10 Cardinal Rules for Buying Classic Cars

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The siren song of classic, or collector, cars has lured many an automobile fan onto the rocks. “Why settle for a car that goes down in value when you can drive one that goes up in value?” you might tell yourself as you buy a vintage vehicle you think has lots of potential.

But turning an antique bucket of bolts into a cherry ride takes know-how. “The reality of car collecting is that for every investor who cashes in big, there are hundreds who lose far more money than they make,” writes Kelley Blue Book editor and Forbes contributor Karl Brauer.

It’s a used car

At Money Talks News, we are big fans of driving used cars. (Read 10 Tips for Buying Your Next Car for Less and Why Your Used Car is Greener (and Smarter) Than a New Hybrid). Here’s why: The average new car loses 36 percent of what you paid for it in the first year, and 60 percent from the original price in the first five years, according to Kelley Blue Book.

A classic car is, strictly speaking, a used car. A special used car, to be sure. State Farm Insurance defines a classic as:

  • A motor vehicle 10 or more years old, which is rare or of special historical interest because of exceptionally fine workmanship or limited production. A classic motor vehicle 25 years old or older is covered as an antique.
  • Antique Automobile: A motor vehicle 25 or more years old.

Purchased thoughtfully and restored knowledgeably, some classic cars do appreciate. Plenty depreciate, though. You can’t know the market value of a vehicle until you sell it, and lots can go wrong before then. The market for collector cars, like markets for stocks or corn futures, is subject to unpredictable forces, like the larger economy and the changing tastes and emotions of buyers.

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