Every day we are more of us who dare to buy a classic car, be it a young timer between 15 and 30 years old or a full-fledged classic. Getting into this world, as in everything, is a bit intimidating at first, so here are a lot of basic tips for Classic Car Buying Guide if you are just starting.
Go ahead, this would be a basic guide: I do not consider myself anywhere near an expert. But (as the one with that joke said) I pay attention a lot and in recent years my passion has led me to collect advice and experiences that I now finally transcribe here in order, trying to give them some coherence. And hoping that someone ends up catching this healthy hobby. Go for it…
So you've decided: you HAVE to buy a classic car. Well, the first thing to keep in mind is ... sorry to be so realistic ... do I have a place to leave it? There are several options ... if we have our garage, perfect. If you have to leave it on the street, it will depend on the car you are going to buy - if it is in your fifties with chrome bumpers, think twice. Next option: garage for rent, if possible, one with a security guard, little traffic, and no humidity. Another option (a little more expensive but with all the guarantees) would be a specialized garage, where our "child" would be in the company of other "offspring" and on top of that they will have him clean and will do the maintenance.
Go ahead, this would be a classic car buying guide: I do not consider myself anywhere near an expert. But (as the one with that joke said) I pay attention a lot and in recent years my passion has led me to collect advice and experiences that I now finally transcribe here in order, trying to give them some coherence. And hoping that someone ends up catching this healthy hobby. Go for it…
Do you prefer a sports car, feel every irregularity of the road on the steering wheel? Or will it be a stately vehicle with which to go “cruising” along the boulevards? What if you fulfil your dream of that convertible that marked you as a child? Or maybe you have family, children, or a hobby with bulky equipment that you want to transport in a classic family.
By the way, if you live with your family or partner, involve them as much as possible. After all, buying a classic car is an investment: at least you have to talk about it. But also, this hobby will require the part of your free time, think that your family will not necessarily go to all the concentrations or help you apply the umpteenth layer of wax on Sunday morning, but seek their support or at least their understanding.
Since you know what classic car to buy, the following is to investigate: learn everything you can about the object of your desires. Nowadays it is very easy to become experts in whatever, the Internet has given a great boost to all hobbies and classic cars are no exception. In the network, we can ask in groups, forums, and clubs and make contact with owners, buy spare parts, etc. We will start by documenting ourselves about the brand and then about the model: years of manufacture, units manufactured, equipment and extras, maintenance costs, ease of finding spare parts, proximity to a good specialist workshop, etc.
The network will also most likely be the site where we will find one to see and test it. Look in the classified ads and if you like one, it remains to try it. To begin with, when considering a specific unit, we are interested in knowing the year of manufacture, which engine is fitted, the equipment, its history, modifications, etc. Also, before meeting to see the car, it is very convenient to inquire with the General Directorate of Traffic to verify who the owner of the vehicle is, if they have the current road tax, make sure that they do not have pending fines, etc. Counting on this, we can go a little calmer to see it.
Inspect a vehicle
So after seeing the ad with the photos and talking on the phone with the owner, suddenly there it is, you are about to buy the classic car of your dreams. But don't be dazzled. Hold. The mind. Cold It may look good at first glance but your mission is to find out what is not seen, to minimize the uncertainty inherent to most classic cars that we find on the market. Because under a beautiful and shiny body, poorly resolved oxides, improperly used putty, or in extreme cases (glubs) can lurk even a rotten chassis covered with multiple layers of paint, impossible to locate with the naked eye.
Of course, if we know the car or its owner well or if the person who sells it is a trusted professional, all this does not take place but if it is not the case, we will find out everything possible about it. Keep in mind that uncertainty translates into time and money, so the final price should be the inverse reflection of the doubts that you have after inspecting it. By the way, if the owner keeps invoices for maintenance and other interventions, we can considerably reduce uncertainty. Try to know if it has its documented history, previous owners, maintenance invoices, current documentation, state of the body, interior, mechanics, road test, original or restored, quality and scope of restoration, etc.
In general, during the inspection, he verifies that the car conserves all its original elements, whether ornamental or functional, or that at least they correspond to the year of manufacture. Also, check that everything made of rubber and plastic remains flexible and does not have cracks, including tires, whose age will be interesting to verify. Beware of cars that have been standing for a long time: this affects all moving parts, to begin with, the tires may have been deformed but all moving parts can degrade after months of confinement.
Well, let's get to it ... First, the bodywork ... all its elements (doors, hood, trunk, wings, etc.) must be aligned and have adequate and constant clearance. Check the state of the paint, that it is smooth and shiny, look for orange peel, droplets ... Then we will look for rust like crazy: the "brown stink" nests where water and/or dirt accumulate, so look at the bottom of the windshield and windows, wheel arches, under the doors, the doors themselves, the underbody ... don't be in a hurry to squeeze with some force, in extreme cases it is even possible that the metal will give way due to the hidden rust.
It is also very practical to check with a magnet that what is under the paint is steel and not “putty”, which will crack at the slightest blow and will force us to restore and paint. Do not forget chrome, lighting elements, and the rubbers around the windshield and windows.
We go to the mechanics and here the experts recommend agreeing with the seller to take the car to a workshop and put it on the lift: we will never be 100% sure but we will have a good idea of the condition of the vehicle. Again, look for rust, especially rotten. Then visually check the engine - tires and plastics should be flexible and free of cracks. Look at the levels of all the liquids but pay special attention to the level and smell of the oil: if it smells like gasoline there is a gasket that does not fulfill its function.
But we tend to look at the engine when the condition of the frame is even more important: try to check that the car has not had any bumps that have affected its structure, that no element of the chassis is twisted or (glubs) broken. Many times, these defects are seen with the naked eye, so we will go around the car a thousand times, crouch down, look at it from all angles, check that the wheels are aligned and that the body is balanced to rule out structural damage.
Now let's go for a ride… check that the engine starts spontaneously the first time and stabilizes instantly at a constant, round idle. Observe how the owner drives, it is better that he does it discreetly, without fuss or frills and that he does not force him to turn. And when you take it you check the tension of the seat belt, make sure the steering wheel is centred, operate all the controls, including the air conditioning, if it has one.
In the test, it accelerates at different levels of engine revolutions (if possible also on the highway) and verifies that when driving in a straight line it does not deviate to the sides, firmly apply the brakes (also the handbrake) to verify that ... they brake and that the car does not go to the sides when braking. In the end, get off and check that all the lights work and see if there are oil stains under the car, with the warm engine, being less dense, it flows better. And now, let's talk about money ...
The Right Price
If the car you just saw seems appropriate, now it is a question of arriving at a price that suits the buyer and seller. Okay, but do we have benchmarks? Nothing is absolute in this field but there are companies dedicated to classifying the prices of vintage cars that are published in specialized magazines. To obtain them, they document transactions and talk to market players to obtain price ranges for a model based on their status. Taking into account these ranges, the price of the unit we want to buy will be determined by its condition… and the negotiating capacity of the seller and buyer - plus the commercial margin if the seller is a professional. Let's see an example ...
Prices for an Alfa Romeo Spider from 1980 currently range from 6,700 dollars for a model that needs to be restored but can still drive up to 20,000 for one in very good condition. Let's say we are going to see a unit and after inspecting it we see that it is fine but with some pending work. We could consider starting at 20,000+ Dollar and making deductions ... the leather is spoiled: we subtract 1,000 dollars; the tires are not original: we subtract 500; the timing belt must be changed: we subtract 600; the front wing has a bump: subtract 300 from it to repair and paint it; the slack in the doors is greater than acceptable: beware, possible structural damage, start to subtract several thousand dollars- or better, look for another unit.
However, when buying all of this it only helps us to orient ourselves, since due to its history each classic car is unique and it is difficult to compare one with another. The fact that a neighbour has bought a Spider for 12,000 dollars does not mean by any means that you can get one for the same price: it may be that your neighbour's car was worth 12,000 dollars but it could also be rotten. rust and your neighbour rushed - or it was perfect but the seller was in a hurry to sell. The same range is only theoretical: a whimsical can get to pay 30,000 for a perfect Spider with documented history and few kilometres and stay that wide. I don't know if with this I clarify something or I mess it up more, well: like life itself….
Paperwork, Payment, and Insurance
Although when it comes to buying a classic car the subject of change of ownership is not complicated, for my part I prefer to use the services of an agency, although be careful with the prices, which are very different.
The documents that are needed in most cases are:
Regarding this last document, the normal thing would be to present the two of them at the agency and sign the papers, but the signed mandate of the seller allows us to take the car with all the documentation calmly and carry out the procedures without having him. Only once the paperwork is done will we send the seller a confirmation that the change of ownership has been made.
Regarding the payment, once the papers have been signed from my point of view, the best thing would be to do it through a bank check. With this document, we avoid carrying cash and as it is made out in the name of the seller (never to the bearer), we do not run the risk of being charged for it when it is lost or in case of theft. For the seller, the bank check has the assurance that the funds are guaranteed by the bank since by extending it, it has immobilized the money in your account. On the other hand, it is common practice for vehicle transmission costs to be borne by the buyer, who will also take care of the paperwork.
We have everything done, the only thing (but essential) that remains before even moving the car a meter is to take out insurance. Nowadays many insurers cover the car with provisional third-party insurance to circulate until they examine it. But if you are going to buy a car that is more than twenty years old, consult insurance companies and brokerages specialized in classics, they offer very competitive prices, especially if we commit to limited annual mileage and we have another car with which to move daily.
Thanks for reading the classic car buying guide
And now there is nothing left but to enjoy your new car, yes, always doing proper maintenance, so that the day you are a seller you offer what you expect as a buyer: honesty and transparency.
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