Buying a classic car

By Joanne Lemna  | 
Mar 9, 2016 12:35:59 PM

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There’s something magical about the 1958 Buick Limited Convertible. The wing tips, the port lights, the stylish bucket seat interior... it just oozes style and class. Built in the 1950s, the Buick Limited is known for its durability and ongoing appreciation value. Top condition models have been known to sell for us much as US$120,000. No wonder it’s considered one of the best classic car buys by automobile experts.

Of course, not everyone is going to want to fork out a six-figure price tag for a classic car—and these days you don’t have to. With so many cars finding your perfect vehicle is just a matter of patience and persistence.

Before You Buy

Figure out what you want. This may be easy - you've been dreaming of that car since childhood or you've gone to a few car shows and picked out a favourite model - or you may simply love all older vehicles. If that's the case, you'll have more research to do (or a lot more cars to look at). Don't forget to factor in what you want to use the car for.

Remember, it's best as if you don't pick a car for its investment value. Buy a vehicle because you want to enjoy it, not because you want to make money off of it, as this can be extremely difficult to do, especially if you're inexperienced and will have to outsource any work that needs to be done on the car.

Do your homework on the model you pick. You'll want to know if it has any quirks and the vehicle's average retail value. That will help you with your budget. Keep in mind that while cars needing work are less expensive, restoration project costs and add up very quickly. Check out Collector Car Market Review, NADA Guides, and Hemmings to help you find a trend on prices.

Before you buy, don't forget to consider storage options. You'll want to keep this vehicle protected from the elements. A dry, secure garage is almost an essential. You can opt to store the vehicle off-site during the winter months as well.

Buying a Classic Car

A good place to start is through private sale classified ads. Collector cars are listed everywhere from Kijiji to Auto Trader to classic-car specific listings. Contact the seller of a car you're interested in to arrange a viewing of the car. 

Make sure you come prepared. You'll want an idea of what the model sells for in optimal condition, as well as a general range of prices. You'll also want to bring a weak refrigerator magnet to help inspect the car. It's a good idea to bring a knowledgeable friend, too. 

Do a thorough walkaround of the exterior, preferably in natural daylight. Look for any dents, rust damage, and mismatched paint or panels. Use that handy magnet you brought all over the car in order to find rust. Rust is the No. 1 enemy of any car, and the particular nemesis of a classic car. This is because the less modification and replacement you do on a collector car, the more valuable it is. Rust means that it needs work. If your magnet won't stick to a part of the body, there's probably rust - or the panel is made from aluminium or fibreglass. 

You'll also want to examine the interior. Original is always best, but at the very least a high-quality restoration should have been done if the original parts needed to be replaced. You'll also want to record the VIN, serial numbers and body tag codes to do some research - you want things to match unless it's a modern restoration.

If you can, take the car for a test drive or at least fire up the motor. The next, if you decide this is the car for you, is to hire a professional to inspect the vehicle. A mechanic should check it over, especially if you didn't test drive it. Many insurance companies require this step anyways, so you might as well do it before you spend any money! 

Next, comes the price haggling. When that's finished, make sure you have a bill of sale with the seller's name, your name, the amount the car was purchased for and "paid in full" clearly stated.

Protecting Your Collector Car

Even if you're not buying a vehicle as a restoration or resale project, you should protect your investment. Protect your classic car with classic car insurance designed to appreciate its value. You can read about the difference between regular car insurance and collector car insurance here, but in summary regular cars depreciate while classic vehicles are valued differently.

Insurance for your classic car will be greatly impacted by how you drive and use your vehicle. For example, if you rarely drive it and carefully store and maintain it, your annual insurance premiums will be much lower. If it's a restoration project, there are speciality coverages that will increase the vehicle's value gradually and only cover certain perils. Classic car insurance also offers benefits specifically tailored to these vehicles, such as roadside assistance via flatbed truck equipped with soft ropes, agreed-value that does not depreciate, the option to do repair work yourself, and speciality coverage for vehicles under restoration, to name a few.

Talk to your insurance broker today about how to best protect your classic car. They'll be able to advise you based on the type of car and how you use it what insurance coverage is the best option for you.

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