Ask the Right Questions When Buying a Classic Car

So you’re thinking of buying a classic car? Whether it’s your first (welcome to the club) or one of many, there are certain factors to consider before making a purchase.

Shopping for a classic car is not like shopping for a “used” car. No two classics are alike. Each classic is unique and special in its own way. A true classic has layers, like an onion, of history, nostalgia, and a whole lot of unique personality. And along with all of that personality there are quirks… and maybe even a bit of—dare we say—“baggage.” That doesn’t mean that the car isn’t worth the investment, but it’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into when you make the purchase and that you negotiate on the price accordingly.

There are a variety of questions that we recommend that you ask the seller about the car. Most of the time you have to go with trust, and with your gut feeling, because it’s very hard to ever truly know that accuracy of how the seller is representing the car. Of course they want to get the best possible price for it, but hopefully they also care enough to find a good home for the vehicle, with an owner who will appreciate it.

  1. Why are they selling the car?
  2. How long have they owned the car?
  3. What immediate repairs does the vehicle require?
  4. How often do they drive the car, or when is the last time they drove it?
  5. Do they have any concerns about taking the car on the highway, or for long distances like to a car show that’s far away?
  6. How would they feel about having the car inspected by a professional?

Things to ask and also check for yourself:

  1. Does the car have any significant rust? For much older cars with wood, is there any rot?
  2. Are the three most important parts—the engine, transmission, and rear axle—originals? Do the numbers correspond to the car’s VIN (vehicle identification number)?:
    1. To check the engine, most of the time it will be stamped with the last six numbers of the car’s unique VIN.
    2. For the transmission and rear axle, check the date codes.

These questions will help to paint a much clearer picture of the car, and they will also give you a foothold if you feel that the price needs to be negotiated down. For bigger ticket purchases, it’s not a bad idea to follow up on the point about having the car inspected, because you’ll want to know what you’re really getting yourself into before dropping a lot of money on the car. Without an inspection, all you have is the seller’s word, and you know what they say about “buyer beware.”

Other Considerations

Something else to keep in mind when you’re buying a classic car is that really, the car isn’t an investment, it’s a hobby. Buying a classic car because you think it’s an investment is never a good idea. While some classics do appreciate in value, others can be hard to sell. Right now muscle cars are hot on the market, but other vehicles that were doing well just a few years ago have plummeted. Make your purchase for the love of the car, not for the love of money.

It’s also a good idea to look at the costs of insuring the vehicle before making the purchase. Sometimes insurance rates can be a shock to first-time buyers.

Consider the availability and cost of the car parts. If you’re purchasing a Ford Model A, you won’t have any problems with parts, but if you’re buying an obscure 1929 Graham Paige, the parts will be scarce.

Find a mechanic before you buy. Even if you’re planning to do some of the work yourself, ensuring that you have a great mechanic that you can team up with, or a full service restoration shop like Wasatch Customs, will guarantee your success. At Wasatch, we specialize specifically in muscle cars. If you’re buying another era of car, give us a call and we can let you know if we’re the right fit for your vehicle, or we can make a recommendation about a mechanic who will be right for you and your car.

We hope that you find this list to be of value and we wish you the best of luck finding—and negotiating—your future car!


Classic Cars
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