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10 Things to Consider Before Buying a Classic Car

Becoming a classic car owner is not a light undertaking;  some might liken it to having a child.  They cost a lot of money and need regular care, using and caring for them is often very different to modern cars in numerous ways.

If you’re thinking of buying a classic car then these are all things you should be aware of and consider carefully.  Here are 10 things you need to know before you take the plunge:

1. Some Aren’t for Regular Use

It can be a real joy to regularly drive a classic car around town, but that’s not always possible or practical.

Some states have rules on how many miles an owner can drive their classic car each year – this they say is because of the higher emissions they put out.  You may however be exempt from emissions testing depending on the car’s manufacture date and the state you live in. Here’s a guide for each state.

2. Classic Cars Handle Differently

Driving a classic car can be a thrilling experience but it’s not always so thrilling to begin with.  There can be a steep learning curve getting used to their quirks and different styles of driving.  It can take some time to get used to how a classic car handles, for one they take longer to brake generally, and they may not have power steering so you’ll need to really thrust your arms to turn corners but it’s all part of the experience and charm of having a vintage.

3.  They Need a LOT of Maintenance

Classic cars almost always require more care and attention than most.  They can ome with some problems when you first buy them too, depending on how much you pay etc..  Oil changes are a more frequent task with classic cars.  Old parts can be more prone to wear and need protection which will lead us on to our next point.

Factor in the need to pay for future repairs. The money you invest in a classic car doesn’t stop at buying it, very often they are money pits, and big ones, so consider any future outlay before you make the commitment.  The question isn’t if, but when.

You can make things better for yourself by buying a car with a solid service history.

4.  They Need Proper Storage

While not essential it is best if you can keep your classic car covered and/or stored away in a garage to protect against adverse weather.  Rain, snow, ice and the sun can all become a problem for classic cars, adversely affecting their visual appeal; bad weather can also wear down aged mechanical components so it’s best to keep it safely stored away.

Unfortunately, vintage cars can also be a target for thieves, you really can’t predict when and where one might come from, so if you have the option it’s really worth keeping your car in a garage to protect your investment.  If you don’t have a garage you can use then you should consider renting one.

5.  You Don’t Need to Keep Everything 100% Original

What’s the point in owning a classic car and spending all the time and money on it if you don’t truly enjoy it?

You’ve got to really enjoy it and if you need to make some adjustments to do that then why not?
Unless you’re taking it to shows then there’s not too much harm in a few alterations to make it more desirable and enjoyable.

6. Consider a Project car to Save you Money

Classic cars aren’t small investments, if you’ve got a more limited budget then consider buying a project car.  It’s best to not compromise on mechanicals, but worn tires, brakes, suspension or a tired clutch can be less problematic to repair and can save you money on the initial cost.

You can take your car to a local garage to fix any of these issues.  If you prefer you can also look for a specialist classic car garage.

7. Know the Difference Between “Classic” and “Old”

Some cars are simply old, but not really classic or vintage.  They’re not a good investment opportunity and you could lose money after buying them instead of the value going up over time.

8.  Know your Limits

Your classic is going to need a lot of care and maintenance.  If you can’t do things yourself then you need someone nearby who you can trust to help.  If you have a garage nearby that specializes in vintage and muscle cars then that’s a bonus, if not you might need to handle most everyday repairs yourself.

9. They’re More Prone to Breaking Down

Breakdown rates increase significantly with older cars and sad but true they’re not uncommon in classics.  Be prepared that you might break down from overheating, a dead battery, carburetor problems or anything else.

According to 2017 figures from the AAA:

  • 67% percent of calls for roadside assistance were for vehicles 10 years and older.
  • Vehicles 10 years or older were 4 times more likely to require a tow.

The AAA recommends for cars older than 10 years:

  • Check your tires regularly for cracks, bulges, tread and keep them inflated; do this at least every 2 weeks.
  • If you do lots of short trips – go for a long run every so often to charge the battery.
  • Be aware that most car batteries last for around 4-6 years.
  • Keep your car serviced and maintained regularly.
  • Keep a local tow company phone number in your cell phone.
  • Stay safe and know what to do while waiting for a tow.

10. Safety can be Compromised (But Improved in Some Areas)

Vintage cars don’t have the same safety features as modern cars.  Always treat a vehicle as a potential weapon.  Cars kill, it’s a sad fact of life.  Safety should be a consideration when buying a classic car, this might determine what you decide to do with it, i.e. not driving it regularly, or having it towed to car shows.  Classic cars often don’t have airbags, headrests or seat belts, but these can all be added most of the time.

It’s also important to consider crash absorption; some safety aspects can’t be more easily controlled without completely changing the car.  Essentially classic cars almost always pose an increased safety risk.