Where’s the Best Place to Buy a Classic Car?

I get asked all the time, “where do you find your old cars?” There are many answers to this question – eBay, Carsforsale.com, Hemmings, Bring a Trailer and Gateway Classics are the easy ones. But in my opinion, there is nothing better than buying directly from an individual seller. Why? Nine times out of ten, there’ll be a great story behind your new car.

First I shop locally, starting with Facebook Marketplace, the Nextdoor app, and occasionally Craigslist. Facebook Marketplace I like because it often shows a connection between someone you know and the seller. I’ve found my questions about these cars are quickly answered, and this will start up a conversation. Although electronic, the exchange inevitably leads to… “great, when can I come see it?”

The e-conversation you’ve been having shifts to in-person and you now get a better vibe about the seller, with the obvious benefit of viewing and testing the car out. I’ve found almost always the seller will say “I just want her to have a good home and be well taken care of,” and yet the car will be parked under a dangerously sagging tree limb and all the tires are at 15psi. Which leads me to…

I have a checklist I bring, as well as tools, and fluids including:

  • duct tape for radiator hose splits (learned from experience!)
  • oil
  • antifreeze
  • paper towels
  • flashlight
  • exhaust mirror
  • portable jump box (which doubles as a generator to power an air pump)
  • tire tread depth gauge
  • magnet
  • tape measure

Having this arsenal of tools gives me the ability to thoroughly inspect the car and can lead to great negotiating opportunities. For example, if I can show the tires need replacing, it can lead to a few hundred dollars off the price of the car!

This kind of thorough inspection is a great way to build credibility with the seller. I get questions like “you must do this a lot?” or “you must be in the car business?” all the time. This seems to put me in a good negotiating position. While I don’t think anyone should ever try to intimidate a seller, it’s great when they understand you know your way around a car. It’s also a great way to have an interesting conversation and even to get to know a fellow enthusiast! While you can always look online for your next classic car, to me, “going local” is always my favorite!

My new book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, is available at Amazon! 10% of the net sales go to Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, a wonderful organization we are thrilled to support. If you’ve read and loved the book, please consider leaving an honest review. Reviews are the #1 way other enthusiasts find the book.

Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) almost all of driving age.


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