Tips on buying and owning vintage cars.
Few things transport us back in time like seeing a lovingly restored classic car for sale at a classic car dealership or trader or on display at a museum or auto show. But when is a car considered a classic and how old does something have to be in order to be a vintage, antique, or old-timer car? Let's have a look at how we classify an old car as classic, where to search for and how to buy classic cars, and how to look after them. With a little planning, you too can drive the classic car you desire, whether it's a post-war vintage car, a '60s or '70s land yacht, or an '80s classic.
What makes a car a classic or vintage car differs by US state. For a car to attain classic status in the US, it usually has to be at least 20 years old. According to the California DMV, however, it must be 25 years old - and they do not even differentiate between the types of classic cars. According to others, anything over 45 years old is an antique car and anything made between 1919 and 1930 is a vintage car. Many of these old vintage cars are also referred to as old-timers in overseas markets. Some insurance companies define cars from 1900 to 1979 as either classic or antique cars and from 1980 onward as collector cars. Pre-1919 cars are usually called veteran cars.
Join your local classic-car club to get exposure to, and pick up hints about, where to find and buy classic and vintage cars. You won't find truly collectible old cars at normal used-car auctions, dealers, or shops. Some auctions are also only accessible to authorized dealerships. Certain well-known American classic-car auctions have a reputation for being the best and are often attended by serious collectors of vintage or classic.
The most important ones are:
If you're attending an auction, remember the following:
Once cars are 25 years old, the USA allows them to be imported as used-car classics, even if the car would not have been allowed for sale in the US originally due to local legislation, rules, or regulations. Unless you're a vintage-car aficionado, you'll probably be interested in one of these more recent classic cars. If you're one of those people who like to experience the nostalgia on a daily basis, here are some of the best classic cars to buy for daily driving:
Here is a handy, basic checklist for classic car care:
While finding a classic, vintage, or restored car for sale is not overly difficult, just remember that most classics are not investments. They cost money to run and maintain, and often don't turn a profit unless they are incredibly rare, expensive, and fast-appreciating. If you purchase classic cars for restoration, it will likely be exorbitantly expensive unless you can do the work yourself. Regard it as a bonus if you make any money at all. Rather just enjoy the satisfaction of owning and driving a piece of motoring history and indulging your passion.
Normal banks might not, but there are several institutions that specialize in financing classic and/or vintage cars. They might have a list of requirements though, which may include a 10% to 20% down payment, no bankruptcies on your record, and a FICO score of 700 or more. A score over 750 with a very favorable debt-to-income ratio is a boon. They might also send out an inspector to appraise and assess the vehicle.
If your car's collectibility and value are dependent on it staying completely original, it's not a good idea to install any non-standard equipment. However, if features such as air-conditioning were available on your model and not fitted, some specialists can install them, often using original equipment - at a price. If you don't mind modifying your car, many other luxuries can be installed. Sadly, most old cars are not particularly safe and little can be done about their inherent crash safety. Even small modern cars like a Mitsubishi Mirage or Kia Rio offer far better crash safety than an old car. However, after-market safety systems such as ABS systems can greatly improve active safety.
Some classic cars are worth more in original 'as found' condition and should not be painted. However, a full restoration usually includes repainting, in which case it is best to exactly match the original color of the vehicle. You must be sure that you want to repaint the vehicle because it will be invasive and labor-intensive and the whole car will have to be stripped to do a good job, which might cause damage to the original parts. Only highly professional outfits should attempt restoration work that includes repainting valuable old cars.