expensive auction car ever, and the first time ever a DRB1 has been auctioned publicly. Those who raced in the DBR1 include Carroll Shelby, Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, and Jack Brabham. When the car was retired from racing, it was sold to Aston Martin Owner's Club President John Dawnay in the 1960s. The car is currently fitted with a reproduction engine, but includes the original block.
15 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione - $18,400, 177
The 1954 Ferrari 375-Plus Spider Competizione sold at Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction on June 27, 2014, for $18,400,177. It was offered at no reserve and bidding was fierce. Ferrari built only five 275-Plus Spiders in order to use at the 1954 World Sports Car Championship. This is why the car is so valuable and rare. The race car was shiny and new, as it received a complete restoration before it went up for sale. Ferrari recreated the alloy body and original body panels--still showing the car’s 1957 Cuban Grand Prix livery, as well as an assortment of spares and even a period-correct replacement 4.9-liter V-12 engine.
14 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta - $10 million
At the 2014 Ferrari factory in Italy during a celebration of the company's 70th anniversary, a LaFerrari Aperta sold for $10 million, twice the amount expected by auctioneers. The winning bidder, who wished not to be identified, never saw the actual car at the auction. Instead, the new owner saw a digital mockup of the finished car before making the purchase. That's because the car had not yet been assembled. But the buyer had good intentions and all of the $10 million would be donated to Save the Children, an international youth education charity. Wow. Buying a car without seeing it in person!
13 The 1954 Jaguar D-Type - $9.8 million
The D-Type sold at $9.8 million by RM Sotheby's. Its historical significance as a race car is what makes this Jaguar a rare collectible. Famed racing driver Stirling Moss raced this supercar, and so did Britain's Peter Walker, Bob Berry, and Peter Blond. RM Sotheby’s Jake Auerbach said, “There were only six . . . built, and this one is known as the most raced and most developed of them all. . . [I]n terms of who drove this car and its relevance to Jaguar’s history, this car can’t be beat. Besides, it will also get you guaranteed invitations to all the big [historic racing] events.”
12 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM - $9.3 million
This is perhaps the rarest car on our list. Only 1 1962 Ferrari 330 TRI/LM was produced, and it was sold at Sotheby's auction for $9.3 million. This sports car is high in price because once again, like other comparable motorsports, it has a history in racing. The 330 won the 1962 Le Mans race thanks to its drivers, Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien. The day-long race was one of the most difficult in terms of motorsports. The car features a 4-liter V-12 with nearly 400 horsepower and the "LM" in the Ferrari's name stands for Le Mans.
11 1929 Mercedes-Benz 38/250 SSK - $7.4 million
Built in the 1930s, the MB was sold at auction for $7.4 million in 2004. It's famous for being a racecar, and the "SSK" stands for "Super Sport Short" in German. This is based on the fact that it had a shorter wheelbase than previous versions. This SSK is absurdly expensive because it was the most-used race car of its era, the Roaring Twenties. Rudolph Caracciola, one of the most important race car drivers of his time, also used the SSK. The SSK, designed for Mercedes-Benz by Ferdinand Porsche, is the last car designed for MB by Porsche before he left to found his own car company.
10 1965 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe - $7.25 million
The Coupe was sold at auction at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Monterey in 2009 for $7.25 million. At the time, it became the most expensive American car ever sold at auction. Dana Mecum, president of Mecum Auctions, said: “Many vintage racers have a strong American racing history. . . but no car can claim a finer race hour than the Shelby. . . The legacy of its World Manufacturer’s Championship win stays with us more than . . . decades later, reminding us of one the proudest moments in U.S. race history and a competitive spirit of victory against all odds.”
9 1904 Rolls-Royce 10hp Two-Seater -- $7.25 million
At the Bonhams auction in London on 2007, the rare 1904 Rolls-Royce 10hp was sold for $7.25 million. This car set a precedent; it's not only the oldest surviving Rolls-Royce in the world, but also the most expensive car ever bought at auction at the time. It is also the fourth Rolls-Royce model ever built, and the oldest RR on the market. Like a carriage--without the horses--it has a two-cylinder engine that packs the power of 10 horses under the hood. A nod to perfect craftsmanship that has been restored since its debut, the 10hp is also a mark of artistic beauty.
8 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa - $16,399,000
At the Gooding & Company car auction in 2011 that's located in Pebble Beach, California, the 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sold for a cool $16 mill. While it is not the most expensive car ever sold at auction, it broke records at Gooding & Company by being one of the most expensive cars ever to be sold at this auction house. The car’s engine is rated at 300 BHP when at 7,200 RPM. It's a stunner, and like all Ferraris made in the past decades, is a true valuable collectible that you probably won't drive because it's so expensive.
7 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider - $15,180,000
On August 16, 2014, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider sold for $15,180,000 at the Gooding & Company. This version is special because it is one of the few California Spiders made in the same year that has the rare hardtop. It is also highly valuable because the gorgeous body was refined by Sergio Scaglietti. The quick responsive handling of its SWB chassis, its twelve cylinders, and its high performance make this a true Ferrari. The 1961 version has it all, as once again it has historical significance, passed down through generations of 250 GT car buyers.
6 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special - $11,770,000
On August 19, 2012 by Gooding & Company in Pebble Beach sold the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster for $11,770,000. This is not the first time the car has gone up for auction. But it is the first car to increase in value at every auction. The very rare super vehicle--just 25 were made--was first auctioned during Monterey Car Week in 2011 by RM for $4,620,000. It then went back on RM's auction block at Monterey in 2013, appreciating 62 percent in two years to sell for $7,480,000. Now at nearly $12 mill, it's one of Mercedes Benz's most prized possession.
5 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racing Car -$11,000,000
So, as we said, if the car is attached to some famous figure or it has a history of wins on the racing circuit, it's guaranteed to be sold at a very expensive price at auction. That's the case for the GT40, which sold for $11 million. It too set an all-time record, as it became one of the most expensive American cars to be sold at auction. That's because the car is famous for its four straight victories at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race. Then there's Steve McQueen, who leased the car for his legendary film Le Mans so it could be used as a camera car.
4 1931 Duesenberg Model J Long-Wheelbase Coupe - $10.34 million
In 1928, the car company's wish to create the world's finest motor car happened, and less than 500 were ever built from 1928 through 1936, which made it exceedingly rare back then. In 1931, the cost of the car was $17,000. This model would fit perfectly in a collector's line up, as it's a beauty to see. A heavy use of chrome and brushed aluminum makes it shiny and matte at the same time. The car has had only five owners, and the overall condition--its beauty, it's historical tradition--has been restored or maintained each time the car traded hands.
3 1931 Bugatti Royale Kellner Coupe - $9,800,000
Christie's London sold a 1931 Bugatti at auction for $9,800,000 on November 1987. While it's been over two decades ago, the car makes our list because of its costly price-tag, and the fact that only six were ever built. That a car is a limited edition automatically means its a prized possession and will sell at a hefty price tag. Ettore Bugatti planned to make 25 of the coupe to sell them to royalty--hence its royal nickname--but no transactions were ever made. This coupe is from Bugatti's personal collection, and it has been preserved to perfection in Bugatti's garage.
2 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante - $7.9 million
At the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2008, the Bugatti Type 57SC sold for $7.9 million at auction. While Bugattis are synonymous with racing, the company made this car exclusively for road use. The 57SC is sought after because only 11 were made, and no two were built exactly alike. That's why this Bugatti is so special, as it also has an upgraded chassis compared to other models of this type for better handling and balance. It's also rare because it has a swooping roof and fenders and riveted body panels. It has been described as the world's first supercar.
1 Enzo Ferrari 2005 - $6,050,000
The Enzo Ferrari has a curious history. The sports car company gave His Holiness Pope John Paul II the Ferrari. At the time it was the last Enzo built. Finished in Scuderia Red, this car is rare because it was a color not seen on Enzos. Auctioned by RM in 2005, it sold for $6,050,000. Pope John Paul II did not accept the Enzo. Instead, he wanted to sell it on his behalf and donate all the money to the victims of a tsunami that had ravaged Southeast Asia. As a result, all sale funds were donated for charity, which pleased the Pope.
(References: Sotheby's, RM, Christie's, Bonhams)