Buying Classic Cars - A Beginner's Guide

Posted by Ben Davidson about 1 years ago

Classic cars, vintage cars, and sometimes cars just 15+ years old can be a lot of fun to purchase and drive. If you are great with DIY or fancy yourself as a bit of a mechanic, then you might’ve dreamed about doing one up a few times. There are a few cars that people tend to remember from TV shows and movies like:

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future

1982 Pontiac Firebird TransAm from Knight Rider, more affectionate known as KITT

1988 GMC Vandura from The A-Team

1966 Ford Futura Batmobile

1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Fastback, or, Eleanor

1967 Chevy Impala from Supernatural, known as Baby

They are all beautiful cars, with a hefty engine and a who wouldn’t want to get their hands on one of them. But, before you do read these tips and questions.

Why Are You Going Vintage?

There are so many reasons people are into vintage cars. It might be because you, as above, want to fix it up. But what then? Is she for driving, or are you looking to make a profit? IF you are looking for a new hobby, then fixing up old beauties is actually a great one. You’ll learn a lot, and technically you can take as long as you want if the car is declared as off the road. It might even take years!

It is worth remembering that you’re going to need pretty deep pockets to be able to get a car back to their former glory though., and on occasion, you will need to call in a professional to take a look. A good thing to think about is that most of the cars on the list are pretty great makes, for instant Ford makes the list twice! So if you are just in the dreaming stages, you could consider buying a used Ford to build a bridge between the ‘now’ and the ‘then’.

Ain’t A Money Maker

This might be a bit of a surprise. But, most of the time, people who do up older cars aren’t going to see a significant profit. Once you add up the cost of the vehicle, the parts, getting it up to driving again - there won’t be much of a profit in it - if any.

These old ladies are simply old ladies. And, they come with more costs than just doing them up. Insurances, storage, regular maintenance, taxes… and not all the parts are easy to come by. So if you are thinking about picking up an old car to restore, try not to do it with the idea that you’re going to sell it and make a stack of cash. Instead, be prepared to spend a heap of money, and MAYBE, in the end, someone will love it as much as you do and offer a price that works.

Where To Buy

All hail the internet! Well, yes, of course, but you should remember that actually you really need to have someone inspect these cars. There is a lot under the bonnet that a regular Joe won’t notice.

You will always need to remember the car will likely have rust, might smell a bit inside, and you don’t know what is going to be waiting for you when you dig further. Nonetheless, here are some options when looking to buy.


They are fast and busy. It is easy to fall in love with a highly polished beauty, and even easier to bid too much just because you get carried away with the process. The upsides are that you will find some fantastic cars and an auction - after all, that is their job. To bring desirable items to the public. If you are feeling confident you can bid online or on the phone, and in some cases, you can get a car very cheaply - because they have no reserve.

The issues with this are, you don’t really have as much time as you might like to inspect the car. And you will have to keep in mind the fees that will be added on top.

Private Purchase

Some people make a living privately selling old beauties. On occasion, if you are really lucky, you will be buying a car from its owner. The person who has taken care of it until the point. A big plus point is there are none of those big fees like you will expect at an auction or a dealer.

In order to find this type of car, you’re going to need to hold your horses and keep searching. Searching all the classic car sellers sites. Because not every seller will use all of the available sites. And, because you are dealing with one person, you are more likely to just pay for the car without haggling, or even doing a decent test drive. There is a trade where sellers will have rebuilt a less desirable car in the body of a very rare one. If you don’t know what you are looking for in terms of earmarks, and the price seems too good to be true - then it probably is.

How To Pick A Car

This one really is about you. When you are looking at cars, you have to pay consideration to how much spare time and money you have. Are the parts easy to buy? If not, how are you going to finish the project without sourcing those items?

You could consider buying a cheaper classic and using that as a practice. Rather than spending a significant amount on your first project.

Resale value. If you have a found a great deal, and you know you don’t want to drive the car when it’s finished, keep an eye on what they sell for when in full working order. Because the chances are, one day, you’ll be ready for a more significant project and don’t have room to store the old on.

Always get the car inspected if you can. The extra set of eyes, trained for this, is going to give you all of the information you’ll need to be sure of the car before you hand over any money. The best way to find a trusted inspector is to join/get in touch with local classic car collectors clubs.

Above all, have fun with it!


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