how much is my engine worth?


What is my engine worth?  I wish I had a dime for every time that question gets asked either directly to me or on one of the forums.  Cars have a “blue book” evaluation system for newer models and a widespread and vibrant enthusiast market for older (antique?) models.  Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, etc., all help to define the current value of cars in a dynamic market that swings dramatically with the economic trends and changing of generations from father to son.

Antique small engines do not have anything similar.  The value of your engine is dependent upon where it is and where the buyer is.  Of course the condition of the engine, its completeness and its relative rarity or commonality amongst small engine hobbyists all factor into the value.

“You’re offering only how much?!?!   But my engine is sixty years old!”  Yes, all antique engines are old.  That’s what makes them antiques.  Being sixty or seventy years old doesn’t automatically make then extremely valuable and therefore worth a lot of money.

“These engines were extremely rare and only X amount were manufactured.” Really?  What evidence can you offer to corroborate that?  Also, and to be blunt about it, so what?  A person buys an engine simply because he (or she) likes it.

Cast iron is heavy.  No kidding, you say.  Weight has an impact on the price.  First off, part of the shipping cost is determined by weight and it’s not insignificant.   The other often overlooked, or more often disregarded, aspect is that you shouldn’t expect to throw a chunk of cast iron (with various bits of cast aluminum or pot metal bolted to it) into a cardboard box along with some packing peanuts and expect it to arrive at its destination intact.  It’s almost guaranteed that something will be broken and/or that a piece of the engine will be protruding from the box as it got punctured or torn on its journey.  Proper packaging adds time and cost to the deal.  Of course that cost is passed to the buyer.  The buyer naturally has a fixed dollar amount in mind and having to divert a larger percentage to cover shipping means you would receive a lesser percentage than you’d have liked to have received for the actual purchase price of the engine.  It’s simple economics.

The perfect world is finding the buyer who truly wants your engine and he is local so that shipping is off the table and gas is not a cost.  A couple of years ago I drove 500 miles round trip to buy an engine I really wanted.  The key is it’s an engine I really wanted.  The seller wouldn’t ship it.  500 miles divided by 17MPG in my truck is roughly 30 gallons of gas.  30 gallons times $3.80/gal meant $114 to me.  Shipping matters.

Also, keep in mind the demographic of the antique engine hobbyists.  We are “can do” people that can figure out how to get almost anything done and get it done inexpensively.  We know how to make do and we will.  I’ll also venture to say that most of us are working on a very thin budget.

Still need a price?  You can look at eBay for price comparisons.  I have found eBay to have very, very few deals these days.  It has gone from being a garage sale type website to one where people shoot for the stars with pricing and hope to find a fish that bites.  Consequently the prices are often inflated.  You can also check other antique engine sites where true hobbyists work with each other in a more honest and friendly fashion.  Pricing there is more likely (but not definitely) to be in line with reality.

The bottom line is that engine may be worth far less than you think it is.  If you are trying to make a large profit then be prepared to have to wait quite a while for the right buyer to come along.  If it’s something your grandfather left you in his passing and you couldn’t care less about small engines then keep the price low, benefit from a clean space in your garage or shed, and make a small engine enthusiast very happy.