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What To Look For When Buying A Classic Car?

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Tags: classic car, buying guide, classic bike

Many people dream of buying a classic car. Whether it’s a 1960s Mini reminiscent of the Italian Job or a James Bond-esque Aston Martin, classic cars are the things of childhood dreams. But those dreams can quickly dissolve into nightmares.

It can be easy to be lured in by the low-cost home maintenance and zero vehicle excise duty on ‘historic’ vehicles (built before 1974). However, buying the wrong classic car can leave you with a used car in your garage and a big hole in your wallet.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Buy the right car for you and you can forget about those mere practicalities and think of the joys of owning a classic car. Imagine those Saturday afternoons tinkering and polishing it so you can see your face in the gleaming body work. And, not forgetting, those Sunday drives spent nipping down country lanes and attending car shows to natter with like-minded enthusiasts. Austin Healey

But how do I get it right, you ask? When looking to buy a classic car, there are some considerations to bear in mind.

Do your research

It’s really not a good idea to buy a particular car just because you’ve always wanted one. It’s important to do your research so you know what you’re getting yourself into. There could be small variations between models that make all the difference when it comes to owning the vehicle. Perhaps the mk3 has particular issues that were fixed in the mk4. Make sure you’re well versed in the pros and cons of the car you’re interested in.

What’s your budget?

The best place to get an idea of prices is the classic car magazines. Take a look at the price guides and the classifieds. You’ll find that the prices will vary wildly. If it’s cheap, ask yourself why.

Remember: there is no such thing as a bargain when it comes to classic cars!

There’s a premium payable for originality, but it’ll be hard to find a forty year old car that’s in showroom condition. If there are any alterations, make sure they’re reversible.

Cost of maintenance

This is key. Aside from purchasingcosts, maintenance is likely to be your biggest outlay. Use your research to find out how much parts costs and how easy they are to get hold of. Remember that parts for rare or exotic motors are going to be harder and more expensive to come by.

How good are your mechanic skills? A 1960s classic car is going to need servicing every few thousand miles. If you’ve got the expertise to do this at home, it’s going to save you money in the long run, even if it means signing up for a basic car maintenance course.

Is there a local expert you can turn to when your car needs looking at? It’ll save you time and money to find someone who knows what they’re doing with your classic car.

Cost of insurance

The cost of classic car insurance can be relatively low. It’s usual for car insurance for classic cars to have an annual mileage limit. Having an ‘agreed value’ is also a good idea. This means that if the worse happens and you need to make a claim, your payout will reflect the true value of your vintage car rather than market value.

Where to buy your classic car 

When you’re nearly ready to make a decision on which classic car to buy, join the relevant owners’ club. This way you can read the club magazine, attend gatherings and join forum discussions. Talking to other enthusiasts will give you real insight into the car you’re about to spend your well-earned cash on.

Club magazines are a great place to find cars for sale at realistic prices. Auctions might be cheaper and dealers are most likely more expensive. Buying your car directly from the current owner means you can talk to them about the vehicle.

Each classic car has it’s story and the owner will be able to tell you much more than any dealer ever could. Quiz the seller about the condition of the car, and why they are selling.

When you go to look at the car, take someone with you who knows what they’re looking at. Ideally, that person will also be able to curb your enthusiasm. You don’t want to rush into buying the first car you find. What To Look For When Buying a Classic Car

Take a test drive

Nothing beats testing the car on the road. If you’ve never driven a classic car, this could be the clincher. Even if insurance prevents you from driving the car yourself, as a passenger you can listen out for worrying noises.

Vehicle inspection

Before you buy your classic car, conduct a thorough inspection. Look out for any model-specific problems, which you will have identified during your research.

Try and get a look underneath if possible. A loved classic may be shiny on the outside but the underside could be shot. When looking underneath, you want to check for signs of leaks, accident damage, welding and corrosion. Significant rust suggests a poorly maintained car.

When looking the car over, you should also check the suspension parts, and general condition of the car. This will give you an indication of how well it’s been looked after.

Check the history file

The history file for a classic car should be thick. If it’s not, ask some serious questions. You’ll want to check that regular servicing has been carried out and that all the maintenance requirements have been met.

Checking the history, will also give you a good idea of what is likely to need doing soon.

Has the car been used regularly?

Steer clear of classic cars that haven’t been used regularly. Regular use keeps a car in good working order. If it’s been stored for a long time the brakes will probably have seized up, the tyres will have flat spots and the engine will probably need a refresh.

It’s easy to say a car’s reliable if it hasn’t been used regularly. It’s only when you come to drive and enjoy your classic that weaknesses can be revealed.

The moral of the story is to do your research and make sure you know what you’re buying. Owning and driving a classic car can be a real treat. Make sure you’re one of the many happy vintage car owners.