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12 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Classic Car

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Whether you are considering purchasing your first classic car or it is time to add to your collection, there are many common mistakes to avoid when buying a classic car. These mistakes can cost you time, money, and stress, so knowing what to look for when purchasing a classic car can help you avoid these pitfalls and make the best decision possible for you.

Common Classic Car Buying Mistakes

While the classic car community is filled with reputable individuals, there are still those out there who may take advantage of first-time purchasers new to the classic car market. Understanding common mistakes people make when purchasing a classic car can help ensure that you are completely satisfied with your next classic car purchase.

Mistake #1: Failing to Conduct Proper Research

One of the biggest mistakes a classic car buyer can make is not doing proper research on their intended vehicle. Start by looking for authentic reviews from other car owners who already have the make and model you are considering. Following your online search, you can also ask for personal feedback from other classic car enthusiasts or mechanics you may know. Online research and personal feedback can also help you to determine the potential resale value of your prospective classic car. This helps to ensure you don’t overpay when you take your search to the next level.

Mistake #2: Failing to Invest in a Professional Inspection

Before you purchase a classic car, it is essential to invest in a road-ready inspection to ensure you get what you’re paying for. Whether you’re purchasing a vehicle with the expectation that it runs smoothly, or you want a fixer-upper, an inspection can help prevent you from overlooking unexpected concerns that could become a major issue for you in the future. Even if you know your classic cars, it never hurts to have a second, professional, opinion. A professional inspection will provide an unbiased overview of the car’s structural integrity as well as general condition and value.

Mistake #3: Skipping the Test Drive

Driving a classic car

While it’s natural to want to trust the individual you are purchasing your classic car from, never take a seller at their word that the car runs well. Much like the inspection issue mentioned above, it is essential to take the time to test drive the vehicle yourself. Failure to do so could result in the purchase of a vehicle that needs more work than you expected or simply isn’t as enjoyable to drive as you thought it might be. This step is just as important when you’ve traveled a considerable distance to purchase the vehicle.

Mistake #4: Failing to Consider a Lack of Spare Parts

A common mistake faced by new buyers is purchasing a vintage vehicle that requires parts that are now difficult to get. It is beneficial to explore not only the typical issues faced by a certain make or model but also the accessibility of replacement parts. If you are looking to purchase a classic vehicle that is significantly older or manufactured outside of the US market, you should be prepared to have trouble finding parts. You may need to wait a considerable amount of time to secure those parts or pay more to have them shipped from abroad.

Mistake #5: Overlooking Upkeep Costs

A common mistake individuals make when looking to purchase a classic car is forgetting to look beyond the initial ticket price. Some classic cars require significant care to keep them in smooth, insurable, operating condition. To get a better understanding of classic car upkeep, you can search online or contact a local classic car club. If the club is familiar with the make and model of your car, they can provide knowledgeable information concerning the long-term care and cost necessary for a specific classic car.

Mistake #6: Overestimating Your Skill Level

Fixing up a classic car

Many car enthusiasts get into classic car collecting with a desire to repair and restore older vehicles themselves. While this is a great reason to get into car restoration, it is important not to overestimate your DIY capabilities. Not only do you need to have knowledge concerning maintaining your classic car, but you must also have the necessary spare parts, tools, and skill to ensure that your repairs aren’t counterproductive.

If you are new to repairing and restoring classic vehicles, it is often best to take on a car in good condition. This will allow you to work on smaller tasks first to build your knowledge and confidence. Starting small can help you minimize your frustration levels—and the associated costs—when what you thought would be a small task turns into a major project.

Mistake #7: Failing to Hire a Quality Classic Car Mechanic

Unless you have an extensive background in mechanics, especially when it comes to classic cars, you’ll need to work with a local mechanic you can trust to provide the services you need. However, keep in mind that not all mechanics have the background necessary to work on classic cars. Some mechanics skilled at modern car repairs will not be able to do a quality job on your classic model.

Mistake #8: Not Checking the VIN

When purchasing a classic car, don’t skip checking the vehicle identification number (VIN). If the VINs don’t match, this is typically an indication that the engine has been replaced at some point. A replaced engine could have a significant impact on the authenticity of the car and its overall value. Depending on your reason for purchasing the car and its sticker price, you may want to reconsider.

Mistake #9: Securing Improper Insurance Coverage

One mistake to avoid following a purchase of a classic car is not getting the right insurance coverage. Prices and coverages can vary depending on the type of vehicle. It is beneficial to research collector car insurance rates that apply to your specific make and model. Take the time to explore the various coverage options and find a rate you can afford for a package that offers the extra protection your classic car needs.

Mistake #10: Failing to Secure Proper Storage

Storing a classic car

When you’re planning to purchase a classic car, you’ll need a safe and secure place to store your vehicle year-round. Any deterioration of the body of your car will quickly decrease the value of your car and leave you with surface repairs that could become costly. That’s why it’s so important to have a clear, dry space ready for your vehicle before purchasing it. This provides peace of mind that you’ll maintain your investment with an immediate safe place to park your new purchase.

Mistake #11: Falling for Scams and Schemes

Fraudulent sales are a serious issue faced by those in the car community, especially when it comes to classic cars. Many scams involve title fraud or shady money transfers. Take the time to ensure that the person you are dealing with does in fact own the vehicle and that the title is clean—or at least in the advertised condition. Then, be certain you can exchange money safely and securely.

Mistake #12: Buying a Car You Aren’t Passionate About

When purchasing a classic car, don’t be afraid to follow your heart. Passion has a significant role to play when it comes to your purchase satisfaction. When you purchase a car you like, you’ll feel more confident concerning your investment.

Restoring a vehicle is a long-term labor of love. It requires your commitment in both time and money to get the most out of a classic car, and you will be more willing to put in the time and effort to maintain a car that you genuinely enjoy. The last thing you want is to find yourself resenting your purchase over time due to a lack of passion.

Purchase a Classic Car with Confidence

We’re big car fans too, so we get the excitement around purchasing a classic car. That’s why we partnered with ClassicCars.com to be able to offer our readers and clients the best inventory of classic cars and trucks for sale today. From Ford Mustangs to Chevy Camaros and Impalas, and almost 34,000 vehicles available, you can literally find it all.


Fixing up and owning a classic car can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment for any car enthusiast. Understanding the common mistakes we outlined above can help you avoid making them and ensure that you are completely satisfied with your purchase.

The Best Cars to Restore (And How to Find Them)

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The best classic cars to restore

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Cars, just like many other high-dollar consumer products, are experiencing a seller’s market right now. Inventory of quality used cars has become inconsistent at best, and the same can be said of pricing. Thankfully, there is still plenty of room in this market for a mechanically inclined investor to turn a profit restoring and flipping cars. It’s all about finding the right car at the right price before you begin your project.

So, What Is the Right Car?

There is no single correct answer. The best cars to restore for profit are the ones that match your budget, your mechanical skill set, and the type of project you’re willing to undertake. Dropping a new engine in a modern SUV with a salvage title and restoring the body and interior of a mechanically sound 1970s cruiser are two extremely different processes, requiring different skills, tools, and levels of investment. However, both can be potentially lucrative projects for someone who is able to find the right car at the right price.

A list of the best 90s cars to restore will look much different than a list of the best European and domestic cars to restore. In fact, each category of vehicle will have unique sets of potential buyers, restoration needs, mechanical issues, and sources for finding the perfect project car.

Where to Find Cars to Restore

When you’re ready to look for cars to restore for sale, you should be willing to spend a good amount of time on this process and look in a variety of places. Check these spots for quality restoration projects.

Local Classifieds

Sometimes, local newspapers or online community groups have unique listings that major websites don’t feature.

Walk Your City

If local classifieds are good for opportunities you won’t see on major websites, the same can certainly be said of taking a walk locally. Simply scouring your neighborhood or town looking for cars with “for sale” signs can yield some unexpected results.

Social Media

Facebook marketplace can be a good resource for used vehicles, but you should also keep a close eye on your personal social media for leads. The perfect project car is often stumbled upon through personal connections (friends and family discount, anyone?) You never know when a real-life acquaintance might get frustrated with repair costs and post about being ready to move on from a car that meets your project needs perfectly. That’s a textbook win-win situation.

Major Used Car Shopping and Classifieds Websites

If you’re into flipping cars, you probably already know about all the big classifieds websites. If not, it’s as simple as running a search for “used cars for sale” and you’ll find many pages of results in any search engine. Some websites allow you to filter listings to find exactly what you need while others will require you to scroll through endless listings hoping something catches your eye. Scour them all.

Auction Websites and Marketplace Apps

Don’t stop at eBay. Many apps designed to bring neighborhoods together also feature special areas for buying and selling goods locally. If done right, your local apps are like a virtual community-wide garage sale that never ends. The closer to home you find your project car, the less it will cost to get it into your garage.

We recommend checking out the Auction Central Sponsored By AutoHunter Live Online Auction. Whether you plan on bidding or simply want to be a spectator, check out their site to find live auto auctions all across the nation.

Auction Central Sponsored By AutoHunter Live Online Auction

Live Car Auctions

Car auctions (and their marketing materials) often focus on flashy, fully restored masterpieces, but they can also be a great source for project cars and parts cars. Call ahead to see exactly what kind of cars will be on the block.

Why It’s Important to Balance Patience and Tenacity

Check many different sources and be prepared to keep doing so over the long term. Don’t overspend or invest in the wrong vehicle just because you like the look of a car or you’re becoming impatient. Doing so risks turning your smart investment idea into an expensive hobby instead.

While patience is key, you should also know exactly what you’re looking for and the price point you need to get it at. This way you’ll be ready to take the plunge and snag your dream project car before someone else gets their hands on it. Whether it’s the very first listing you click or a car you stumble upon in a parking lot half a year into your search, you’ll need to show both patience and perseverance when searching for your ideal restoration project.

Where to Find Old Cars to Restore

If you’re specifically looking for classic cars, many markets have special publications that are specific to the buying and selling of cars and trucks. Check the newspaper stand at a truck stop or gas station for these local and regional buy-and-sell publications, some of which are free.

Lots of self-described “old-school car guys” like the familiar world of these paper classified ads. You can find a lot of good classic cars in the pages of these papers, some of which may not be listed prominently online. That doesn’t mean you should skip the internet if you’re in the market for classics to restore — there are also plenty of classic cars available on used car websites large and small.

Top Classic Cars to Restore

If you need ideas for some solid classic cars to restore, here are a few that tend to have reasonable price points for used cars and plenty of inventory available for aftermarket parts. The classics listed here also have decent markets for finding a buyer once you’ve completed your restoration (assuming you haven’t fallen in love and decided to keep it for yourself).

AMC AMX (1968 or 1969)

AMC AMX 1968

Image Source : en.wikipedia.org

One of the few truly unmistakable cars, AMCs of all models continue to beguile collectors and restorers, many of whom consider the late 60s AMC AMX to be the most desirable and attractive of any AMC. They can be pricey, depending on the feature package and engine size. However, even the AMXs with the smaller 343 or 290 horsepower engines are desirable collector cars that can make satisfying and profitable projects.

Start Shopping: AMC AMXs for Sale

Chevrolet Camaro (1967 to 1969)

chevy camaro

The great thing about a late 60’s Camaro is that they’re so popular you could literally build one from the ground up using nothing but brand-new aftermarket parts. Demand for this iconic Chevy remains consistently high, which can affect your ability to find a good restoration candidate at the price you want. Still, demand means your efforts will also pay off big when it’s time to complete your flip.

Start shopping: Classic Chevrolet Camaros for Sale

Chevrolet Impala (1965 to 1968)

chevy impala

The Impala is another icon of American car culture from Chevy that will always have a collector’s market ready to buy high-quality restorations. The Impala is known for its place at the intersection of power and luxury. While the older models are more desirable to some collectors, the late 60s versions can be found at far better price points, and often in more pristine condition.

Start shopping: Classic Chevrolet Impalas for Sale

Dodge Charger (1968 to 1970)

Dodge Charger

We would be remiss without a Charger on this list, as it is perhaps the most iconic American muscle car of all. Plenty of Chargers were manufactured in this era, so stock remains relatively high—always a positive when you’re pricing project cars. As with many muscle cars of this era, how much you pay will largely be a function of engine size and body rust. Suffice to say there is a significant market for any lovingly restored Charger.

Start Shopping: Classic Dodge Chargers for Sale

Dodge Dart (1967 to 1976)

Dodge Dart 1967

Image Credit : Catawiki

A lot of collectors who have been priced out of the market for Chargers and Challengers come to appreciate the compact, nimble stylings of the 70s era Dodge Dart. Dodge made a lot of them, they have a reputation as reliable vehicles, and cars and parts are extremely affordable compared to other collectible cars of the same era. Dodge Darts from this decade come in a variety of engine configurations and packages (the beloved Dart Swinger, for example) so you’re sure to find something that meets your budget and personal preferences.

Start Shopping: Classic Dodge Darts for Sale

Ford Model A (1928 to 1931)

The late 20s/early 30s run was a huge pre-war push for Ford, which means that original cars and parts are more readily available than most other cars (or any other surviving products) of this era. Aftermarket parts are also plentiful, allowing you to choose between creating a faithful restoration, an outrageous hot rod, or anything in between. While it may seem intimidating trying to restore a literal antique almost 100 years old, the early, no-nonsense design makes this version of the Model A an extremely accessible project for a first-time flipper.

Start Shopping: Classic Ford Model As for Sale

Ford Model A

Lincoln Continental (Early- to mid-1960s)

Lincoln Continental

To this day, when someone says “Lincoln” in the context of automobile manufacturers, the image that pops up in many folks’ minds is an iconic 60s Continental. This is the very definition of classic automotive luxury, comparable only to the most successful Cadillac products. Continentals are simply a very satisfying car even to just sit in, and that doesn’t even touch the satisfaction you’ll get from a restoration. Knowing that every unit originally came to the dealership assembled by hand makes restoring one feel like you’re a living part of automotive history.

Start Shopping: Classic Lincoln Continentals for Sale

Plymouth Barracuda (1973 or 1974)

Plymouth Barracuda

Purists might scoff at anything other than the 1970 or 1971 Mopar-equipped versions, but the mid-70s models are far more economically viable as a restoration project. They’re just as easy to work on and very nearly as fun to restore and drive, especially to someone who has never embarked on such a project. If you’re looking for a project as a financial investment rather than a hobby to sink money into, it simply doesn’t make sense to hold out for an early 70s ‘Cuda.

Start Shopping: Classic Plymouth Barracudas for Sale

Pontiac Firebird (1970 to 1973)

 Pontiac Firebird

The early 70s marks the beginning of the Firebird’s second generation. These are arguably less collectible and desirable than the original ‘Birds… but they’re also more affordable. Those skyrocketing prices on first-generation Firebirds are only making the early 70s models more and more collectible.

Start Shopping: Classic Pontiac Firebirds for Sale

Pontiac GTO (1971 or 1972)

Classic American Sports Car Red

A decent early GTO can be prohibitively expensive, especially if it has a V-8. Unfortunately, price is a factor even if the car is in project, rather than collectible, condition. The 1971 and ‘72 models, however, retain the aggressive, iconic GTO styling of the ‘68 but can be had at a more reasonable price point. The collecting and restoration communities are coming around to these later GTOs, so finding parts and resources is no problem.

Start Shopping: Classic Pontiac GTOs for Sale

Volkswagen Beetle (Any Year)

Volkswagen Beetle

Image Credit : Unsplash.com

The long history of the VW “Bug” makes it a no-brainer for a restoration project, especially if your tastes lean more towards classic imports. Most of the construction on classic Bugs is bolt-together and they are well known for being friendly to users who want to make their own repairs or modifications. To say that aftermarket parts and community resources are plentiful would be a huge understatement. While maybe not exactly what comes to mind when you think of restoring a classic car, the Volkswagen Beetle is iconic in its own right. The collector’s market seems perpetually insatiable.

Start Shopping: Classic VW Beetles for Sale

Auction Central Sponsored By AutoHunter Live Online Auction

Restoring an Old Car Can Be an Investment

So, there you have it: the cars that are best to restore are spread across numerous decades and eras. The time commitment needed may be considerable, but these are cars that will likely appreciate in value over time, perhaps even appreciating enough to cover your costs. In other words, restoring these cars is a worthy investment for many; and for those who would like to add more value to their car, it’s certainly a possibility.