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What to Know Before Buying Your First Classic Car

Posted on April 15, 2016

Whether you have been collecting classic car toys ever since you were a child or have suddenly discovered a love for those antique beauties, taking the plunge and importing your first classic car is a momentous occasion.

According to Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index, classic cars are proving to be more profitable an investment than art and wine, which have “only” increased in value by 100% over the last decade, compared to 469% for classic cars. Although, car collectors are more often guided by passion than the prospect of high returns, it is still a good idea to keep your head clear if you are thinking about buying your first classic car and, most of all, be prepared by asking yourselves some crucial questions.

1. What car do you want and how will it fit in your lifestyle?
Cars are designed to be driven. If they sit in a garage too long they inexorably deteriorate, so you have to choose a car that will fit in your life and that you will use regularly. If you have a young family, buying a car with no seat belt and therefore no way to secure car seats, or a sporty car with a small trunk, will most probably mean that it will sit in a garage more often than not. Likewise, convertibles in the warm summer wind may be a glamorous prospect, but far less appealing during the colder, wetter winter. And if you are thinking of romancing your beloved, an uncomfortable, unreliable classic car is very likely to dampen the mood!

If you are only thinking about taking the occasional drive in a classic car, then hiring one may be a better option.

2. How handy are you with a spanner? Cars are just like human beings: the older we get, the more care we need to get going, and one of the pleasures of classic car ownership is knowing every noise, every inch of your car because you have lavished hours of labour on it.

If you have never owned a classic car before, it is easy to underestimate the amount of maintenance it will require. In addition to the regular check-ups set by law, a classic car will need regular adjustment and servicing, probably every few thousand miles. If you are not planning on driving yours much more than that in a year, it should be manageable financially if you don’t know your way around a car, but if it is driven all year round, paying a specialist to fix each and every little thing that needs fine-tuning will quickly add up.

So if you can’t tell your nuts from your bolts, you may want to invest in a car maintenance course before you buy your first classic car so that you can tend to its basic needs yourself.

3. Where will you keep your car? Being exposed to elements all year round is very tough on a classic car. Not only will insurance companies not like it and hike your premium, but you will also shorten the lifespan of your car dramatically. Access to a dry garage is highly advisable, if not essential, and a workshop area where you can work on your car to your heart’s content and store spare parts is almost as important.

4. Can you afford running costs?
As a “Vehicle of Special Interest”, your classic car may benefit from exemptions when you import it, which may make it relatively cheaper. However, do not be lulled into a false sense of safety: classic cars are not low costs. In addition to maintenance costs, you need to factor in insurance costs, which will depend on how much you use it; regular servicing and the fact that obtaining spare parts for older cars is more costly.

Now what?
Once you have been able to answer those questions to your satisfaction, comes the fun part: Homework! The golden rule is that you should never, EVER buy a car without proper background research, even -especially- if it is love at first sight!

Whether you already have a specific car in mind or not, start by checking price guides in classic car magazines and talk to owners of classic cars. You may want to consider joining a club as this is one of the most reliable place to gather realistic information about prices.

You should also read up as much as possible about the cars you are interested in. Classic car models will often have been improved throughout their manufacturing life, and understanding the characteristics of the various versions of a model will help you identify the more desirable ones and put a value to them. Although authenticity attracts a premium, classic cars will often have been modified by previous owners to improve reliability. A common change is converting them to run on unleaded petrol and electronic ignition, and those modifications may affect the sales price.

Once you have a shortlist of makes and models of cars you are considering buying, joining an owners’ club is highly recommended. Not only will you meet like-minded people who share your enthusiasm for classic cars, but club members are also often enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and you will gain invaluable insight into what it is like to own a classic car, their mechanical quirks, tips, and everything that you will never find in a magazine.

When you have found the car of your dreams, be sure that you take it for a test drive before closing the deal. Ideally, you would want to be in the driver’s seat, but it may not be possible for insurance reasons. Your research should have informed you of model-specific weaknesses so make sure you pay special attention to those and listen carefully for worrisome noises. If you have already found your dream car and need to have it shipped to New Zealand, contact us on +64 9 303 0075.


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