Car Buying

Buying Classic Cars: What Extra Steps Should You Take?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2015

If you're interested in buying a classic car, you've probably already realized that the experience isn't exactly like buying a typical used vehicle. Classic cars are harder to come by than regular used cars, and they often require you to consider vastly different traits. For instance, instead of wondering about a warranty or fuel economy figures, you'll probably be more concerned with whether the car has original paint and whether the engine number matches the original vehicle identification number. But are there any additional steps you should take when buying a classic car that you wouldn't take with a normal car? We think so, and we have a few suggestions.

Find a Mechanic

Although we typically recommend finding a mechanic to perform a pre-purchase inspection when buying a used car, that's doubly important for a classic vehicle. Classic cars can have unique parts and a wide range of hidden issues a typical mechanic won't be able to spot or address, so finding a mechanic to assess the vehicle's condition before you sign the papers can be very important.

But finding a mechanic isn't only necessary before you buy the car. It's unlikely a typical Chevy dealer can service a '67 Camaro or a normal Mercedes dealer can repair a '66 250SL, so you'll want to find a mechanic you can trust before buying any classic vehicle, unless you plan on doing all the repair work yourself. The last thing you'll want is to come home with your new classic car and discover there aren't any local shops that can fix it.

Insurance

You'll also want to consider insurance before buying a classic car. Insuring a classic car isn't like insuring a normal vehicle, and you'll probably need a collector insurance policy, which may limit the number of miles you can drive per year. An insurance company may also want to conduct an appraisal of the vehicle in order to assess its value. The company may place limits on where you can store your new classic car, such as requiring that you keep it in a locking, single-car garage.

Since you'll want to know all the conditions to meet before buying the classic car of your choosing, it's important to call the insurance company before you sign the papers on any vintage vehicle.

Verify Everything

One last piece of advice: Before buying a classic car, verify everything. Don't trust the seller when they tell you the Camaro is a high-performance Z/28 model or the Mustang is an original Shelby GT350. Instead, personally verify vehicle identification numbers and engine numbers before making any purchase, and if you're not in the same area as the vehicle, then find someone competent to make these verifications.

While this isn't an item you'd usually consider in a used-car transaction, originality can be highly important to the value of a classic car, and you don't want to leave anything to chance before making a purchase.

Our Take

Buying a classic car certainly involves taking a few more steps than buying a regular vehicle, but the reward of taking your dream vintage vehicle on an enjoyable Sunday drive is worth it. Follow our advice, and you'll be on that drive in no time.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying Classic Cars: What Extra Steps Should You Take? - Autotrader