Buying a Classic Car requires thought, research and some planning. Classic cars are usually bought by enthusiasts to use and enjoy. It is not easy to make a profit from buying and selling classic cars.
Make a project plan and do your best to stick to it
You may see a tempting classic car restoration project listed in a newspaper or classic car magazine or on the Internet that may only be one or two thousand to buy and could be worth ten times as much once it is restored.
Practically though, have you the skills to carry out the restoration of the chassis, engine, interior, and the exterior ? If you need to find a specialist company to undertake some or all the work your ten times buy price may just come down to zero or very little profit indeed. Indeed in many cases the cost of restoration when added together will exceed the market value of the car. If you plan to keep the car and enjoy using it then this is perhaps an acceptable price to pay but do not expect to be able to sell the car at a profit particularly in today’s “credit crunch” economy.
Before you start looking – do you have enough storage space ? Do you have enough working area (remember once stripped down, the bits can take up an awful lot of space). No old car likes to be kept out in the open, not even with a plastic sheet to protect it from the rain, frost and snow and even the worst masochist won’t like working out in the open when it is blowing a gale! Lying on a cold concrete garage floor is bad enough but working outside in all elements usually puts a restoration project on hold permanently !
Where to look for your classic car.
Look in the your local newspaper, classic car magazines, the Internet or even just take a stroll down your street. There is no shortage of old cars to buy. But what if you are looking for something special? Well, let’s face it, these days the easiest place to look is on the Internet.
Go to Classic Lots (link below) and you will find thousands of classic cars from a rusty Mini for £100 to a Ferrari for £500,000. This excellent site also includes all the classic cars available on Ebay.
Once you have identified the car that you want, read between the lines and look at the background of the pictures.You can learn a lot from what is not said as well as the way a description is written.
I am always cautious when it says “selling it for a friend” and yet there is no contact number for the friend so you can make personal contact. When the subject of mileage is omitted from the specification box and the description… why?
Keeping in touch with reality is essential. IF IN DOUBT – CHECK IT OUT!!!! Answer those niggling questions. In the pictures you can see what looks like oil on the ground. Is it from the car you are buying? Is that mud or rust?
Ask yourself four questions. Why do I want the car? How much can I really afford? How far do I want to travel to view or collect it? and then the most important question of all… Do I really know enough about these cars to commit X thousands of pounds on a piece of pretty (or perhaps rusty metal)?
So, buying a classic car on an online auction? Well, I would advise you to adopt the following rules before commencing such an undertaking, and before you make a bid !
Remember if you are the highest bidder (assuming if there is a reserve that it has been met ) and you win the auction then you have entered a legal contract to buy that vehicle (providing the seller has described the vehicle correctly).
Do not expect to go to collect the car and having viewed it to be able to haggle over the price or to walk away. Buyer beware, and if at all possible always view the car in person before you place your bids. If do not feel confident in being able to asses the condition of your prospective purchase take along someone who has the skills to give you an honest opinion of the condition of the vehicle. You may also wish to consider using the AA or RAC who both provide professional pre-purchase inspections – if the seller seems reluctant to allow this inspection walk away !
Viewing the car before bidding
If you have decided to go and see the car then arrange a viewing and if for any reason you can’t make it, let the seller know, it’s only courteous not to waste their time just as you don’t want them wasting your time.
Things to take: a jack, perhaps some axle stands for safety, a torch, gloves and at the very least, a list of points you want to look at.
When you get there take a quick look around. Has the car been kept outside or has it been garaged, this can give you a good indication of the condition you can expect of the body and or chassis. Are there other rotting hulks just lying around, maybe the seller just buys any old junk they can find and try selling it on, not much chance of the car you have come to see having had a service any time recently.
Take a walk around the car and look for the tell tale signs of sagging which could indicate suspension problems or perhaps chassis problems. Do the doors and panels line up correctly, another indication of chassis problems or perhaps the car has had a bump at some time. Is it even one car or was it once two? Any repairs? Have they been completed well or have the repairs been bodged? Do the tyres match? What condition are they in? Check for rot in the body or in fibre glass cars/panels, look for stress cracks. Check the areas which are most prone to rot ie. arches, sills, doors, boot and bonnet. There are many different types of panels that can be used to effect repairs on a car and because of this the quality of repairs can vary.
Check inside the car. Windows, front and rear screen, are any of them leaking? Is the headlining damaged or dirty? Lift the carpets where you can, check for water and any rot, maybe even holes in the floor? Check the floorpan and joints, don’t forget inside the boot, the floor and spare wheel area. If you are happy so far with the body etc. try the engine (you did check all around the engine compartment didn’t you?). Will the engine start from cold? If the engine is already warm perhaps the seller is trying to hide something, maybe cold starting problems, maybe he had to get a jump start or a tow just to get it going? Listen for any knocks, look for smoke. If you see blue smoke on startup that quickly clears it could mean the valves are tired and leaking oil into the combustion chambers. If the smoke does not clear that could indicate a very tired engine, something that will have to be added to the budget, not only for investigation but for the repairs.
Clouds of steam on startup could indicate a blown head gasket or even a cracked cylinder head. Remove the radiator cap and look for “goo”. It is cross contamination and a good giveaway of cylinder head problems. Black smoke, probably just an over rich mixture but could just as easily be a worn carburetter.