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8 Things to Do Before Buying a Classic Car

Owning a classic car typically has a strong emotional connection. Whether it’s a vehicle that your dad drove when you were a kid or a vintage sports car from your favorite film, classics draw huge interests from car enthusiasts.

While these steps don’t include everything you need to know about buying a classic car (there are hundreds of books on that topic), we’ve curated the top things to consider before buying that classic car of your dreams.

1. Decide on the purpose of your classic car.

Will you use your classic car on a regular basis, such as driving to and from work? Or will your classic car be a “toy” that you take for periodic joyrides and display at events? Knowing the purpose of your classic car will drive your decision whether to pursue something practical and mainstream vs. fun and exotic.

2. Attend some classic car shows.

Classic car shows are held year-round all over the country, providing the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with various makes and models. You can also strike up conversations with long-term classic car owners, who can provide valuable advice on the types of vehicles you’re considering. 

3. Get involved with a classic car club.

It’s a good idea to get involved with a local classic car club or reputable online club to learn more information about the classic car you’re interested in. Classic car club members can often give you first-hand insight into maintenance and upkeep costs. Some classic cars need a lot of work to keep them roadworthy. It’s not uncommon for some classic cars to require tens of thousands of dollars on maintenance, replacements, and related upkeep over the years. Plus, the very car you’re thinking of buying may have been previously owned by one of the car club members.

4. Make a list of questions for the seller.

Once you start hunting for a car, be prepared with a list of questions for any sellers you approach. In addition to asking vehicle-specific questions, Carfax recommends asking the following:

  • Do you hold the car’s title?
  • Do you know how many owners the vehicle has had over the years?
  • Do you have the car’s maintenance records? If so, how far back?
  • How often is the car driven?
  • Has the car had any major modifications?
  • Are you aware of any current or past problems with the car?
  • Why are you selling it?

When asking questions, though, it’s important to be tactful so that you don’t offend the owner. If he or she isn’t desperate to sell, you could lose out based on your approach. 

5. Take the car for a test drive.

When taking the car for a test drive, listen to the engine for irregularities and ask the seller about any odd sounds. Make sure you try the brakes also, and take note of how well the vehicle “handles.” Is driving this car something you can envision yourself enjoying in the years to come? 

6. Get a professional inspection.

Before buying that classic car, be sure to have it professionally inspected—inside and out. Even if the car has been meticulously restored, you never know what might be lurking under the hood (and if you see rust, that’s a big red flag). If the seller is reluctant to allow a professional inspection, it’s best to move on.

7. Find a mechanic for ongoing maintenance.

Not all mechanics have the knowledge and experience to work on your classic car. It’s important to scope out the availability of qualified mechanics in your area, their background, and their rates. Members at a local classic car club can provide valuable insight here as well.

8. Explore insurance options.

In most cases, insuring a classic vehicle through a specialty insurance provider can cost less than through a traditional auto insurer. However, certain antique and exotic collector vehicles can still be more expensive to insure. It’s important to get in touch with your McGriff insurance professional to explore the options available to protect your classic car. 

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