Should You Buy A Classic Car?

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Not only are classic cars exempt from road tax, owning a classic car can be a rewarding hobby and a profitable investment. But should you do it?

Whether you want old school American muscle in the form of a ’60s Dodge Charger, or wind it back further with a Ford Deuce CoupĂ© hot-rod, we look at what should drive you to consider one of these cars, and what you should look out for.

Is a classic car right for you?

When it comes to buying a classic car there are three qualities you should possess to ensure that the experience is enjoyable and rewarding.

1. Passion

Passion is paramount in the classic car industry and is the most important quality you should possess. If you’re only interested in buying for a potential future reward then stop now because classic cars aren’t right for you.

Only buy a classic car because you want to and the idea of driving it gives you a sense of enjoyment and if the car increases in value in the meantime, then that’s just the icing on the cake. If you’re not passionate, it’s unlikely that you’ll correctly look after and maintain your purchase, which will in turn lower the vehicle’s value and lead to a loss.

2. Knowledge

While you don’t need to be an expert, having broad knowledge of the industry is helpful and means you’re less likely to get conned or taken for a joyride. It also means you’re more likely to know the type of car you’re after, how to maintain it properly and what questions to ask in order to determine the current state of the vehicle.

3. Resourcefulness

Classic car ownership isn’t for the fainthearted and while it’s the clichĂ© that something is bound to go wrong, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared just in case.

Ensure you know the basics of car maintenance such as oil changes and how to change a flat tyre, as well as the nuances of your desired car. Use forums, Facebook groups and other online communities to find out common issues and how to resolve them.

Classic American Car

How to buy a classic car

Once you’ve established a classic car is definitely for you and you’re more than prepared for the journey ahead, you now need to source your dream classic and there are three common ways to go about doing so. However, regardless of how you purchase your classic car, always ensure there is a history file and service booklet.

1. Dealerships

Just like your regular forecourt dealerships that specialise in a certain manufacturer or simply sell every car under the sun, there are specialised dealerships that focus on classic cars.

In order to establish whether or not a dealership caters to classic cars, take a look around their existing stock. If there are just one or two older vehicles amongst a sea of fairly recent releases, then this isn’t the dealership for you. Also be on the look out for an on-site specialist repair shop or marketing material for classic car enthusiasts like online groups and car meets.

When it comes to buying from a dealership, make sure to ask about potential issues to look out for as this will test whether or not the dealer truly knows about the vehicle they’re selling. Also ask about the vehicle’s history in order to determine if there has been any work that might affect its potential value.

2. Auctions

Auctions take both physical and virtual forms and offer a more unique way of purchasing a classic car that at times can be either exciting or chaotic.

Buying at auction is a calculated risk and you must make sure you have done as much research as possible beforehand. Unlike dealerships, you only have a limited amount of time to inspect the vehicle and ask questions of the owner, if they’re present. This is important because you’re buying the car as seen which means you won’t be able to get a refund after purchase.

The other unique aspect of an auction is that you may potentially be competing with other hopeful buyers. Unlike a dealership where the vehicle will be advertised at a set price, with an auction you are bidding against everyone else. This has the advantage that you may get a better deal than expected if you’re the only interested party, but the downside is you could end up paying a lot more if you’re caught in a bidding war.

You should also be mindful of the auction’s terms and conditions, as you may be required to pay fees on top of your successful bid. Also, the owner may have placed a reserve on the item meaning if your bid hasn’t met the reserve price, the sale will not take place. Reserves may be disclosed beforehand, but they may also be kept private.

With online auctions, you also have the added complication of delivery / collection from the seller and this is something you should address before bidding. For example, you don’t want to win the auction to then find out you have to travel across the country to collect it.

3. Private Sellers

Buying a classic car from a private seller is no different to buying any other. You’ll be buying as seen and you’ll be taking the seller’s word as gospel when it comes to condition and how well the vehicle has been maintained. On purchase you’ll be responsible for the paperwork and of contacting the DVLA to notify them of the purchase.

Tips to buying a classic car

While there’s no explicit rule of thumb when it comes to buying a classic car, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Perform a visual inspection of the vehicle and look out for the following:
    • Check the whole vehicle and undercarriage for damage and rust.
    • Check the window seals are intact.
    • If the vehicle is a convertible check the vehicle coverts successfully and smoothly.
    • Check the tyres are appropriate and looked after.
    • Check disc brakes aren’t worn if applicable.
    • Check the oil.
    • Check seats aren’t marked, scratched or damaged.
  • Ask if you can test drive the vehicle or at the very least observe it running and ask to test wipers, doors, windows etc.
  • Ensure all documentation is present and matches the vehicle.
  • Enquire about specialist mechanics.
  • Get an expert to check the vehicle on your behalf (both the AA and RAC offer vehicle inspection services).
  • Conduct a vehicle history check.
  • Use an insurance firm that specialises in classic car insurance.
  • Check the mileage of the vehicle.
  • Have an idea of how you will use the vehicle as this will affect how much you’ll be willing to pay and what quality you’re after. Is it just for show or for driving?

Examples of classic cars

Decided against a classic car? Well compare prices now for lease deals on all major vehicle manufacturers and models from the UK’s top providers.

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