Tips on Buying a Classic Car

Cars have come a long way in the last few decades, but some older vehicles remain popular for a reason. Classic cars often have a certain look about them, and can inspire feelings of nostalgia. Most of them were built to last too, so if they’re kept in good condition, their wheels can keep on turning for years to come.

The problem is, because these cars often speak more to our hearts than our heads, it can be easy to get swept up in the sale, and end up with a vehicle you regret buying. To help you consider the purchase logically, we’ve explored a few tricks when it comes to buying a classic car below:

What is a Classic Car?

When people talk about a classic car, what one person considers to be a classic may not match up with another’s ideal of that type of vehicle. Generally, a vintage car is anything built before 1930, while post-vintage cars are vehicles that were built between 1930 and around 1945. The term ‘classic car’, though, is more vague.

Typically, a classic car has to meet three basic criteria. It must be at least twenty years old, it has to be a collectable amongst enthusiasts, and it should be historically or sentimentally significant in some way. A good example of a classic car is the Aston Martin DB4 – this was produced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is highly prized amongst classic car enthusiasts, and its link with the James Bond films adds a touch of nostalgia.

Where Can You Buy Classic Cars?

When it comes to buying a classic car, it’s not always as easy as turning up at your local dealership. Not everywhere sells them, and places that do might not have classic vehicles that appeal to your tastes. You may therefore need to do some research before approaching a seller.

The main three places you can buy classic cars are auctions, specific dealerships, and from private sellers. We’ve looked at these in a little more detail below:

Classic cars

Buy at Auction

When buying a classic car at auction, it’s essential to do some research beforehand. You should look into the cars themselves, as well as the policies at the auction, such as whether there are any additional premiums to pay, or auctioneer costs.

Prior to the auction, you should also take the time to work out your budget. You certainly don’t want to spend more than you can afford, regardless of how much you want a particular vehicle! Get an idea of the average price of the makes and models you’re interested in too, and bear in mind that the price you see in the auction catalogue won’t always be a true reflection of the final cost. It may be based on a low average, or could be the starting bid.

One of the potential benefits of buying at auction is that you’ll often get more information about the vehicle’s history than you could with a private seller. You’d also have the assurance that the car had been properly inspected, and was being sold as advertised.

Buy From a Dealership

When buying a classic car from a dealership, as with buying at auction, you should be provided with all the relevant details about the vehicle upfront. This will in most cases include a full service history, as well as all the documentation concerning the history of the vehicle. You’ll furthermore be able to ask questions about the car, and expect comprehensive answers.

Typically, dealerships selling classic cars will be run by people just as enthusiastic about these vehicles as those making the purchase. So any concerns you may have should be addressed by their wealth of knowledge and expertise.

Buy From Private Sellers

There are potential risks associated with purchasing a classic car from a private seller, though there can be advantages too. In terms of the risks, there is no guarantee that you’ll be given all the paperwork detailing the history of the vehicle, nor will the seller necessarily know a lot about the car itself.

However, the benefit of buying from a private seller is that you may be able to haggle on the price. Purchasing a classic car at auction can mean a bidding war, while dealerships will generally be restricted on how much they’re able to lower the price. But with a private seller, the price will be completely at the discretion of the individual selling the car.

Tips for Buying a Classic Car

If you have committed to buying a classic car, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Perhaps the five most important considerations are as follows:

1. Stick to a Budget

As mentioned above, it’s crucial that you don’t overspend on a classic vehicle, even if you believe it to be your dream car. Find out the approximate value of the cars you’re looking at, and compare this to your personal budget. And don’t forget to include expenses like insurance and an MOT in your transport expenses – the initial cost of the car isn’t the only cost to think about!

buy classic car

2. Do Your Research

Find out as much information as you can about the vehicle you’re hoping to buy. This could include the service and overall history of the car, any modifications, technical issues you should be aware of, or details of the vehicle’s previous owners. It’s also a good idea to research the cost of repairs – if spare parts aren’t readily available, this could be expensive.

3. Check the Documentation

When purchasing any car, the more documentation the seller provides, the better. This means you have evidence of how well the vehicle has been looked after by its previous owners. The paperwork can also give you a rough idea of what faults are likely to occur in future, especially if there have been regular issues with a particular car component.

4. Go for a Test Drive

Regardless of whether the vehicle is new or used, you should always try and take it out for a test drive prior to making an offer. You’ll be able to get a better feel for the car, and get to grip with the way it handles.

5. Inspect the Car Thoroughly

Conduct a full inspection of the vehicle before committing to buy it. This should include both a visual inspection, and considering how the car handles when you take it for a test drive. It can also be sensible to get a professional to check the car over.

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