9 Tips for Buying a Classic Car: Your Smart Investment Guide

Picture this: The sun is setting, the wind is on your face, and you’re driving down an open road in a classic car, the purr of the engine the only sound. Now imagine that buying a classic car isn’t just a source of joy, but also a smart investment. Intrigued?

It can happen! I bought a 1977 Ford Bronco and sold it for more than triple what I had in it. Do I regret selling it? Some days I do, but it let me continue my journey of buying more vintage cars.

Understanding the Classic Car Market and what to do when buying a classic car

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the classic car market & define your passion/purpose
  • Research models, join clubs, test drive and find a reliable mechanic
  • Set budget, negotiate deal & enjoy owning a piece of history!

Understanding the Classic Car Market

Buying a classic car isn’t like buying a new vehicle off the showroom floor. It’s an investment. The classic car market is a unique ecosystem, dictated by factors such as rarity, condition, and demand. It’s like a dance, where prices and values sway and twirl with the rhythm of supply and desire. And while older cars are very much appreciated, their values can sometimes be unpredictable, not always reaching the dizzying heights of a few years ago.

Yet, with careful consideration and patience, classic cars can be a good investment, especially the rare and highly prized ones. Picture yourself buying a classic car, spending time and money on it, and then selling it for more than you paid. Sounds like a dream, right? But it’s not easy to achieve. Loving the classics, being patient, and accepting the possibility of not recouping your entire investment is a must. After all, the joy of owning a classic car can be priceless.

Defining Your Passion and Purpose

But before you dive into the world of classic cars, take a moment to think about why you want one. Is it the nostalgia, the design, or the thrill of driving something unique? Maybe you’re looking for a head-turner for weekend drives or events. Or perhaps you’re keen on a car that requires a bit more TLC, connecting your enthusiasm with what the car was made to do.

Identifying your passion and purpose for purchasing a classic car is a pivotal step. It helps align your expectations with reality, ensuring you won’t end up resenting your investment. Because, unlike a modern car, a classic car has a personality, a story, and a charm that can make you fall in love with it, despite its quirks and demands.

Researching Specific Models and Brands of Classic Cars

Researching Specific Models and Brands

Now that you’re clear about your passion and purpose, it’s time to research. While this stage of exploring the world of classic cars can be exhilarating, making informed decisions remains paramount.

Online Resources

The internet is a treasure trove of information when it comes to classic cars. Online forums, reviews, and publications offer details about upkeep costs, maintenance requirements, and owner experiences. Websites like Motor Trend, DiecastX mag, Old Cars Weekly Magazine, Krawlersedge.com, and Classic Motorsports Magazine can provide specific advice and insights on various classic car models.

We’re also doing our part at getvintagevehicles.com to make sure we’re bringing you information that is truly helpful and informative.

And if you’re a newbie, don’t worry. There are several online classic car communities such as Reddit’s r/classiccars, Classic Car Club, and Discord’s Cars community that are known for their helpfulness and camaraderie. So, don your researcher’s cap and start exploring. When it comes to purchasing a classic car, knowledge equates to power.

Car Shows and Events

Stepping away from the screen, there’s no substitute for experiencing classic cars in person. Car shows and events allow you to:

  • See various models up-close
  • Engage in conversations with seasoned owners
  • Ogle at muscle cars, grand tourers, and luxury vintage cars, each with a unique story to tell

You may find yourself at the Geneva International Motor Show or the Goodwood Revival, enjoying the sights and sounds of these beautiful machines.

These events are not just about the cars, though. They’re about the people, the stories, the shared love for classic cars. So, prepare yourself for your first car show. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the experience:

  • Check the layout of the show beforehand so you know where to go and what to expect.
  • Clean your car thoroughly before the show to make sure it looks its best.
  • Arrive early to secure a good parking spot and have time to explore before the crowds arrive.
  • Most importantly, respect the cars and their owners. Remember that you’re not merely a spectator at a show, but you’re integrating into a community.

Classic Car Clubs

Speaking of community, joining a classic car club can provide an enriching experience. Imagine:

  • Meeting individuals with a shared interest
  • Enjoying car rides together
  • Getting advice and help
  • Showing off your car
  • Getting discounts on insurance and parts

Sounds amazing, right? With tens of thousands of people sharing the same sentiment, it’s no wonder this phenomenon has gained such popularity.

Owners’ clubs are like a well of experience, offering advice that’s been honed over time. They can even help you track down hard-to-get parts for your classic car. Joining a club isn’t hard. Figure out what type of club suits you, search for local classic car clubs, and follow their membership rules to join.

Keep in mind, it extends beyond just owning a classic car; it’s about immersing yourself in the classic car community.

Setting a Budget and Considering Hidden Costs

We’ve all heard the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness,” but it can buy a classic car, which is pretty much the same thing. Nonetheless, establishing a realistic budget prior to hunting for your dream car is vital. Remember to factor in hidden costs like maintenance, insurance, and storage.

Maintenance is key to ensure your classic car doesn’t deteriorate over time. A shiny exterior might catch your eye, but under the hood, old seals, plugs, and belts might be waiting to drain your wallet. Also, knowing the market value of similar vehicles can help avoid overpaying for your classic car. So, take your time, do your math, and set a budget that allows room for unexpected costs.

Pre-Purchase Inspections: A Must-Do

You’ve done your research, you’ve set your budget, and you’ve even found a car you love. Hold on! Prior to parting with your money, ensuring a pre-purchase inspection is done is critical. This can help identify potential issues and ensure the car’s in good condition.

An inspection can reveal parts that might need replacing soon and how hard it will be to find those parts. If the car has a patchy history with no service records to show, you might need to adjust your offer accordingly. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so consider a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection.

Test Driving and Assessing the Vehicle

Test Driving and Assessing the Vehicle

After the inspection, it’s time for the exciting part – the test drive. Getting behind the wheel of a classic car can be a thrilling experience, giving you a real feel for the car’s performance and handling.

However, bear in mind that it extends beyond just the thrill. Pay attention to:

  • How the car accelerates, brakes, and turns
  • Any strange noises or vibrations
  • How all the features and controls work
  • How comfortable you are in the driver’s seat
  • Any visibility issues or blind spots

These are all crucial factors to consider before making a decision.

Classic cars have a certain nostalgia and style, but they also require more maintenance and care, so keep in mind the classic car costs during your test drive of a particular car model. Collector cars, like any other classic cars, demand attention to detail and proper care and cleaning.

Finding a Trustworthy Mechanic

Once you’ve bought your classic car, the journey doesn’t end there. To keep your car in top shape, you’ll need a trustworthy mechanic, preferably one with experience in classic cars. Look for mechanics with ASE certifications and good consumer reviews. Check if they specialize in classic cars and don’t shy away from asking for proof of their experience and training.

Ultimately, your classic car isn’t merely a means of transportation; it’s an investment that merits top-notch care.

Safeguarding your investment holds equal importance as selecting it. That’s where insurance comes in. Unlike regular cars, classic cars require specialized insurance coverage, considering they’re driven less often and for shorter distances.

The type of car, its age, and the value of the policy set for it all affect the cost of collector car insurance. You might want to consider an Agreed Value policy, which guarantees a fixed sum payout in the event of a total loss. However, similar to all aspects related to classic cars, conducting thorough research, comparing options, and discovering the best coverage for your car’s value is essential, even when dealing with a traditional auto insurer.

Closing the Deal: Negotiation and Paperwork

You’ve done the research, taken the test drive, and you’re ready to make a deal. But don’t rush. Negotiating a good deal is an art. Set a maximum spending limit and stick to it.

A professional inspection can provide valuable insights into potential future expenses, which can be useful when negotiating the purchase price. If the vendor won’t budge on the price, stay firm but be polite, and be ready to walk away if the deal doesn’t meet your criteria. Ultimately, the process of purchasing a classic car should be enjoyable, not burdensome.

Maintaining and Enjoying Your Classic Car

With the deal sealed and the car parked in your garage, it’s time to revel in your investment. Routine maintenance is key for your classic car’s smooth operation. Check the seals, plugs, and belts regularly, and take your car for a spin at least once a month.

However, owning a classic car extends beyond mere maintenance and upkeep. It’s about the joy of driving, the thrill of showing off your car at events, and the pride of owning a piece of history. Yes, owning a classic car can be more work and money than a modern one, but the fun of driving it, the admiration it draws, and the satisfaction it brings, make it all worth it.


Buying a classic car is much more than a financial investment. It’s a journey of passion, a labor of love, and an adventure that brings joy and excitement. From understanding the classic car market, defining your passion, researching models, to setting a budget, getting inspections, test driving, finding a mechanic, navigating insurance, and negotiating the deal – each step is a chapter in your classic car story. So buckle up, hit the road, and let your classic car journey begin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a good idea to buy a classic car?

Buying a classic car can be a wise investment, as the value can appreciate over time and even reach several millions of dollars. As cars are high maintenance and more complicated to store than other collectibles, it’s important to do your research and select the right model for your budget.

Why are some classic cars so cheap?

Classic cars are unique and you can sometimes find them cheaper than other vehicles or stumble upon a spectacular barn find. If you know what you’re looking for you can find hidden gems in the shadows of other cars, making them great to drive and an affordable bargain.

Are classic cars expensive to own?

Owning a classic car can be expensive due to the maintenance and repair costs, as well as difficulty finding parts. The age of the car also means you may end up spending more on inspection and repairs than if you had a modern car.

A lot of this will depend on where your car spent most of its life and where you plan to drive it now.

Are classic cars less to insure?

Classic car insurance is much cheaper than regular car insurance, usually costing $200 – $600 annually compared to over $1000 per year for regular car insurance. Find an insurance agent you like and trust and get that beauty out on the road.

Why is it important to define my passion and purpose before buying a classic car?

It’s important to define your passion and purpose before investing in a classic car to make sure it aligns with your expectations and to ensure you can give it the care and maintenance it needs. We hate when someone buys a vintage vehicle and then regrets it because it sometimes needs work. It’s old. It’s temperamental. But it is a lot of fun to drive!

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