So you want to buy a classic car?

Here are some easy steps to make sure you select the right car

If you’re about to buy a classic car – whether it’s for an investment or a hobby - there are some easy steps you can take to make sure you get the right car.

Taking advantage of the long summer evenings to take a blast around country roads – with the roof down if it’s a convertible – and perhaps stopping for dinner at a country pub, are just some of the many highlights of owning and running a classic car. It’s at this time of year that classic car ownership really comes into its own – although many would insist a classic car can, and should, be enjoyed at any time of year.

But what if you don’t yet have a classic? How do you go about scratching that classic car itch?  What type of classic are you after?

Every classic car hunt starts by identifying what type of classic you want. Of course it’s a decision that can be ruled as much by the heart as by the head, but how practical do you want the car to be? Is it a car that you need to take the whole family in? Will you use it all year? Will it need to handle your daily commute or will it be a cosseted second car tucked away in the garage on rainy days? Are you happy to do your own regular maintenance? Are you prepared to take on a project car that will need more than a little fettling to get it back on the road? Are you buying one chiefly as an investment?

If you need some inspiration, according to Practical Classics Magazine, these are the top five favourite classics on Britain’s roads today:

1.Morris Minor

2.Jaguar E-Type

3.Austin Mini

4.Ford Cortina


Other popular buys in the top 100 include the TVR Griffith, Jaguar XJ-S and Jensen Interceptor.  Once you have a clear idea of what you want the car for and the model you want, a classic car price guide in the classic car magazines should be your first port of call. You want to get a good feel for how much your chosen model is worth and these guides will give different figures depending on the condition of the car. Finally, armed with a budget and a price guideline, the real hunt can begin.

Where to buy:  You can buy privately from an individual or through a dealer. Expect to pay more from a dealer but there is usually the added comfort of buying from a reputable seller provided you do your homework. Buying privately can be trickier, but as long as you follow the rules you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Buying a car at auction – whether in person or online through eBay for example – can be a great way of getting a good deal but be strict with yourself when it comes to staying on budget. Putting the word out on the relevant club forums can uncover some real gems. The clubs can also provide technical expertise that you could find invaluable.

A time to buy (and a time to walk away):  Take a friend with you when you go to view a car and follow the usual financial and mechanical checks you would make when buying any used car. Look for a good service history and plenty of evidence of regular maintenance. Take a test drive and listen out for unusual rattles and sounds; test the brakes stop the car in a straight line and check that all the electrical ancillaries – windscreen wipers, lights, heater – work properly. Originality can be very important and, if that’s one of your requirements, make sure that as much of the car is as original as possible and hasn’t been overly modified. Corrosion is the classic’s arch enemy. Be prepared to get down on your hands and knees and have a good poke around underneath. A magnet in a sock can be a good way of identifying how much of the bodywork on the car you’ve got your heart set on is actually made of filler. Don’t be afraid to walk away and it’s always better to sleep on a decision rather than being too hasty. Resist the seller’s claims that other buyers are lining up.

Buying a restoration project: Classic restorations appeal to many who might fancy returning a classic to the road. This route could open to door to that classic barn find. Whether you want to take on a rolling restoration (the car remains usable as you tackle the restoration) or want to start a nut and bolt rebuild, the costs will obviously vary hugely depending on whether you do the work yourself or need to engage the help of a specialist.  It’s important to understand the availability of the classic car parts you’ll need. Buy an MG Midget and you can get anything you need from a new body shell to a set of points. More exotic or rarer cars can be more challenging particularly when it comes to items such as interior trim.

Don’t forget insurance:  With your new classic, arranging your classic car insurance will obviously be next on the list before you can get on the road. And don’t forget, even if your classic will be off the road for a period of time – for maintenance or restoration – you can buy ‘laid up cover’ (damage, fire and theft) to protect it if anything should happen.