August 1, 2014

Classic Car Buying and Beyond

Purchasing a classic car

It starts with a photograph. 
It's the car!

Frantically emailing the seller you hope that it's still available and the owner will have his wits about him enough to be able to sell it to you, but not so much that he actually knows what he's got. You still can't believe the low price.

You type the message. Hit send..... And wait......And wait.....

3 days later you get a one word response: "yes". 

So it's still available(never mind that you had asked him 20 questions about the car in your message). Now begins the process of dragging information out of the seller and trying to decipher fact versus fiction. For this reason, an inspection at time of purchase is extremely important. Is the metal solid, do the codes match, does the engine turnover/run/knock, are the parts correct or aftermarket.  

Oddly enough the research at point of purchase is the easy part. You will at least have a human to talk to about the vehicle's history, or they may lead you to other people you should seek out to discuss the cars history. Immediately evaluate the asking price as it compares to the estimated market value using a valuation tool like the one found at Hagerty . Ask the buyer to provide the VIN number and any relevant fender badge, engine codes or parts ID tags that are relevant to the make and model you're hoping to buy. By punching these numbers into a VIN decoder or valuation tool you'll gain a better understanding of what the car was like when it left the factory and just how original it might still be. 

After a few minutes of research, we discovered that the stated history for this 1959 Dodge wagon was spot on. It was used as a "pusher" on the salt flats and spent most of it's life in the Colorado and Utah area until the seller bought it as a future project which was never started. It no longer has the push button transmission or an engine, but the body is complete with a rear window that still rolls down when attached to a battery! 

A few relevant decoder resources:

The amount of information you gain will depend on how you interact with the seller. It's much more likely that you'll receive more information if you are honest, match their personality through body language and how you talk, and especially if you listen intently when they speak. Listening, for many, is the most challenging part of buying. It's only human to busy our mind thinking of our next question while failing to listen to the answer to our last one!

Ask concise, open ended questions, then BE QUIET! The seller has a past with the car. They likely want to share their memories with you before they watch you load it on the trailer. If you listen intently you will get more information from them and just maybe a lower price. Here are 10 tips on Classic Car buying form Men's Journal

Let's assume everything was "green and go" and you bought it! Now begins the marathon journey of keeping track of the history you've discovered, as well as documenting the future work you have planned.

Do you have the organizational skills to track each part that comes out of the car? Record and research the casting number and the parts needed to replace it? How well can you decipher paint codes and navigate forums to discuss all the facets of parts sourcing, missing information and history related to the car? This is another area listening will come in handy. Find the right people to ask, then hear what they have to say. Genuine curiosity is contagious, use it to your advantage. 

The value of your new purchase can be immediately enhanced with thorough documentation of the vehicles history. There are many examples of classic car paperwork, each of which will impact the value in a different way. With forms and documentation completed through various resources, restoration shops like ours have assisted owners in assessing their classic car's value through appraisal and using research and comparable sales to establish a Stated Valuation for insurance or for re-sale purposes. (If you need help with an appraisal or research email us at

The next value boost will occur when(and if) you complete a restoration. This decision hinges on original condition of the vehicle. If it's a "survivor" car, it is better left untouched. However, if you decide to make repairs, tracking the complete process is essential to your return on investment. The scary part of handing off your restoration to a shop is whether they value your investment as much as you do. Every piece of the car needs to be documented with before photos, detailed parts lists, tracking of modifications, and completion photos. Every part installed and the quality of work performed can and should be easily tracked through photos and detailed invoicing, regardless if you're using a shop or doing it yourself. This can be a tedious and expensive process, so be sure to know what you're diving into before deciding to begin a restoration project.

The act of purchasing your classic car has initiated you into a club of enthusiasts! You'll meet a variety of people with various backgrounds in car's and car culture. Enjoy the ride and get ready to tell a few stories of your own!

Do you have a unique buying experience? We'd love to hear your story! Share it in the comment below or email us at

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