If you’re interested in buying a used car – particularly a classic car – navigating the complexities of shopping for your dream vehicle can be quite difficult. How can you know when you’ve found the right car? What should you be looking for when it comes to service history?
In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the basics you need to know when shopping for a used car. Note that while these tips are mainly applicable to classic cars – such as vintage European and American cars – many of them still apply to late-model modern vehicles, as well. So read on, and get the tips you need to make sure you buy the right used car.
1. Do Your Homework And Find The Car That’s Best For You
This is particularly important if you are looking to purchase a specific classic or vintage car like a Porsche 911. Compared to the past, there is so much information available about classic cars on the internet and from auto shows.
You can find information about different car models on enthusiast forums and using search engines, find the average price that a particular vehicle has sold for, and conduct a huge amount of research all from the comfort of your own home.
Before you get into the market for a used car – particularly a vintage or classic car – you need to take the time to do this research and find the car that’s right for your budget and your tastes. This is the step of the used car-buying process that is the most important – so spend plenty of time doing your research before you begin shopping for a particular model.
2. Don’t Ignore High-Mileage Cars – They Can Be A Good Bargain!
This is true of all vehicles. While having fewer miles on the speedometer will mean the car is worth more money, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a car with higher mileage is a bad investment. It all comes down to how well the car has been maintained.
As a matter of fact, you can sometimes find great deals on used or vintage cars with high mileage (100,000+). As long as the car has been well-maintained, it’s likely just as good as a low mileage car.
Not only that, but there are some components – like rubber hoses – that become brittle and wear out with time and age, not just mileage. Because of this, buying a low-mileage car doesn’t automatically guarantee that it will be free of issues
3. Ask For Comprehensive Documentation And Vehicle Service History
This is related to the above point and is especially important if you are purchasing a valuable classic or vintage car. You will want to make sure that the vehicle is well-documented. You want a paper trail that starts at the original automaker – and ends with the current owner.
Ideally, you should even look for things like the original window sticker, sales contract, owner’s manual, and other such paperwork when buying a classic vehicle – the more items there are that establish the provenance (history) of the car, the better.
In addition, it’s a good idea to look for a car that has a comprehensive service history. Even if the vehicle appears to be in great shape, having information about past repairs, maintenance and service is very useful – both for confirming its condition and for understanding what repair costs you’re likely to incur in the near future.
4. Don’t Just Search In Your Area – Look All Across The Country
Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find used cars and classic vehicles all across the country on different auction websites, as well as websites like eBay Motors, AutoTrade – the number of platforms you can use, are endless.
Obviously, it would be ideal to find the car you’re looking for in your town, or within your state – or, barring that, a few hours’ drive. But don’t just stop there. Today, transporting classic cars is quite affordable – and if you find your dream car somewhere that’s across the country, it’s definitely worth it!
If you do end up finding a car for sale that’s far from where you live, we recommend having it checked out by someone you know in the area, if possible – or you could fly out and inspect it yourself, or ask the seller to arrange an inspection at a trusted local mechanic.
Make sure that you get all the documentation about the car’s VIN and other details before you sign any purchase agreements or other documents – so that you can confirm its value and legitimacy.
5. See Rust? Run For The Hills!
Rust is an unfortunate fact of life, even in classic and vintage cars. A very small amount of rust is not necessarily a deal-breaker. For example, a few bubbles on a quarter panel can be sanded, removed and restored.
But if the vehicle has serious rust problems –
think rusting floor panels, a see-through trunk, and major corrosion throughout
the vehicle – it’s best to skip it. Often, repairing that much rust is nearly
impossible. And, even if you do manage to restore the car to its original
condition, it may cost you more than simply buying a nicer used vehicle in the
So be on the lookout for rust like flaking and peeling paint and bubbles on the surface of the car’s paint – and watch out for any freshly-painted areas that look like they may conceal hidden rust issues. We also recommend always checking under the interior flooring and trunk carpeting to look for hidden signs of rust.
6. Buy The Car That’s In The Best Shape You Can Afford (Or Risk A “Money Pit!”)
You may be tempted to buy a car that’s a “mechanic’s special” and has serious body issues or mechanical problems. Yes, these cars can be very inexpensive. If you have the resources to spend on professional restoration services – or you have experience working on cars and a lot of spare time – they can be a good option.
But usually, choosing a car that’s in bad shape just ends in disaster. You may blow your repair and restoration budget, or simply lack the spare time to restore it yourself – and your non-operable or poorly-running car will just sit in a garage and rust away.
In most cases, it’s a better idea to just spend the money to buy a car that’s in the best shape you can afford. Putting up more money up-front to buy a vehicle that’s actually in decent shape and runs ensures that you’ll actually get some satisfaction and enjoyment of it – and this also reduces your risk of buying a “money pit” vehicle that ends up costing you more money to restore than it’s worth.
7. Make Sure You Get The Right Insurance Coverage For Your Vehicle
If you do end up buying a classic car or vintage vehicle, you’ll want to make sure that you insure it properly.
You will need specialty collectible car insurance coverage – which stipulates a guaranteed or agreed-upon value for your vehicle upfront. This is a necessity since standard auto insurance policies usually only cover “book value” for a car – which may technically only be a few hundred dollars for an older, vintage car.
This type of car insurance is actually quite affordable, but it does have some restrictions. Usually, you’ll be limited on how many miles you can drive per year, and you can’t use a classic car for your daily commute. You may also be required to keep it in a garage when it’s not in use.
Follow These Tips – And Start Shopping For A Used Classic Or Vintage Vehicle Now!
While some of these tips are more applicable to shopping for classic/vintage cars, they’re applicable to buying any kind of used car. So keep them in mind when you start making a budget and shopping for a used vehicle – and you’re sure to find a great deal on a high-quality car.