How To Buy A Classic Car

You have decided to treat yourself, to invest in what may be a lifelong dream. The desire to own a classic car is commonplace, but unfortunately, for many, it is often unfulfilled. The reason, like with most things, is often a lack of understanding of what is needed to realise the dream and the best ways to go about turning it into a reality. You don’t have to be an avid car fan, or fully trained mechanic to have the dream, though you probably already are; just like you do not have to be a drink driving solicitor to understand the basics of UK Drink Driving Law; what is needed however is a basic understanding, a little knowledge and a true passion. Given that you already have these, probably in abundance, here we look at the best way of bringing your classic car dreams to life.

The Dream v The Reality

Buying a classic car is a dream for many. But rather than looking upon it as something that you will never achieve, treat it like any other ambition, and plan a way to make it happen. It has been compared to inviting somebody new to join the family. Remember that you will probably be spending a lot of time with the car, so it is best that you get on with each other from the start, and that this “friendship” never burns out. Nobody wants to spend time with someone they do not get on with, so the right choice is key, and when made can result in a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. At times, the newest member of the family can also earn their keep, in this case as an investment, but remember, all investments need attention on a regular basis, and if just left alone, will probably not give the best of returns.

Cars however are there to be driven, as pictures are there to be enjoyed. Do not speculate on making any money from a classic car, rather invest in it knowing that the returns will be the fun, happiness and excitement you get when using it. Paintings are not for vaults they are for galleries, and likewise, cars are designed for the open road. Factor this into any consideration, and remember that happiness is priceless.


Aside from happiness, you can also expect the following for classic cars:


If you are not certain which car is right for you, then ask yourself the following questions:-

  • What car do you really want?
  • What will it be used for?

If you only want the occasional drive, say in the summer time, perhaps it may be better to think of classic car hire, which takes away the regular maintenance and running costs, but means you have the car you want, when you want it. If however, you want to commit long term then think of the purpose it will serve. If you are looking for regular and longer distance drives, then you will need to consider the issue of reliability. Convertibles are great for about two weeks a year, but what if you have a larger family, and what are you going to do for the 50 plus weeks a year when the roof is up – moreover is the roof up to it!

The older the car, the more regular the maintenance, with cars from the 60s needing servicing every 2000 miles or so. Is this something that you are capable of doing yourself, or will you be forced to pay for somebody else to do it – and if so how much will they charge for this specialty? Think also of the engine, four cylinder or V12, we all know what we would prefer, but when it comes to servicing costs the choice is exactly the opposite! If you are handy with a spanner then this is a wonderful gift, but if you need to hire a specialist, you are looking at £30-plus per hour which may make certain choices cost-prohibitive.


Having a secure and safe, and moreover dry garage is essential. Older cars do not deal as well with the environment and British weather. Not only will the car demand a garage, it is likely that the insurer will too. On street parking is probably not recommended and think also of where you may store all the spares that you will need. Lock-up garages as a storage option are expensive to hire and mean that the car is away from the place it truly belongs, your home.


Like all insurance it will vary, and some will give better cover, so the premium is not the only consideration that should be given to any policy.


With the home ready for the car, your search can begin in earnest. Research and knowledge is key to any subject matter, just ask a motoring solicitor, for example. You will need to know your cars, the typical prices and what to expect. If you go into any purchase without the right information, then the buyer will “see you coming” and you will pay over the odds. Learn as much as possible about the cars you want, the history, the reliability, the repair costs etc. Have there been any flaws in the design, such as a leaky convertible roof, or bad clutch trouble? As your options narrow, join an owners club, and speak to them about the benefits and pitfalls of ownership of that model. They more than anyone will know the truth about running costs etc.

Those same clubs will also be the most likely to offer the best opportunities to buy the car you want. Auctions may be cheaper and dealers more expensive, but the knowledge of the buyer is power to that buyer, and you are less likely to regret your purchase over the short to medium term.


Being a passenger is ok, but a thorough and proper test drive is much more ideal. It may shatter your illusions about classic cars, but it may also be the wakeup call that you need! Your research will also serve you well at this point as you will be aware of flaws and problems to be most on the lookout for. Rust would suggest poor overall maintenance; missing trim is a bad sign; and moss growing on the inside of the windows suggests neglect. Whilst you will not be comparing it to a new showroom 2017 model, you need something that has been looked after, and if there are signs of poor care then beware.


After all this time, you have found the car you believe that you have always wanted. It may have been a long journey, but do not jump at the first car, unless it is the right car. Buy with your brain not your heart. It is better to miss a good deal than back a bad one. The right car will be there for you for a long time, but only if you make the right call at the start.

Like everything in life, the best things are worth waiting for, and just because you have made a decision to get a classic car, it doesn’t mean that you have to get that classic car.

You wouldn’t invite a stranger into your home, without at least knowing all there is to know about them, and then of course they are no longer a stranger. Buying a classic car is a wonderful gift to yourself and your family, but it is also a commitment. By taking your time, learning your facts and being sensible, that commitment will be one of joy. Happy shopping.

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