Top 10 Tips on How To Buy a Classic Car

Top 10 Tips For Buying a Classic Car

Are you interested in buying a Classic Car but don't know what to look for or where to start?  Here are some tips to help you through your journey of what you need to look for, and what to look out for when purchasing a Classic Car: 

  1. Rust: Look for rust, and if you find it, run away. If you’re looking for a restored car that is supposed to be in good condition, then this goes without saying. But even if you’re looking for a restoration project, stay away from a rust bucket! You may be the type that has the means to restore a car from the ground up or want a long term project, but you still want to start with a solid car. Rust can turn the project into much more of a money pit than you ever expected. 
  2. Location: To piggyback off of the rust issue, look for cars that are located in dry climates, like California, Arizona, and Nevada. It’s not only important where the car is located now, but find out where it lived the rest of its life. If a car was in Tennessee for the first 30 years of its life, you may want to stay away. The car may look good on the outside but there is no telling what lies beneath. Hint: If you can find a classic 1960s car in California that still retains it’s original Black license plates, this means the car has never left the state of California.
  3. Numbers Matching: If you’re looking for a numbers matching investment car, do your research! Learn where all the important numbers will be on this specific model. Unfortunately there are many fakes on the market and you must be very careful to make sure there hasn’t been any re-stamped numbers on the car. 
  4. Documentation: If you’re looking for your classic car to be an investment, documentation is key. Buyers love a story when they buy a classic car. If you can provide a story of the cars history and documentation for the car, your car is going to stand above most others on the market when you go to sell it. Look for things like original bill of sale, build sheets, and old service records that can track the ownership history of the car. Learn what documentation would have come with the specific car you’re looking at, such as a Protect-o-Plate for a Chevrolet, or Broadcast sheet for a Chrysler product. 
  5. Originality: You’ve heard the saying ‘it’s only original once”. Original cars will always have investment value. The more original, the more valuable the car can be. The best example of that you can find is a ‘Survivor’ car, which is a car that is almost exactly as it left the factory (original paint, original interior, even original miles. The next best thing is a car that has been restored back to original, still powered by the original engine, repainted the original colors, and restored using as many of the original parts as possible rather than replacing them with new parts.
  6. Market: Know the market on the car you’re buying! What is a car really worth? It’s worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. Be knowledgable on the market of the car you are looking to buy. Look at what price they’re currently being advertised across the country, look for results of auctions and other sales on the specific car. Just because Jeff on Craigslist says this his car is special and worth $50,000, does not make that car worth $50,000. Also be very careful of appraisal values and classic car value websites that tell you what a classic car in a certain condition is supposed to be worth. Those systems are often good tools for insurance values on a classic car, but not necessarily an indication of the real world market value on that car. 
  7. Low Production: Back to investment cars, if you’re buying this car as an investment, look for cars that were produced in low numbers. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy a model that was produced in low numbers, obviously cars like Camaros, Corvettes, and Mustangs were produced in huge numbers, but there are still plenty of limited production versions of those cars. They can be rare for many reasons, whether it be the options that the car came with, the drivetrain the car came with, the trim package of the car, or maybe even the color. At the end of the day, having something that is hard to find will always add value.
  8. Color: In the classic and collector car market, color is huge. It can completely change the value of a car. Do your research on the model you are searching for and learn what colors are popular, what colors were produced in low numbers, and what colors do not sell well. For example if you’re buying a mopar muscle car as an investment, you’re going to want a ‘high impact’ color. On Chevrolet, a Marina Blue car is going to demand a higher value than a Butternut Yellow car. And always make sure the color matches the color code on the trim tag!
  9. Fit & Finish: Inspect the fit and finish of the car. Check the panel gaps. Does the hood line up correctly? Does the car have even gaps between the fender and hood, even gaps between the fenders and doors? Do the doors line up well and do they close easily? Poor fitment and awful panel gaps can be an indication of poor build quality. It should raise some red flags on what other shortcuts may have been taken on that car, or what kind of rough history the car has had. 
  10. Patience: Be patient when searching for these cars. The first car that pops up on the internet on day 1 of your search is probably not going to check all of your dream car boxes. When you get to the point where you’re looking at them in person, don’t let you’re excitement get the best of you. Be thorough in inspecting the car. Look over every piece of the car so that you are not finding any surprises once you get the car home. 

GT Auto Lounge
December 2017