Stepping into the world of classic car ownership can be intimidating. In the world of assets and liabilities, those who know will tell you that a car will almost always fall into the second category — but that doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of the classic you’ve always wanted. You just need to plan appropriately to keep from losing your shirt.
While the initial investment might be top-of-mind for you while shopping, the key to a good ownership experience is really understanding the additional costs that will come along the way. Here are a few tips on how to choose the right car and plan for the expenses that come with it.
Have you checked the market for used Volkswagen Beetles lately? They aren’t exactly demanding six figures. Knowing what kind of classic you want to own and how much you want to spend is really where this conversation begins.
If you’ve got your heart set on a very particular classic down to the year, condition and trim level, you may not be flexible. However, if you can recognize the qualities you want in a classic and then assess the market for cars that meet those criteria, you might come away with a great deal.
Financing Your Purchase
Even though classic cars aren’t found on most dealership lots, there are still options available for you to fund one. Specialty lenders will also provide you with a loan, so you can buy the classic you’ve always wanted. You might get different terms than with a more conventional loan, but that is the cost of purchasing a specialty car.
The spending doesn’t end when you park your new wheels at home, though. Classic car ownership will require a great deal of both maintenance and care. Make sure you’ve got some money set aside to pay for things that break — because they will — and also for the parts of the car you want to upgrade or restore — because you will want to. It’s all part of the fun of classic ownership.
A classic is almost always a second or third car for you, and because you’ll want to keep it nice, you have to consider what it will take to look after your new investment. For example, don’t plan to park it on the street. You’ll want to keep the car secure and protect it from the elements inside of a sealed garage.
Care and Feeding
Automotive paint, particularly older paint that might not include a layer of clear coat, is very susceptible to weather damage and temperature fluctuations. Ideally, your car should be out of the elements, inside of an insulated temperature-controlled garage. This will go further than just protecting the paint. It will also help ensure your interior remains intact.
Materials like wood and leather need to be “fed” to maintain their tasteful characteristics. Leather that dries out from lack of treatment will wrinkle and pull away from body panels. Wood will crack and warp. To keep the interior of your classic looking like new, you’ll need to invest in protective and restorative oils and treatments and apply them, or pay someone to apply them, regularly. You should be able to find some recommendations about what to use through owners’ forums.
It’s About the Experience
Fans of the popular show “Top Gear” will recall how host Jeremy Clarkson would insist that to be a genuine car guy, you had to own an Alfa Romeo at some point — partly because they are great cars, but also because of the patience you learn for classics when they keep breaking.
Take this approach to owning a classic. Keep a good attitude if things don’t always go perfectly, and budget with that in mind. That is the way to own and enjoy a classic car — instead of letting it own you.