What to Look For When Buying Your First Classic Car

This post is an edited excerpt from the book “Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting and Investing in Classic Cars” by Jason Paynter, who is also a certified appraiser of classic cars through G.D. Herring. Contact Jason today at jason@gdherring.com to learn more about he can help you with your classic car appraisal!


In light of our recent interview with ClassicCars.com, I wanted to share some information with you on what to look for when it’s time for buying your first classic car. What type of classic cars should you look for when you hear the all-consuming siren song to have one?

Things to Consider…

There are a few things to consider when selecting a classic. I think the analogy of a funnel works well for this. Start by throwing all your ideas and concerns into the funnel.  When you do this, you’ll find your decision making gets easier. Throw in your price point, how you want to pay for your car, where to obtain classic car insurance and where you will park or store it. Also, decide if this car will be held long-term, or a short flip. Once these parameters have been decided, let the excitement of choosing your new classic begin!

What’s Trending

I like to look for what is trending in the market, as well as what may be unique and rare. Equally as important for me, are memories or the sentimental value of a particular model. Then lastly, how convenient it is to go look at the car? I’ll give you an example; my parents bought a new Toyota Corolla in 1980. Eight years later, I learned to drive on that car. It was a manual hatchback and now these cars are so popular, they are hard to find, especially an unmodified stock model. Regrettably, our car was totaled (not by me, thank you), but if I had the chance to duplicate that very car, I would and I’m in pursuit of one now. There are so many things which will influence your decision, especially when it comes to sentimentality.

“Value Items” for Your New Classic

However, if you are just wanting an older car with no attachment to your childhood commuter,  there are a number of “value items” I’d recommend looking for. Most collectors want two door coupes. Most prefer a stock car as it came off the line from the manufacturer, with no modifications. Most also want low mileage, only one or two owners, and a life spent in a mild (usually southern) climate.

My Perfect Starter Classic

Perfect example of a great starter classic, a 1969 VW Bug. They are popular, affordable, and parts are readily available, so it’s easy to make repairs and improvements. They are simple to work on and there are plenty of blogs and forums for problem solving and troubleshooting.

And these cars can easily be re-sold if you feel compelled to do so. You kind of can’t go wrong with this one as a first collection car. Don’t get me wrong –  wanting an Avanti, Corvair or Matador is understandable! However, go into owning one of these knowing you will likely find these cars and their parts to be pricey and scarce. Add in the difficulty of finding an affordable and trustworthy repair shop to help you keep them running and you can soon find all the fun of owning a classic car has just gone down the drain! My advice for the beginning collector – stick with an “easy” car to get started and work your way up to the rare/complicated cars. I promise it’ll be a ton of fun!

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