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9 Rules for Buying a Classic Car

Why not drive a classic car that goes up in value?

A classic car is a used car, but a very special used car. State Farm Insurance defines a classic as “A motor vehicle 10 or more years old, which is rare or of special historical interest because of exceptionally fine workmanship or limited production. A classic motor vehicle 25 years old or older is covered as an antique.”

The market for collector cars is like the stock market. Prices are subject to unpredictable forces, like the economy and the changing tastes of buyers. Ultimately, a classic car is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

For some, it’s a hobby, not an investment.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson is a classic car fan. He loves these babies. He owned a 1958 Triumph TR3, a 1968 Mercedes 280 SL, an Austin-Healey 3000, a 1957 Thunderbird and a 1972 El Dorado convertible. Stacy relishes the pleasure of owning a classic car that turns heads and starts conversations. Even Stacy Johnson says you should slow down and move carefully before spending big bucks on a collector car. Think of it as a hobby, not an investment. If you make money, that’s just an added bonus.

The one thing you can control is to be a smart and prudent buyer.

9 tips on Buying Smart

1. Get a professional inspection before buying

You can go online and research prices that restored vintage vehicles are commanding. There’s so much information out there that it’s possible to delude yourself into thinking you know what you are doing. You may think you found a slam-dunk deal, only to discover that you have purchased an old clunker that’s a money pit.

Don’t buy a vintage car without having an experienced auto appraiser evaluate the vehicle’s condition and assess its value.

2. Beware of rust

Nearly all older classic cars have some rust. The real question is how much is there, where is it, and how much has been hidden with body filler? An experienced appraiser will check the body and frame thoroughly for the rot that is visible. To find the hidden rust, choose an appraiser who uses a “Paint/Filler Depth Gauge” to determine where the filler is located. The Paint/Filler Depth Gauge can also determine whether the body paint is original, or if it was been repainted.

3. Research insurance costs

Insurance can be cheaper for antique cars. But there’s a catch: To get the low rates you must limit the miles driven and have another car you use for daily trips.

When it comes to insurance, there are a lot of different options. Compare policy options between your traditional auto insurance company and “Declared Value” insurance companies. Declared Value insurance companies such as Hagerty, Grundy, etc specialize in policies for classic cars and offer much lower premiums costs.

4. Decide whether to drive it

Some classic car owners are obsessed with perfection. Any outing poses the risk of rock chips, an accident, sun damage, etc. Indeed, some cars are simply too valuable to take the risk.

The vast majority of classic cars are “occasional drivers”, so don’t be so fussy that you miss the joy of ownership. Get out there and drive it!

5. Consider the cost of ownership

A vintage vehicle is an old car. Brauer tells of buying a 1970 Plymouth GTX for $4,000 and selling it 24 years for $34,000. That sounds like a great investment, until you realize that he spent $25,000 on rebuilding the engine, repainting the body, and refreshing the interior,

6. Understand the cost and availability of parts

Parts for some old cars can be rare and pricey. For example, parts for a 1957 Chevy Belair are far cheaper that for a 1957 Mercedes SL Gullwing.

7. Find a mechanic before you buy

Unless you do the work on your collector car yourself, you will need the help of a knowledgeable auto mechanic who is willing to work on your old car. Scope out the mechanics in your area to learn about their expertise and labor rates.

8. Follow your heart

Car collecting is really a hobby instead of an investment, so don’t ever buy a car that you’re not deeply passionate about. Don’t buy a car just because it seems like a great deal.

9. Run the numbers

Few things guarantee you’ll make money on a vintage car, but originality helps enormously. Ensure that VIN/serial numbers on the chassis, engine, transmission and rear axle match the manufacturer’s historical build records.

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