Classic Car Buying Guide: What to Know Before You Buy
Buying classic cars is very similar to buying newer cars after you get over a few important details. Before making any purchases, a prospective classic car buyer should do plenty of research on specific models, especially in regards to value.
Here are some important guidelines to follow when shopping for classic cars or any older cars:
- The value of a classic car can change significantly based on what may seem like a minor difference. For example, a Chevrolet Bel-Air buyer is sure to notice the major price difference between post-coupe cars and hardtop cars of the same condition and year.
- When inspecting a vehicle, look for rust in the known trouble areas such as the trunk and wheels wells. Some model cars are known for rusting in certain places. Again, research the specific car you are interested in.
- California and other sunny weather states tend to be better for finding classics that are completely free of rust. These "California Cars" usually fetch more money as they've never endured snow or salty roads.
- You should decide, based on your budget and preference, whether you want a project car (one needing plenty of work to be complete) or a restored car that needs nothing. Project cars are obviously much cheaper and demand more attention, while restored cars cost more initially and require less to maintain.
- Buying a project car can be simple and inexpensive, as some sellers just want to get rid of the old car taking up space - even if the car could be valuable with the right amount of parts and labor.
- When buying a restored car or a project car, be sure to find out if the engine, transmission, and rear axle are original to the car (unless you are buying a shell). This will ensure the originality of the car and, therefore, much of its value.
- Some classic cars, such as Ford Mustangs or Chevrolet Camaros and Novas, have plenty of parts catalogs available online and in print where you can simply order any replacement part you may need. Many of these cars can be restored down to the quarter panel, replacing every piece of original sheet metal.
- Other classics, such as Mopars like the Plymouth GTX or Dodge Coronet, can be harder to track down specific parts for. Since much less of these particular cars were made, restored and unmolested versions tend to bring much more money than your average classic.
If tracking down parts and spending long hours in the garage bringing your classic back to life sounds appealing, perhaps a project car that you can complete yourself could be fun. On the other hand, if you want a classic that you can buy and drive without having to do much wrenching, a completely restored classic might work better. Whichever direction you choose when buying a classic, keep in mind that resale value doesn't drop with the same consistency as it does with new cars. A classic car can be an investment that is sure to keep on growing for many years.