Purchasing a classic car can be a fun experience, but a little scary if it's your first. Car? Truck? Original? Modified? Already finished? Project? Where do you start?
Being a car person, I have a deep appreciation for all types of vehicles. When I was looking to purchase my first classic car, I looked for months before I decided on what I wanted. My first thought was to find something that was already finished, a pristine automobile that I could immediately take to local car shows. Unfortunately, I had a budget that wasn't quite enough to afford such a vehicle, so I opted for something less expensive with a little work needing to be done. I don't necessarily mind, as I enjoy working on vehicles and always like to throw in a little of my personal touch to anything I own.
I've done the homework and I'm leaving you with the results of my research. The top 10 things to consider (in my personal opinion) when purchasing your first classic car:
1. Involve your significant other in your decision! This is important and I shouldn't even need to explain why!
2. Budget – You can literally spend as little or as much as you'd like when purchasing a classic. If you've never watched the auctions on TV or done any searches online, you may be unpleasantly surprised to see vehicles go for tens of thousands of dollars. Unless you have an unlimited amount of cash on hand and don't mind putting it towards something you'll only drive a few hundred miles per year, you may want to start with a conservative budget and stick to it. If you've been saving for a while and have $ 10,000 to spend on a classic, look for vehicles $ 10,000 and under. I say this because it's easy to start looking at $ 10,500 with the thought that you can always offer less. The problem with that thinking is that you may get a vehicle for your $ 10,000 but you now have no more money for things like insurance, plates, title transfer, and service / repair that may need to be done.
3. What kind of vehicle? – This obviously depends on you, but think hard about this first. If you have a family and would like to use your new classic for evening family cruises, a truck may not be the best solution. Also, many older vehicles may only have lap belts instead of shoulder belts. That is, of course, if they have seat belts at all.
4. Original or custom? – Originals are nice, but could be tricky when trying to fix something that breaks. I'm more of a custom guy, but try to keep my modifications mild and easy to switch back. For instance, I built a custom removable console to house my CD player and gauges, rather than modifying the dash. This way, if I decide to sell, the prospective buyer won't be turned off if looking for an original vehicle. If you change to aftermarket wheels, keep the originals, too.
5. Project or already finished? – If you have no mechanical experience or have a lack of tools, you may opt for the finished option. If you decide on a project, make sure you know what you're getting into! Do some research on the vehicle you're buying to see how expensive parts are and if you can even get them. Some vehicles, like Camaros and Mustangs have specialty catalogs that you can get almost any part you need to totally rebuild. With some vehicles, however, you may be limited to junk yards and online forums to track down what you need. Certain engines are the same way. We have a Buick 350 engine that only has one aftermarket 4barrel intake available and it's pretty expensive. If it was for a Chevy 350, we'd have an unlimited supply to choose from, most for half the cost. Also think about garage space when rebuilding a project.
6. Where to look? – Once you've decided what you want, the fun begins! With the internet, possibilities are endless. I prefer buying local, as I like to see things up close and test drive before giving thousands of dollars to someone I've never met. If you purchase something across country, remember to add in costs for delivery or gas and lodging if you decide to go pick up.
7. What to look for? – If you're looking for a project, figure out what needs to be done first, and add up the cost of parts and labor to finish. Don't be surprised if you spend $ 2000 on a project, but need to spend another $ 8000 to get it road worthy. Only to find out that it's only worth $ 5000 even after you've invested $ 10,000. If you want a finished product with minimal work, make sure to look into some of the hidden things. For instance, it may look great, but the frame might be rotten, making it an unsafe vehicle. The engine could look good with some chrome, but the insides could be tired and in need of a rebuild. If you don't know much about vehicles, bring a friend with or ask about taking it to your local mechanic for a thorough check.
8. Collector plates or regular? – Laws vary by state, but check into the advantages and disadvantages for both. You may find that collector plates are inexpensive, but have limitations to use.
9. Insurance – As with collector plates, collector insurance policies have certain limitations. Check with your agent to see what's best for you. If you're using the vehicle for shows, parades, hobby, you may be able to get into a policy that's very inexpensive, has a $ 0 deductible, and pays you an agreed value in the event of a total loss.
10. Storage – If you don't have an extra garage or shed for winter storage (especially in areas of snowy, cold winters) you may want to figure in storage costs when budgeting. I wouldn't suggest just parking it in the yard and covering it with a tarp. You could find yourself very upset in the spring when you unveil your baby, only to see rust forming and tires sunk into the ground. Classic cars are, in my mind, an investment and should be protected if possible.
Once you have your purchase, join a local club. This will help you meet others that share your passion. This is invaluable when trying to find parts, needing help with repairs, and just having someone to share ideas with.