Is a Classic Car Right For You?

A vintage or classic car can bring you great joy, but it may also be painfully expensive. The truth is vintage car ownership can sometimes be an illusion because not everyone is suited to the hobby, financially or otherwise. The good news is that by using these tips with caution you could soon be at the wheel of the car of your dreams. Some of which may be as old as the car you’re about to buy.

Ask yourself if you can really afford a vintage or classic, remembering that if something breaks it could end up costing a small fortune in repairs. This is especially true of rare or exotic vehicles. Parts may be hard to find, thus the car could be out of service for a lengthy period. Can you handle repairs on your own? Got the talent and experience for restoration? Great… but if not, be prepared to dig deep.

Always have a “reserve” set aside for unexpected repair costs. A friend who restores and sells collector cars suggests a minimum of at least $3000. More if the car is a rare exotic. But then, if you’re buying a Bugatti or a Deusenberg, you probably don’t need our advice.

Will your vintage or classic be an “everyday driver?” Daily use puts a strain on old parts and systems. Not that a collector car can’t be driven regularly but it had better be dependable; something that starts on demand, can be readily repaired, has parts that are easy to find. Along with a driver who can afford the price of breakdowns.

If you are planning to drive your vintage beauty on public roads keep in mind that it was built for a different time; slower traffic, less highway congestion, more tolerant drivers. Those old drum brakes may not be adequate for a panic stop in modern traffic so learn to adapt. Non-power steering will require muscle. Earlier power steering systems are slow and sloppy. Turn signals, if they exist, might be invisible to traffic accustomed to big, bright blinkers.

It may be necessary to arrange special insurance for a collectible. Be aware that older cars do not have the anti-theft devices or the serial number database of newer cars. Hot-wiring an older car is child’s play.

And finally, though this may seem repetitive, get your financial ducks in order before you begin. Falling in love with a car and making a commitment without sufficient planning is, if you’ll forgive a cliché, a recipe for disaster.

If you’ve done it right, as suggested above, you can have the fun of searching for that dream car. And that, indeed, can be a lot of fun. Just be cautious, be prepared to pull back and wait if necessary, perhaps even accept a little less than what you’d planned.