Buying a classic car: A beginner's guide

By Allstate

Last updated: September 2021

Buying a classic car has a certain appeal for some — whether it's for nostalgic value or the joy of participating in a tight-knit collector community. Even if you're new to the classic-car world, you're likely aware that older cars can come with wear and tear or mechanical issues. With some due diligence and preparation, finding the right classic car can be a little easier. If you're in the market for a classic car, consider these tips before making the purchase:

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What to consider before buying a classic car

Owning a classic car is different from owning a newer vehicle in some key ways. Here are three important factors you may want to consider before buying a classic car:


First and foremost, you should formulate a budget so you know what you can afford. You should not only budget for the purchase price of the vehicle, but also the cost of maintenance, insurance and potential upgrades.

Maintenance and body shop accessibility

AutoTrader notes that classic cars are older, so maintenance can be more costly. This is because quality parts for a classic car can be scarce, and it may be difficult to find a repair shop that works on classic vehicles. You may want to do some research to see if you can find repair shops that specialize in classic vehicle maintenance in your area. As you shop for a classic car, you may also want to consider any maintenance and repairs that may need to be completed on the vehicle, says CARFAX. You may be able to get some maintenance and parts estimates from specialty body shops so you know what to expect.

Market trends

Finally, be sure to research market trends, as the cost of a classic car can fluctuate over time. The value of a classic car is usually dependent on the make and model of the vehicle, and how many of them were produced, says U.S. News and World Report. Whether the car is in its original condition or has been restored can also be a determining factor when it comes to price. If you're looking to purchase a classic car as an investment, remember to do your research and keep these considerations in mind. Online discussion forums for your desired vehicle make, resources such as Hemmings or the National Automobile Dealers Association, and specialty car shops can all be helpful sources of insight and data, says AutoTrader.

Inspection tips for classic cars

A classic car purchase often warrants a closer inspection and a longer test drive than newer models, so you can accurately see how it's running, says CARFAX. As you shop for your classic car, be prepared to spend some time inspecting each vehicle you look at. In fact, you might even want to consider having a professional inspect the vehicle for body or engine issues and damage. If a seller is ever apprehensive about letting you have someone inspect the vehicle, you may want to think twice about the purchase.

CARFAX says these are some other items you may want to consider before signing on the dotted line:

  • Ask about the car's history and if the current owner has any maintenance records.
  • Request the VIN number so you can run a search of the vehicle's history (such as those offered by CARFAX or Experian).
  • Inquire about accident and repair history (a vehicle history report can help).

Carefully consider the car's condition, history, mileage, maintenance costs and related factors when negotiating a final purchase price. For example, Men's Journal says the lower the mileage, the higher the value will be, but issues like rust should be taken into consideration.

How to insure a classic car

Traditional car insurance may not always be an available option, or the right option, for a classic car. Consider whether classic car insurance is an option for your collector vehicle. This type of specialty insurance can usually provide a greater reimbursement value for a classic car if you're in an accident. However, it's important to keep in mind that some classic car insurance policies may require you to limit the amount of miles you drive each year. When you find a classic car that you're interested in purchasing, it'd be a good idea to consult with your insurance provider to talk about your options.

Buying and owning a classic car can be a fun experience, but requires some extra research and responsibility. Taking an informed approach to the purchase and maintenance of a classic vehicle may help you make a rewarding investment that you can enjoy for years to come.