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Owning Classic Cars: The Drawbacks

On the outside, owning a classic car seems very exciting: you get a vintage vehicle with a cool design that doesn’t have any complicated electronics like modern cars. And since classic cars aren’t depreciating, it might not cost you that much to own one. But owning a classic car isn’t necessarily for everyone. To help you understand what we mean, we’ve listed a few of the drawbacks of classic car ownership — not to help dissuade you from buying your dream car, but just so you know what you’re getting into before you sign the papers.

Lack of Convenience

One major item that many people don’t consider before buying a classic car: you’re going to lose out on a lot of modern conveniences. Of course, you may have already considered some of the features your classic won’t have, like satellite radio or a backup camera.

But can you live without reliable air conditioning? In some parts of the country, the answer is certainly no. And what about a functioning radio? Many classic cars get poor radio reception, which means you won’t get much in the way of music while you’re in the car. Of course, you can forget about CDs and iPods, unless you want to swap out the stereo — a decision that may cost you later if a future buyer is looking for an all-original car.

Comfort and Safety, Too

And then there’s comfort. Modern advancements in suspension technology, seat quality and entry and exit have given today’s cars a huge comfort advantage over previous models. You might not realize it, but you’re spoiled by your SUV or midsize sedan — and if you’re someone who doesn’t like to feel every bump in the road, you’ll learn that as soon as you spend serious time in your classic car.

Something else to consider: safety. While today’s cars offer crumple zones, advanced side-impact protection systems, airbags and traction control — not to mention automated features like lane-keep assist and forward-collision braking — classics won’t include any of those items. If safety is a concern, you’ll probably want to steer clear of older cars, as they won’t fare well in a serious collision despite their sometimes imposing size.

Who Will Work on It?

Although simplicity can sometimes draw people to classic vehicles, you might want to find a reliable, trusted mechanic before signing the papers on the classic of your choosing. That’s because you can’t just take your 1964 Impala down to your local Chevy dealership for work, as the dealership’s technicians are trained on modern cars with modern parts and electronics. As a result, you’ll want to find a good mechanic before you buy your classic car — unless you plan to do all of the work yourself.

Be Careful!

If you generally aren’t careful with your cars, you might want to avoid buying a classic. That’s because buying a classic car is less about ownership than stewardship: You have possession of the vehicle now, but someday you’ll want to pass it on to a new owner — and you’ll want to keep it in excellent condition. That means no scratches, dings or dents that might normally appear on the family car or your work truck. You’ll have to learn to park far away from everyone else and possibly even avoid driving your classic car in bad weather. If these concessions sound like too much work, classic car ownership may not be for you.

Our Take

Owning a classic car isn’t as easy — or as comfortable — as owning a regular vehicle. If you’re still interested after all the drawbacks you’ve read above, you might be ready for classic car ownership. If not, you aren’t alone: Classic car ownership certainly isn’t for everyone, and there are many more modern cars that offer similar thrills to classic vehicles without the drawbacks.

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  1. Take heart in the article above.  I’ve owned classics for over 30 years usually 2 at a time and the upkeep is more than you ever estimate.  You need to drive them at least monthly and keep a log.  It will surprise you how long you will go without driving them after the initial “boat like thrill” goes away and not operating is usually the death of these cars.  I’ve never looked at a restored classic for sale that was “over-used”.  Generally, they live a sort-of mothballed life and everything starts to breakdown and break apart simply from lack of exercise.  I let me kids drive them around the area at least one time a month to get their exercise.  On the other end, selling them is another headache.  The tirekickers fall out of the trees and no one wants to pay what you think you should receive.  I’ve been in the business too and it’s not what it is cracked up to be.  Most “classic dealers” are best left alone and you’re much better off from an individual.  The appreciating values are a bit more of a propaganda story so juts ask others how they did when they sold their cars.  Don’t forget, the audience for classic cars is getting smaller and smaller and is expected to accelerate so I’d advice against these cars (regardless of make/model) as investments.  My 2 cents form over 30 years experience.

    You’ll have more fun and less risk with a 10 year old low mileage manual transmission sports car in the end.   

  2. That’s why we call it a classic, and not plastic like the cars today, It’s American Steel at it’s best and the memories they bring back. Is your plastic KIA going to fetch a 100k like a 68 Camaro?

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