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Buying a classic car is one of life’s luxuries, not to mention the pride and joy of a household. Many classic cars have also proved to be great investments. For example, an Aston Martin DB5 from circa 1990 could easily have increased its value tenfold by now.
Choosing the right time to buy a classic car is detrimental to its future value, so it’s well worth studying the model in question carefully so you can be aware of when the car has been undervalued or price rises are expected. This is the time to buy.
Despite their age, classic cars are meant to be driven and will deteriorate if they are left stagnant for too long. In order to keep classic cars in full working order and therefore sellable, owners should regularly drive and maintain their car, after all, isn’t this one of the main pleasures of ownership?
If you’re considering purchasing a classic car, below, Trusted Dealers offers a full guide to help you through the classic car-buying process.
Before you buy a classic car, it’s worth considering what you intend to do with the car? For example, if you’ve a family, will you want to fit them all in for excursions? If so, a two-seater car will not fit the bill. Likewise, a romantic getaway will not feel quite as romantic behind the wheel of an uncomfortable or unreliable car, and let’s be honest, a convertible will get little use for most of the year if you live in the UK. And if you’re only considering occasional drives, you may be better off saving your cash and hiring a classic car every so often instead.
It’s easy to be drawn towards historic vehicles built before April 1974, which offer free vehicle excise duty, but if you intend to use your classic car all-year round, avoid buying a vehicle that requires frequent maintenance. Older cars will demand more attention – even a 1960s classic will need servicing every few thousand miles. Furthermore, a V12 engine will be more expensive to service than a four-cylinder, and obtaining spare parts for more exotic classic cars can prove costly and time consuming. If you’re not a whizz with a spanner, a basic car maintenance course could save you heaps of cash.
If you’re considering a classic car, having access to a dry, secure and accessible garage to house it in is essential. Parking a classic car on the street is ill-advised, and you’re insurance will rocket; most insurers expect a classic car to be garaged at night. If you don’t own a garage, another option would be to rent a council lock-up, which could cost as little as £25pcm depending on your location.
Car insurance on a classic car will usually be higher. With an average mileage limit of 3,000-5,000 miles for example, the premium on a popular classic car will be at least a few hundred pounds. It’s also well worth taking out an ‘agreed value’ insurance policy, so that if the car is involved in an accident or stolen, you’ll receive a pay out that reflects the car’s value as a classic rather than scrap metal.
Once you’ve checked you meet all of the practical and financial criteria associated with classic car ownership, the serious work begins. Check price guides and classic car magazines to see what you might be able to afford, read as much as you can about the car/s you are interested in, to understand any potential strengths and weaknesses, and remember that later models of a car may be less desirable than the first model. Few cars will survive for 40-plus years without some modifications, for example, most will have been converted to run on unleaded petrol, or been fitted with an electric ignition, although many alterations can be reversed if you have your heart set on an original.
Once you have decided on the classic model you want to go for, join the relevant owners’ club – you can obtain a list of classic clubs online or within the relevant classic car magazines. Obtain a subscription to the club’s magazine and/ or attend gatherings where you can speak to experienced owners about the car you’re considering buying – you might even be able to get a test drive!
Buying privately is usually a cheaper way to purchase a classic car. An owner’s club is often one of the best sources of cars for sale at reasonable prices. Secondly, an auction might be just as cheap. Dealers tend to be more expensive, but in all cases, knowing what you can expect to pay for your car is power, and dealers will always be open to negotiation. It might also be a good idea to take along a genuinely knowledgeable friend to help with the negotiations of any private or trade sale.
A classic car might look shiny enough from the outside, but it’s the underside you need to check thoroughly. When you inspect the car, try to get underneath the under carriage to obtain and insight into the owner’s real maintenance regime. The underside should be relatively dirt free which shows the owner washes the car on a regular basis. Also, check for leaks and spray back from the engine and look for signs of corrosion or of welding.
Before you purchase a classic car, check with the owner it has been used regularly. To be a reliable car, the engine must have been used, and not just in the summer months. Many owners will lock up their classic cars in throughout the winter months, but inactivity at any time of the year can kill a car. If you inspect a car and the mileage is low, for example it’s done only 500 miles since its last MOT a year ago, either walk away, or make a lower bid that reflects the inactivity.
A test drive is vital before you make a final decision. Without the right insurance, you may have to settle for a passenger ride but prior research should prepare you to look out for any model-specific problems and strange noises which could be linked to a worn engine or suspension. Look out for any rust marks which could indicate the car has been poorly maintained. Further signs could be moss on the inside of windows or a missing trim which could prove impossible to source post-sale.
Whatever model you decide to buy, the key is to take your time before you buy. Resist the temptation to splash out on the first car you see – in the world of classic cars, you will more than likely be able to find a better example, and it will be well worth the wait. Good luck!