We take a look at what’s involved in buying and looking after a classic car, how to find the right car, maintain it and pay for it.
Fancy owning a piece of history? What about driving it at 60 miles an hour down a country road, with the wind rushing through your hair in a classic car?
Nothing beats the thrill of owning a classic car, but how do you know if it’s right for you? And what should you look for when purchasing one?
Let’s start with the question of what a classic car actually is.
Legally, any car built or registered over 40 years ago is exempt from road tax, and classified as a ‘historic vehicle’ under UK tax law. While this is often cited as a useful cut-off date, a more popular understanding of the term should take into account the quality of the vehicle itself. While this is clearly a subjective measure, the appreciation of a car’s value is frequently dependent on the judgement of classic car clubs and magazines.
For many avid petrolheads, classic cars are bought first and foremost for their sentimental value. An appreciation for vintage design combined with a love of rasping engines is enough for many to spend their hard-earned savings. But there’s another reason to buy a vintage car – as an investment. And the older the vehicle, the more well-earned its ‘classic’ moniker.
According to the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, average classic car prices rose by more than 330% in the past decade, outstripping returns from stock market indices, bank accounts, bonds, and other investments. But like any asset, its price can be negatively influenced by economic downturns. Get it wrong, and you may struggle to resell your investment at or above your purchase price.
And then there are the costs to consider. To stay serviceable, a classic car requires regular maintenance. While having all its original parts and equipment intact may bump up the value of the vehicle, it can be difficult when something goes wrong and needs to be replaced. Not only do you have to track down the required component, you’ll need to find a classic car specialist to fit it for you. Both can be quite hard to come by, and can end up being pretty pricey as a result.
If you’re willing to spend the time, effort, and money on a classic car, it will likely be the most enjoyable purchase you will ever make. So when you’ve finally weighed up all the pros and cons, and decide the time is right to begin looking for the vehicle of your dreams, where do you start?
You should firstly consider whether you’d rather buy from a private seller, auction, or car dealership. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re looking privately, the internet is a good place to begin your search. Here is your modern day equivalent of the classified ads section, with exciting quantities of cars on display, all with a comprehensive list of specs and professional photos. One of the best things about buying online is the filters you can apply to find your dream ride. Whether it’s searching by location, year, or exact model, websites such as Autotrader, Classic & Sports Car, and even Gumtree offer a highly browsable range of vintage vehicles.
Auctions also offer a great opportunity to grab a bargain, and can be a pretty exhilarating experience. Just make sure you do some prior reading before making a bid, and set a strict budget to ensure you’re not overspending (read this handy guide for getting the best price for your car) Some of the best deals are to be made at events such as those hosted by RM Sotheby’s. But do your homework.
Or if you really want to have a proper look and feel, why not pop down to your local classic car specialist? If you’re really passionate about classic cars, there’s often no substitute for getting up and close with the vehicles on display. You’ll have a chance to speak to some real experts in the field. Plus, this option is usually the safest. Not only are these vehicles likely to include a warranty and recent service history, you’ll also have better consumer protection if something goes wrong with your car after your purchase.
So you’ve found a car that you like, and ask for a test drive. What do you look for? When it’s love at first sight, it can be very tempting to look past any flaws, but it is important to make sure you’re paying the right amount of money for what is on offer. Make sure you test all parts of the car, including the gear lever, clutch, lights, brakes, wipers, and doors. Once you’re satisfied with its condition, make sure the car has the correct documentation. Firstly, check that the VIN number on the paperwork matches that on the car, then you should conduct a vehicle history check using mycarcheck.com.
To finance the vehicle, a number of options are usually available. Whether hire purchase, lease purchase, equity release, or auction finance, there are flexible range of alternatives that will suit any buyer. This handy guide to financing a classic car will take you through the options on offer.
For the many of us who don’t have an extra £30k sitting in the bank, these alternative payment methods allows buyers to coordinate the purchase of their car in a way that suits best. One of the most popular of these methods is equity release, whereby existing car owners can release the capital tied up in their vehicle to fund other purchases. With terms from 12 to 60 months, this is faster than mortgaging or remortgaging your property, and can help any car owner to quickly and easily achieve their classic car dream.
There aren’t many experiences like driving a classic car down an open road. And owning your very own vintage roadster is more achievable than you think. As with any investment, education is the key. Ensuring you know everything about your intended purchase will not only help you make a wiser decision, it will make you enjoy your new vehicle that extra bit more.