8 Things to Look For When Buying a Classic Car

Ah, summer! Arguably everyone’s favourite time of year. What’s not to love? The sun is shining, the BBQ is fired up, beaches are getting lots of attention, and everywhere you look there’s a beauty on the road with her top down, all shined up and putting on a show.

It’s almost enough to want you to go out and buy a classic car of your very own.

Whether it’s been a dream of yours for years, or you’re just starting your search, buying a collector takes a little bit of research, a can-do attitude and the willpower to resist buying the first one you fall in love with.

Searles Classic Cars

We liken the classic car buying experience to selecting a new furry friend to add to the family. The search for a new family pet begins with knowing which breed of dog is going to suit your needs. You need one that looks good, feels good, is healthy, and can keep up with your lifestyle.

It’s the same thing with a classic car. Whether it’s a ’64 Aston Martin DB5, a ’63 Corvette Sting Ray, or a ’69 Dodge Charger, you need to know:

  • The market value of the car. What’s a fair price for the vehicle you want, and how will it hold its value 10, 20, 30 years from now?
  • What, if any, are some of the known issues with your preferred model?
  • Will your chosen vehicle require special storage considerations, and/or continual maintenance?

If you have the means to tinker with your new classic and fix minor problems that need addressing, your classic car buying experience will be a bit different than if you were looking for something in more mint condition (move-in ready as it were). But for the most part, shopping for a classic car is a lot like buying any used vehicle. Inspections and knowing your stuff before, after, and during the buying process, are key.

If you’re serious about buying a classic car, it’s time to move your research away from History Channel’s Pawn Stars and Counting Cars and get up close and personal. Attend some car shows. Join a club if you can, check out auctions, visit online forums, pick up some magazines, and ask around.

Need some help getting started? Feast your eyes on Popular Mechanics’ 100 Hottest Cars of All Time, many of which are classics already, with the others sure to follow suit in only a matter of decades.

Classic Cars at Searles Auto Repair

Once you’ve narrowed things down, it’s time to make some calls and possibly put in some offers. But before you buy, here are 8 things to look for when buying a classic car:

  1. Examine the exterior. How does she look? Check for any noticeable paint chips, dings and scratches. Now take off your sunglasses to see if the paint job is consistent all around. Next, check for rust, including any that might be covered up. Rough patch jobs will drive the value of the car way down.  Some buyers have been known to bring a magnet with them to check for suspect body work, but we believe this step is overkill.
  1. Check the interior. Is the upholstery intact? Clean? How’s the smell in there? Are the meters on the dash clear of condensation and cracks? Are there any aftermarket 8-track players in there that need addressing?
  2. Know the mileage. A car with high mileage is not a deal breaker. After all, it’s unlikely your new beauty will end up being your Island commuter car, but knowing the car’s mileage will help you determine whether or not the car’s asking price is fair. There may be some room to negotiate.
  3. Start the engine. It’s time to listen. While it is mostly gut instinct here, if there is blue smoke coming out of the exhaust, your gut should be telling you there’s a problem. Really take a long listen. Don’t let the seller chatter his way through this step in an attempt to hide something, and be wary if the car was already warmed up before you showed up.
  4. Go for a drive. Fingers crossed this is a possibility, even if you’re just tagging along as a passenger. Note any issues or problems, and figure out if any of them are ones that are common to that particular make or model. Take as much time as you can. You’ll want to know if the vehicle has a tendency to overheat.
  5. Find out how much is original. If you’re still on board after steps 1-5, find out how the car has been restored and what parts have been replaced altogether. It won’t all be obvious. For peace of mind, ask to see paperwork. More importantly, find out if a licensed mechanic took care of things (that’s a good thing!) and check to make sure VIN numbers are matching up.
  6. Ask a friend. Classic cars can go for a lot of $$$, and if you’re eyeing up something you’ve always dreamed of owning, it’s easy to overpay if you’re shopping alone. Consider asking a friend to tag along. He can keep an eye out for things you may have missed in all of your infatuation, and perhaps provide a voice of reason.
  7. Get a third opinion. If that ‘68 mustang has passed your test, and your friend is calling shotgun, it’s time to get an official inspection done. If possible, have your regular auto mechanic give the car a once-over. They will be able to tell you if the seller is trying to pull a fast one, or is secretly crying inside over the thought of selling his pride and joy.

There’s nothing the Searles team enjoys more than checking out a good classic. We know cars and own a few classics of our own. We’d love to get to know yours! Give us a call to learn more about classic car buying and our classic car restoration services.

Classic Mustang at Searles Auto Repair

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