The Complete Guide to Buying a Classic Car

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If you always dreamed of buying a classic car, you're not alone. If you're ready to take the needed steps toward that dream, then read on! This guide to buying a classic car will tell you everything you need to know about what to do in order to secure the vintage car you have always wanted!

Content List

Why Do People Buy Classic Cars?

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Classic Car?

Using a Classic Car Dealer to Buy a Car

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car from a Dealer

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car from a Dealer

Buying a Classic Car at Auction

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car at Auction

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car at Auction

Buying a Classic Car Privately

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car Privately

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car Privately

First-Time Classic Car Buyer - Knowing What Type of Car to Buy

Classic Car Buyer Inspection Checklist

Everything You Need to Know About Classic Car Insurance

The Prices of Classic Cars

The Best Way to Pay for a Classic Car

In Summary

Why Do People Buy Classic Cars?

When you think about buying a car, a classic car purchase could potentially be one of the most exciting purchases you will ever make. Doing the research and taking your time to learn about how to buy the right classic car is the key.

There are lots of different reasons why people want to buy a classic car. Understanding your motivation behind this purchase is the key if you want it to be an enjoyable experience, instead of one filled with worry and regret. There is no right or wrong reason; the key is to buy a classic car that's right for your individual needs and desires.

Here are the top five reasons why people decide to buy a classic car:

#1 You want a show car

#2 You want a car you can restore as a project

#3 You want to look good

#4 It's something you've always wanted to do

#5 You are buying a classic car as an investment

As long as you make a smart decision, and one which is fully informed, the world of classic cars can be an incredibly rewarding place to be. Let's take a quick look at each of the reasons in a little more detail.

#1 You Want a Show Car

If your purchase is being driven by a desire to have a show car and to show the car off, then a classic car can become something you can truly feel proud of. However, buying a unique car that is in a decent condition at an affordable price isn't always easy. For most people, there will be an extra element of cost involved to help you restore the vehicle so that it's show- worthy. Aside from this, depending on whether or not the classic car you purchase is in a good enough condition to drive on the roads, yau will also need to consider transportation costs for the vehicle as well.

#2 You Want a Classic Car You Can Restore as a Project

If this car is going to be used as one of the main household cars, then you'll need to consider the full cost of restoration, and the time it will take to get it in working order once more. For some classic car projects, they start out as a job that might take 3-6 months, but this can quickly escalate into 1-2 years, and the cost element for such a delay is also considerably higher as well.

If you have lots of spare time on your hands, and the money to support a full or partial restoration, then a project like this could be a great idea.

#3 You Want to Look Good

Buying a classic car as a statement piece is something lots of people do. The most important point to consider is the cost of running a secondary vehicle, and the cost of insuring your classic car. A point that we will cover later in this guide to buying classic cars!

#4 It's Something You've Always Wanted to Do

In a similar tone to the above point, fulfilling a desire to do something is a great reason to buy a classic car. It may have been a dream you had since you were a child or something you have been saving up for. The truth is, if it's something you have always wanted to do, and you now can, then do it!

#5 You are Buying a Classic Car as an Investment

If you are going to purchase a unique classic car in pristine condition, it could have a good investment potential. But for the most, buying a classic car as an investment doesn't always work out to be as an attractive investment as it may first appear.

Firstly, classic car tastes are very individual. What appeals to you might not appeal to a mass market.

Secondly, do you really want to spend all that money on a car that will mostly sit unused in your home or garage?

Thirdly, a classic car is another term given for an old car. And with old cars, they carry costs for insurance, maintenance, and storage. Depending on the type of classic car you buy, these costs could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars annually.

Finally, the restoration costs for a classic car will often outweigh their final value. For instance, a 60s Corvette could cost you $50,000, then cost a further $40,000 in restorative work. If it is worth $70,000 and you reduce some of the maintenance costs by doing the work yourself, you need to think about the added insurance and needed storage; once that's done, the investment return isn't going to be that high.

Buying a Classic Car as an Investment CAN Work

With the above said, sometimes, investment strategies for buying classic cars can work out. For instance, you plan on purchasing an investment-grade vehicle that you have no intention of driving. You park it in a temperature-controlled garage and hold out until the demand for the vehicle pushes up the price. This can work, but you need to do your research carefully.

There are lots of very nice, unique classic cars from the 50s and 60s that have had no rise in their value for many years. A theory that has been given by the classic car-buying community is the collectors that once bought these are no longer buying. Because they are usually ages 60+, there comes a point in their lives when they need to say goodbye to their collections, or they become unwell, and their interest/activity tails off.

However, for cars that were popular in the 70s to the 90s, right now, they are experiencing a phase of growth in their popularity. This is most likely because those who were children in this era are now approaching middle age. Now that they have extra income, they are spending this on collectible and classic cars.

Where is the Best Place to Buy a Classic Car?

If you have ever gone through the process of buying a used car, then prepare yourself for a completely different car buying experience. Buying a classic car is quite different. One of the biggest factors that people aren't offer prepared for is the time it takes. But, if you want to buy the right classic car, it is going to take a little work, and you need to proceed with caution at all times.

We've already outlined the most popular reasons why people buy vintage cars. There's no doubt of the appeal and attraction that comes with buying a classic car. However, finding the best place to buy a classic vehicle isn't always so easy.

Here are just a couple of the most popular sites that people use to buy classic cars from private sellers.

  1. Ebay
  2. Autotrader
  3. Seller Networks
  4. ClassicCars.com
  5. Buyclassiccars.com

In the next section, we review the different places to buy a classic, and outline the pros and cons for each.

Using a Classic Car Dealer to Buy a Car

Just like with any normal used car sale, when you look for a classic car dealer, there are both good and bad examples. The majority of vintage car dealers run what's known as a consignment shop. This is where a private seller will leave their car with the dealer on their lot. The dealer will advertise and promote the car on behalf of the seller. In return for their efforts, the dealer gets a portion of the final selling price. There are also some dealers who purchase the car directly from the private seller, usually at a lower price than the trade value in an attempt to flip it for a profit.

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car from a Dealer

Negotiations

There is usually room for negotiation with a classic car dealer. While the dealer will try to get you to raise their price, they will also ask the seller to reduce their expectations. This can often work out quite well because they are highly motivated to get you to buy the car quickly in order to secure the deal. If you're wondering the best price to start your negotiations at, you can go in 20-25% below the price they are asking.

Verifiable Pre-Inspection Condition

A good classic car dealer will usually run any cars through an inspection before they sell it on. What's more, a dealer who has confidence in the cars condition will not object to any form of in-depth inspection. Some classic car buyers will choose to take an outside inspector along with them in order to verify the car they are selling is genuine.

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car from a Dealer

You Deal with the Middleman

If your dealer is handling the car on behalf of a private seller, then you will always be paying a slightly higher price to buy a classic car when compared to dealing with private sellers. Because the dealer will usually take a commission value of between 10-15%, this will impact the price you pay. Another valid point is that negotiations tend to take longer as you are essentially handling these via a third-party at all times.

Inventory Turnover Targets

One of the untold targets of a classic car dealer involves the quick turnaround time for inventory. It can mean that they will often not have an intimate knowledge of the car or its history. For a classic car buyer, they will usually want to know a little history in order to understand the story behind the car.

Buying a Classic Car at Auction

It doesn't matter what you buy, an auction is exciting. There is always an outside chance that you could land yourself an amazing deal. However, there is always the risk of paying out good money for something that isn't exactly what it might appear to be.

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car at Auction

Highly Desirable Cars

Some of the most desirable classic cars are sold at auction. They do a stellar job of getting access to cars that would never otherwise be sent out to a dealer, and if you are looking for an investment car to buy, this is probably going to be a great choice.

Easily Accessed

The modern-day auction doesn't need you to attend in person. You can access the bids online or over the phone. The opportunities this creates is immense. You can even bid on a car that is located in a different country with ease.

A Great Price

As we alluded to earlier in this section, there is always a chance that you can walk away with a really good price. Especially in low or no reserve auctions for classic cars. If there are only a limited number of interested buyers, this could play in favor.

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car at Auction

Limited Inspection Options

One of the major drawbacks of buying a classic car at auction is that you have a limited option to physically inspect the vehicle before you make a commitment to buy it. Aside from being able to walk around the car and possibly hearing it being started up, there is usually no opportunity to have a full inspection carried out before you place a bid. For some, this is simply too much of a risk to take.

Extra Premiums

Buying a car at auction also means that the sale price is elevated. Both the seller and the buyer are expected to pay fees. This can actually add anything between 10-25% on to the final price. When compared to buying a classic car privately, it is probably the most expensive in terms of premiums and fees.

Buying a Classic Car Privately

This is probably the most time-consuming way to purchase a classic car. When compared with buying a car at an auction or from a dealer, it takes much more work. However, as payment for your time, you could land a great car at a great price, and not have to worry about the added fees.

For most people, buying a classic car is a once in a lifetime experience. When you choose the go private with your search, you get to look at so many amazing examples of classic cars and can truly savor the experience. The car buying process might take time, but its time well spent, and without a doubt, it is the best way to buy a classic car if you want to get a really good deal and avoid paying an extra 10-15% in top in commissions or fees.

Benefits of Buying a Classic Car Privately

Direct Interaction with the Seller

When you buy privately, you get to deal directly with the current owner of the vehicle. Most of the time, classic car owners who sell privately have owned the car for a long time, and they know everything there is to know about their vehicle. They are the ideal person to tell you about its story, maintenance, and the reason for the sale. When you deal directly with the owner, you can get a feel for their passion, and you will be able to quickly establish how well the car has been looked after.

A Better Price

The other obvious benefit of buying a vintage car privately is that you will get a fair price, without having to pay out extra money for fees or commission for a middleman. There could still be the opportunity to negotiate a lower price as well.

Negatives of Buying a Classic Car Privately

Time and Effort

As we mentioned in the introduction, the biggest disadvantage of buying a classic car privately is the element of time and effort it can take. Because private sellers need to pay for each add they list, they will usually only list a vintage car for sale on a single site. For someone who wants to buy a classic car, your search will need to go far and wide.

Trusting the Wrong Seller

You are entering into a major financial transaction with a complete stranger. In doing so, you might be fooled into trusting the wrong person. For any claims that are being made by an owner, it's important to try and verify these where possible. Always trust your instincts.

In order to alleviate this risk, Escrow.com provides a valuable service that serves to protect both the buyer and the seller when they undertake a major transaction, such as buying or selling a classic car privately.

The Buyer sends the agreed upon payment to Escrow.com. After verifying funds, we alert the Seller to send the vehicle to the Buyer. Protected from fraudulent checks and money order scams, the Seller has peace of mind knowing funds are behind the Escrow.com shield. It makes the transaction safer and offers another level of protection. If something goes wrong, you get your money back.

First-Time Classic Car Buyer - Knowing What Type of Car to Buy

Whichever route you choose to buy a classic car; there are a few quick tips we wanted to share with you. This will help to give you a few ideas for starters.

If you are a first-time classic car buyer, then it is usually best to stick with more popular models. Although a lower production classic car might seem tempting; as a first-timer, you need to keep it simple, here's why.

Support

For most major classic cars, you will find a decent choice of classic car clubs. When you buy a mainstream model, it's always nice to know you can easily meet and talk to like-minded fellow car owners in a similar position to you. And of course, who also share a passion for owning a classic car.

Availability of Parts

With most classic cars, it is possible to build them out of a catalog. For some models, it is even possible to order a full steel body for the car as well. With rarer models, the availability of cars can be an issue. However, with a more mainstream model, you will be able to find any parts more easily. Another benefit is that the parts will also be more reasonably priced too.

Time to Change

Although this is something you might not be thinking about right now. There will come a day when you want to resell your classic car. When this time comes, and it will, it will be much easier to sell a mainstream model with a pre-established marketplace.

If you are buying a classic car for the first time, then take your time. Get advice from experienced collectors if you can. Do as much research as possible. And most of all, try to enjoy the process! The time you invest now will make sure you get the best classic car for your individual needs.

Classic Car Buyer Inspection Checklist

Before making any discussion to buy, the inspection of a vintage car is crucial. In fact, it's so critical that people will often decide to use an outside inspector to come along with them to view the vehicle.

There are lots of options for classic car inspection services online. However, if you want to do it for yourself, here are some of the key things you will need to consider!

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

This is so important when you buy a classic car. You need to make sure the VIN on the tag of the car matched with the title. If there is a mismatch, then the car may have been involved in a serious accident, it could have been stolen or the title could be a forgery. Neither of these outcomes is any good. VIN numbers were standardized in the early 80s in America. However, for classic cars, due to their age and manufacturer, the format of these numbers will be different. The key is that they match.

Vehicle Title

The second most important thing to check if you're buying a classic car is to make sure the vehicle is registered to the current seller. This check is important because there are penalties and fees that become applicable if you then need to research previous ownership records and apply for the title documents yourself. So, make sure they have the title in hand or check that they are prepared to get this.

Vehicle Exterior

Always arrange your appointments to see a car for the first time during the daytime or during daylight. The condition of the exterior is much easier to view in the daylight. Some of the important things to watch out for may include; misaligned panels, mismatched panels, dents, scratches, or even changing to the coloring of the paintwork on different panels.

Vehicle Interior

Classic cars that come with their original interior are always best. Take care to look at the radio, the badges, the upholstery, the seats, and the emblems on the interior of the car. The cost of replacing these can soon add up. If you don't mind this, make a note of what's missing or damaged as this could help with your negotiations.

Damage from Rust

Let's be realistic. If you're buying a classic car, then you should expect a little rust here and there. However, if the rust damage extends to entire sections of floorboards or panels, then you need to exercise caution. If any of the panels on the body of the car look like they have been replaced or repaired because of rust, this is also an indication of more serious issues.

Q: Do you need to look at the underside of a classic car before you buy it?

A: Yes. Always. Rust is one of the major reasons why this is so important.

Always Ask for a Test Drive

Depending on the age and condition of the age, this might not always be possible. However, if you can, test driving a classic car is a great opportunity to check for any issues under the hood that might not be visible during a static inspection. Listen carefully for any clunky sounds or squeaks. Does the car feel a little loose or unsteady when turning around corners? If so, this could indicate a wider suspension problem.

External Vehicle Inspectors

Using an outside vehicle inspector is a great idea if you can afford to do this. As a first-time buyer, you could overlook things that an experienced classic car enthusiast will know and understand.

It doesn't matter whether you buy a classic car privately or through a dealer, you should always be allowed to bring an inspector with you. If anyone says no to this, then you've probably just missed out on a not-so-great deal!

They can serve as an experienced second set of eyes that can scrutinize the interior, exterior, and history of the car on your behalf. They will usually have a keen eye for the paperwork too. If you are buying a classic car because it's something you've always dreamed about, then your emotions might come into play. A classic car inspector can help you keep your feet on the ground and ensure you do not become overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of owning your very own classic car.

Your local classic car clubs or dealer should be able to make a recommendation.

Classic Car Inspection Checklist

Aside from all the above points that you need to consider when you go to see a classic car to buy for the first time, there are also several key areas on the car you will need to pay close attention to. When you are going to visit a classic car for sale privately, it can be very easy to get carried away by your emotions, and some obvious checks could get missed. To help you, we have created a useful resource for you that you can either print or keep on your phone to reference on your viewing.

Here is a link to your classic car inspection checklist.

Everything You Need to Know About Classic Car Insurance

Once you decide to buy a classic car, you'll want to do everything you can to take care of it and protect your investment. It goes without saying that you will maintain it, keep it clean, well- secured, and more. Aside from this, you will also need to buy classic car insurance.

What Exactly is Classic Car Insurance?

With normal automobile insurance, your vehicle is covered up its market value. However, with vintage car insurance, your car is only covered for a guaranteed value that is agreed upon between you and your insurance company. This price is usually worked out using notable collectible car evaluation guidelines, research from the insurance underwriter, or a professional appraisal.

A classic car will usually increase in value over time. This is more-so if the car is well looked after or if it is restored to a high standard. With a normal car, the value of the vehicle will decrease over time, and this is the main reason a specialist type of classic car cover is needed.

What are the Different Types of Classic Car Insurance?

Although most classic car insurance policies are mostly the same, the way in which insurance companies classify the different types of classic cars is important to understand. Here are the most common categories of classic cars that insurers will use in order to decide if they will offer you cover, and how much that cover will be.

#1 Antique Auto Insurance

The majority of insurance companies will classify any car that is at least 25 years old as an antique vehicle. However, in some states, this could be lower, at just 20 years old.

#2 Classic Car Insurance

Most insurance companies state that a classic car should be anything between 19-24 years old.

#3 Replicas and Kit Cars

These are usually representation vehicles that are a minimum of 24 years old with individually manufactured components.

#4 Modified Car Insurance

This doesn't always constitute a classic car. However, if a classic car has had the majority of its stock equipment replaced or altered, this could be rated as a modified vehicle.

#5 Additional Considerations

Aside from the core main categories, there are a range of other classic cars that might fall into one of these special consideration categories.

  • Veteran vehicles that were produced before 1919
  • Hot or Street Rods that were produced before 1949
  • Rare motorsport vehicles, classic motorcycles, modern limited production models, classic military vehicles, or antique tractors.

How Does Classic Car Insurance Work?

Classic car insurance works very much like normal auto insurance. A policy will usually run for a year, and it includes coverage for medical payments, collision, liability, and against uninsured motorists. As with all insurance, there are options extras available, but for classic car cover, there are a couple of extra choices. Here is a list of the typical add-ons for classic car insurance policies.

  • Roadside Cover

    Most classic car policies come with an added option that covers towing only with a flatbed to help prevent any unnecessary wear and tear.

  • Auto Show Medical Reimbursement

    If somebody is injured at an event or exhibition involving your vehicle, this cover will help pay for any medical expenses.

  • Traveling Coverage

    This is to help reimburse you for any accommodation, a rental vehicle, food, and personal items if your vehicle breaks down.

  • Coverage for Spare Parts

    If you keep a selection of back-up parts which are destroyed or stolen, this will cover the cost of replacement at an agreed value.

  • No Attendance Required

    This cover protects your car if you leave it at a car show unattended. The car will not need to be in your exclusive care in order to be protected.

A final word on insurance for classic cars; if you want to increase your level of cover or negotiate a higher agreed value, this can be done with ease. For instance, if you restore a car or the value of the vehicle has increased, you would naturally want to protect this investment.

Classic Car Insurance Eligibility

Almost all classic car insurance companies insist that your car is not used as your primary vehicle. There are all mileage restrictions imposed on policies as well. These limitations are often specific to your state, but most will not give a higher mileage allowance than 7500 miles per year.

Another factor of classic car insurance coverage is that you will be limited to driving the car for leisure or show activities. If you have an accident when travelling to the shops or a place of work; you're probably not going to be covered for this.

Although not every one of these rules will apply, many insurance companies will not offer cover unless:

  • You have been driving for between 5-10 years as a minimum
  • You are at least 25 years of age
  • You will need to park the vehicle in a safe location that is secure and under cover
  • Have no more than a single fault accident within the past three years
  • You will need to use or own another vehicle as your primary vehicle
  • You live in a specific area or state
  • You confirm that you will not engage in any race-related activities

Some insurance companies might refuse to provide cover if the car is in a very poor condition or if it has sustained a lot of damage.

Thankfully, you will find the cover for classic cars will be much cheaper than conventional cover. This is because you will drive less miles in the car, and usually, it will not be used during peak traffic times. If you choose to use your existing insurance company, there might also be a discount scheme in place for insuring a secondary vehicle with the same company.

The Prices of Classic Cars

This is just a short note of advice. Some classic cars will be sold in immaculate condition. Others are sold in a very poor state as a restoration project. The prices and conditions of these cars vary greatly.

Typically, the more money you spend upfront, the more money you will save in the future. People will usually tell you how much they have invested in the car themselves when they advertise it. If someone claims to have spent $40,000 on a car they are selling for $20,000; don't be too quick to discount this claim as phony. Restoration projects can involve a lot of time and money. For some owners, as soon as the work is done, and they've driven it around for a little bit, they want to sell up and move onto their next project!

It is usually the condition and demand that will dictate the price for a car.

The Best Way to Pay for a Classic Car

Just like buying a used car privately, when you buy a classic car, there are many different ways you can pay for your vehicle. For some people, using or carry cash to pay for a used car is too risky, and with online services such as PayPal for used car payments; there is little protection in place should the vehicle arrive as described for automotive purposes.

Using an online Escrow Service to Pay for a Classic Car

A bonded escrow service can reduce fraud for classic car sales transactions. You set the terms of the sale, the inspection period, and even include a clause that allows you to get a full vehicle inspection of your classic car carried out before you accept it. If it doesn’t pass this inspection, there is the option to return the car, and the escrow service will return the money to you in full.

With Escrow.com, there are many other benefits that are tailored to the used car buying process, and it offers both the buyer, and the person selling a used car additional peace of mind.

Escrow.com also provides several additional motor vehicle services to give you peace of mind. If the car is already clear of debt, our Title Collection means you get all the correct legal documents issued, taking the hassle out of the legal ownership transfer process for buying a classic car. Lien Holder Payoff services guarantee there is no outstanding debt on the car, giving you confidence when you buy.

If you would like to learn about how easy it is to use Escrow.com for buying a car, take a look at this quick step-by-step guide about how to buy a used car online securely.

In Summary

Buying a classic car is something people dream of doing; and if you’re one of the lucky people who are now able to buy a vintage car for yourself, the key to doing it properly is to take your time. There are many places you can buy a classic car, and while going to a dealer might be quicker, you will pay a small fortune in fees for the privilege.

Thankfully, using a service such as Escrow.com can help to alleviate any risk when buying your classic car privately. You can save money on the overall price you pay, you can have fun while you search for the perfect vintage vehicle, and you can often find a great deal from a private seller who is just as passionate about the car as you will be.

For a comprehensive review of how you can use Escrow.com to help you buy and sell a classic car, please take a look at this page.

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