SEVEN TOP TIPS FOR BUYING A CLASSIC CAR

1 Listen to your heart, engage your brain, then check your bank balance
For most people, deciding to buy a classic car is an emotionally-driven decision. Maybe you want a model that your dad used to own, one you owned years ago and remember fondly or it could be one you always yearned for but never had the opportunity to buy. Whatever the motivation, the first step is to identify the exact model you want – and that means putting pure desire to one side and getting all sensible and grown-up about it. For instance, you may lust after a ’70s Jaguar XJS V12 – but ask yourself: ‘do I really need a 5.3-litre engine with mpg figures in the teens and considerable maintenance costs?’ If the answer is: ‘yes – and I can afford it,’ that’s fantastic. Go ahead and find one. If not, maybe the 3.6-litre straight-six engine option will make more sense. 

2 Do your detective work
Look through buyers’ guides in our sister publications Practical Classics, Classic Cars and Classic Car Weekly to research the upsides and downsides of the model you’re interested in. Maybe even contact the owners’ club – they’re often keen to bring new members into the fold and are a mine of information on things like spares availability and prices. This will either convince you that you’ve made the right decision or bring about a re-think. Whatever the outcome, you should now be able to pinpoint the car that’s best for you, so make a wish list for your target car, including specifications such as: colour, engine, transmission, body shape and interior trim.   

3 What can you afford?
This is the really big question. Put your Mr Sensible head on. Think about all the stuff above – and, above all, remember you’ve got to keep the thing running once you’ve bought it. Once you’ve done that, the preparation’s over – you’ve sorted the car you want and how much you’re prepared to pay for it.

4 Where to look
Classiccarsforsale.co.uk of course! But wherever you look, you’ll be faced with the choice of buying from a dealer (more expensive but generally safer and with more legal comeback if things go awry) or a private seller (generally cheaper but can be more of a gamble). Dealers also offer the prospect of looking at several cars in one location, although beware: there’s a chance you may be bewitched by a car that isn’t on your wish list – these whirlwind romances can end in an acrimonious divorce! When buying privately, you really need to know your onions, or take someone who knows theirs, along to any viewings. 

5 Crafty calling
The golden rule when phoning about a car is to find out as much info as you possibly can. This way you’ll avoid a lot of wasted time on cronks that make your heart sink as soon as you look at them. If the seller is evasive or disinterested, cut your call short. Enthusiastic owners keen to discuss the car and its history are what you want. To weed out driveway dealers masquerading as private sellers, use this classic ruse: when the seller answers the phone, ask about ’the car for sale’; if he says ‘which car?’ he’s probably dealing on the sly – one to avoid.

6 The nitty gritty 
The aforesaid buyers’ guides (see tip 2) will forearm you with the areas of your target car that need careful inspection. Corrosion is the enemy of most classics, so be prepared toget grubby under the car with a torch and screwdriver to prod for rust holes – or prepare to pay someone else to do it. If a car for sale ticks all your boxes but you don’t feel competent enough to carry out a thorough inspection, it’s worth paying an expert to have a proper look at it. The golden rules are: never inspect a car in the dark or when it’s raining – many an imperfection can be hidden in these conditions.

7 Making an offer
Be polite when discussing a car and its value with its owner – but don’t be afraid to put in a low offer. You never know your luck. Summarise any faults you’ve discovered on the car and use them as leverage to get the best possible price. Haggling can be fun, but going too far can put some people’s backs up. Gauge the situation and make an offer accordingly. Try to contain your enthusiasm – the buyer will take this as a sign you’re willing to pay all the money. Just try not to get carried away; stay within your budget and you’ve got every chance of becoming a deliriously happy classic car owner.      

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