A guide to buying a classic car

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What is a classic car?
This is a contentious point. People around the world differ on their definition of a classic car. For the sake of this guide, let’s assume it to be a car built before 1989, though most people won’t consider a 1984 Ford Escort a classic, a 1989 Alfa Spider probably is, and in the next couple of years, people may decide the original Mk 1 Mazda MX5 qualifies. If you know what you’re looking for and would call it a ‘classic’ then that’s as good a starting point as any.

Why do you want/need a classic car?
For some, it’s the car they always wanted whilst growing up or perhaps an investment opportunity, some want to relive their youth and others plan to enter into classic car racing. Whatever the reason, there’s one golden rule. Don’t let your heart rule your head. The key to buying a great classic is hard to put a finger on, but ask yourself these questions:
  1. Is it the right car for you?
  2. Can you afford to keep it?
  3. Are parts readily available?
  4. Will you be able to maintain it?
If you can answer these questions positively and feel comfortable that you know what you want, all well and good, classic motoring awaits.

Before you start bidding
Research, research, research and more research. Whilst not for life, buying a car is not just for Christmas either. You’re likely to be stuck with it for some time, either because it’s everything you always dreamt it would be, or you can’t find anyone to buy it off you. Avoiding the worst case scenario and ensuring you don’t end up with a donkey is down to you and you alone. The best advice anyone can give you is:
  1. Research the car you want to buy, make sure you know it’s pitfalls, the things that break and go wrong, places that rust, things to watch for. Ask someone else who has one, visit the car club forums in eBay Groups and across the web. The classic car owning population are enthusiasts and often obsessive, and will always help with advice.
  2. Make sure you go and see the car and hopefully drive it BEFORE you start bidding.
  3. Know what the car is worth in poor, good, excellent and show/concours condition, and don’t under any circumstances exceed your maximum price. Classic’s can be beautiful in their own right (E-Type Jaguars for example), and it’s easy to get carried away.
Seeing the car
There is absolutely no substitute for seeing the car first hand, and if you can take an expert with you you’ll be in a much better position to assess the condition. Remember that well taken photographs can hide a multitude of problems, problems that modern car buyers don’t have to worry about. If you’re very serious you could pay for a professional report on the car’s state. Remember that classic cars suffer problems that modern cars don’t, check for rust, and know in advance what it will cost you to repair or replace anything you feel may not be right.

Winning the car
Classic cars often have small potential markets. For this reason, you may be able to pick up a bargain on eBay. Often, the seller will know what the car is worth and they may set a high starting price or reserve. The price may not be unrealistic however, which is why you really need to go and see the car first hand, the seller is most likely being careful. When bidding, don’t get carried away, especially if you have your heart set on a stunning 1967 Porsche. Know what it’s worth and don’t go higher. If you don’t win it, there will probably be another one along next month.

In conclusion
So, when buying a classic car:
  1. Know what you want,
  2. Research it thoroughly,
  3. See the car in question and similar ones if possible before bidding,
  4. Take your time,
  5. Don’t let your heart rule your head, be disciplined and scientific in your purchase.
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