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5 essential classic car buying tips main image


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By Ian Cushway
April 17, 2018

5 Essential classic car buying tips


Old cars are cool, we all know that, and realising a dream and buying a classic is the thing that’s likely to make your life suddenly a whole lot richer. But if you’re new to it all, or have been in the game so long you’re worried that you’ve become a bit blasé, here’s five useful pointers to help ensure you end up with the right car at the best price possible...


1. Strength in numbers
Let’s face it, putting those rose-tinted spectacles aside for a moment, while the prospect of buying a classic can be a massive thrill, the buying process itself can be a bit of a minefield. Especially if you rush things. So do your homework, read the buying guides, join the appropriate owners’ clubs (visit http://www.footmanjames.co.uk/enthusiast-clubs/a) and talk to the experts so you’ll be armed with as much knowledge as possible. The secret then is to view as many different examples of the same model as you can to get a true feel of the marketplace and allow you to compare each one you see. You might view one that’s cheaper but needing more work, one with lots of history and lots of nice accessories but rusty and one that’s spot on but at a lot more than you wanted to pay. Make an educated decision, based on what you’ve seen, to get the best car for you and your situation.


5 essential classic car buying tips image 01

Credit: Image source - Moss Europe 2018


2. Paper chase
Purchasing a classic is an emotion-fuelled affair, so before getting too carried away and running the risk of letting your heart rule your head, sit down with a mug of tea and go through the paperwork. Try to build up a clear picture of who’s owned it, what work’s been done and who’s done it. If you spot invoices from known marque specialists, see this as a real positive; bills from nationwide fit-while-you-wait type businesses don’t hold as much kudos. Establish a picture of how well a car’s been looked after and what big jobs have already been tackled and use this to predict how much you might have to fork out in the future. If a car’s undergone restoration, ascertain how well it’s been done by asking to see receipts for parts and photographic evidence of the work. Missing history, or huge gaps should set alarm bells ringing. Don’t feel embarrassed about taking your time to look through all the documentation. Act in haste, repent at leisure...


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Credit: Image source - Mari Helin-Tuominen on Unsplash


3. Panel game
Experts can spot a good car at a hundred yards. We’re not expecting you to learn how to do this overnight, but how a car looks and sits can reveal a lot. Ask yourself, is the ride height correct, or is it sitting down on one side? What’s the paint finish like? Are the panels all the same shade, and what’s the actual panel fit like? Are the gaps all even? If not, it’s probably been subject to a poorly executed repair or restoration. A good tip here is to take your time, walk around the entire car and physically touch every panel with your hand so you don’t miss anything.


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Credit: Image source - Moss Europe 2018


4. Drive time
Now the really exciting bit; getting behind the wheel for a test drive. But before you grab the keys, it is important to make sure you are adequately insured. A test drive gives you a brilliant opportunity to discover more about the car you are viewing and there’s a few checks to do before you get going. Insist on starting the engine from cold to check that tappets quieten down as they should. Get a friend to stand at the rear to look out for any plumes of smoke. Once underway, make sure you’ve got brakes before getting up too much speed (ensuring there’s nothing behind you first) and that they pull you up in a straight line. If not, suspect a seized caliper, uneven wear or maladjustment. Listen too for that tell-tale metal-on-metal sound if the pads / shoes are excessively worn. Thereafter, it’s a case of ensuring the engine idles and pulls as it should, there’s no ‘flat-spots’, it doesn’t stall, the gear changes are silky smooth and the steering is tight and precise. Listen out for any knocks or bumps from the suspension which indicates wear in the bushes, duff shocks or broken coil springs.


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Credit: Image source - Moss Europe 2018


5. Clinching the deal
You’re almost there. Now, none of us particularly like quibbling over price but before shaking hands on a deal, see if there’s any room for negotiation on the asking price. Ideally at this point you’ll probably be armed with a list of things that need addressing so it’s a case of totting everything up and presenting this to the vendor. The art of haggling lies in compromise; you’ll want to pay one amount, the seller might want another – so meet somewhere in the middle, with the deal hopefully ending up in your favour. Because you’ve seen other cars, you’ll know how the one you’re interested in compares so make a judgement on what you want to pay. There will usually be another, possibly better car just around the corner so always be prepared to walk away – but at the same time you don’t want to regret it later!


5 essential classic car buying tips image 05

Credit: Image source - Chris Liverani on Unsplash


Whether you’re about to buy your first classic or do the deal on a new addition to your blossoming classic ‘collection’ the same rules apply. But if you keep a mental note of our advice here, you won’t go too far wrong...



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