what to look out for when buying a classic car

Classic Car Buying Guide

Buying a classic car is usually more than just a new car but also an investment. The right classic car is better than money in the bank and will appreciate in value continuously. As with wine, they will get better and better with age.

Of course, not every car will become a classic but at what age does a car become a true classic? This is where research will come into play to find cars that are future classics and will continue to rise in value.

The age at which a car can truly be called a classic would be over 20 years of age. Determining whether a car is a future classic will usually be between 15 and 20 years, where the prices will start to sky rocket after 20 years.

How To Find A Future Classic Car?

Finding a true future classic car involves some research and background knowledge. Personally, I would stick to car manufacturers that you know fairly well as you will understand the pedigree of the car.

What you are looking for is a car that is young enough to drive and reliable but old enough to be forgotten. More importantly, you will want to find cars that are limited in numbers and quite rare. Usually these will be in the form of very expensive cars from new but now have depreciated rapidly.

Another good factor would be the story attached to the car. For example the Mercedes 190E Cosworth was developed to go rallying but Audi Quattro released their rally car that was 4X4, wchi ruined the 190E’s hopes. This meant Mercedes created a road going version, which was an excellent drive with its racing pedigree.

how to find the next future classic car

As I am a Mercedes classic car collector myself, I have multiple cars that are gaining value each year. Two examples are the W124 Coupe and the W210 E55 (last hand built AMG) that are appreciating and still fairly cheap to buy.

Sadly, I missed the hype on the 190E Cosworth when they were fairly cheap and nowadays they are all passing the 5 figure mark. Read more on Mercedes Future Classics if you are tempted as there are still lots of bargains.

What To Look Out For Before Buying

If you have not heard the term “Money Pit” before, buy the wrong classic car and you will understand it. A classic car that requires extensive work can cost a serious amount of money to bring it back to good condition. Working on the cars may be much easier than modern cars but finding the parts to replace is much harder.

Below are 5 of the main factors to consider before purchasing a classic car.

Body Condition and Rust

The paintwork is not really an issue as finding a body shop to paint a car is fairly easy. However, if the body is full of big dents, it can hard to get a sleek finish. The same can be said with rust that can form anywhere on the car. Treatment of rust in non problem areas is fairly easy but if the rust is really bad in problem areas, it is probably not worth restoring the car.

If you find a car that is rust free without any major dents, you are onto a winner. Be sure to use the best rust protection paint to preserve the rust free bodywork and you will see the value of the car increase.

Electric Wires and Components

As a classic car will more than likely be over 20 years old, the electrical wires can become perished due to old age. Sensors and connectors will also be worn and fuses blown, which may be hard to source new ones. We strongly recommend that you invest in a digital automotive multimeter to diagnose electrical gremlins that you come across.

When it comes to relays and sensors, always be sure to have a few spare if you can get your hands on them. When it comes to diagnosing problems, this is a huge lifeline.

Originality of the Car

Every car enthusiasts enjoys doing modifications to their car, from lowering the car to installing aftermarket wheels. However, when it comes to a classic car that is going to appreciate the greatest, originality of the car is very important.

Therefore, if you are purchasing a car that is modified, ask for the original parts too (if they have them). This means you can switch all the modifications to the original parts and increase the classic value.

Service History and Documentation

The service history and documentation is a clear sign to the new keeper of whether the car has been looked after. A large service book and various bits of documentation provide much needed history and a story of the cars life. In the classic car market, this is an important part to any car for sale.

Classic Car Insurance

Following on from the originality of the car, finding insurance for a classic car may be an issue with a car that has been modified. However, there are plenty of insurers worldwide that provide insurance for modified classics. A proper classic car insurance will include agreed values, limited mileages and much more as per the company linked.

Inflated Price Pre Sale

Classic car owners that are forced to sell their pride and joy for money related reason will usually raise the prices quite significantly. What they say it is worth and what someone is willing to pay is quite a difference.

Always try for a hard bargain and the majority of the time a classic car is an investment and many will come along. If you were desperate for a car, this would be different but for a classic car collector looking for the best investments, always crunch the asking price.

best classic car investment

Good Examples Of Appreciating Classics

To get your mind thinking about the future classic cars that you can invest in, lets talk of those that have become collectibles.

  • Mercedes 190E Cosworth (2.3/2.5)
  • Volkswagen Corrado VR6
  • Ford MK2 Escort
  • Chevrolet Belair ’57
  • Ford Mustang (1969-70)
  • Porche 911 (1980’s)
  • Datsun 240Z
  • Honda NSX
  • BMW E30 M3
  • Mercedes SL Padoga
  • Fiat 500 Original
  • Air Cooled Volkswagens

and too many more to list. Below are a list of future classic cars that you should buy now before its too late:

  • Mercedes W210 E55 AMG
  • Mercedes W202 C43/C36 AMG
  • BMW E36 M3 EVO
  • BMW E39 M5
  • Mercedes W124’s
  • Mercedes R129 SL
  • Honda S2000
  • MK1 Mazda MX5
  • Volkswagen MK2 Golf

Again, there are many more but this is my personal list of future classics. Leave a comment on what you think are some future classics that can be purchased around the world.

What Are Your Thoughts?

  1. Do you really think the W210 E55 will be a future classic? I personally love them as they are a bit more raw than the more electric orientated W211 E55. They are also still reasonably priced. However, I’ve read a few forums and a few seem too think not.

  2. 100% – I personally own one too, so may be biased. However, they are bulletproof and the 211 will die out with all those electrical gremlin issues. They are a car that is certain to rise in the next few years and be a collectible item. As long as you ensure the rust underneath is kept clean, all the other panels such as wings are fairly easy to maintain and replace when they get bad!

  3. Hi Dan,

    Thank you for your great article! I also own a 1999 W210 E55 that I purchased in 2001 and love it. I have a 2003 Sl55 and am thinking of selling it to purchase a R129. I don’t need the extra power and bling and always liked the “classic look” of the R129s. As you mentioned, they are very reasonably priced at the moment and seems to be more reliable than the R230 models. When do you anticipate the prices of these cars to begin rising? Thank you for your time, Robert

  4. Hey Robert – It is only a matter of time. Since writing this article, the 129 500’s and 600’s have increased quite significantly already. Personally, unless you spend a large sum of money over the years, the R230 will see electrical issues become all so common. Many people remove the ABC setup for a coilover setup but even still, I wouldn’t touch one. I strongly recommend the R129, I have three myself currently!

  5. Dan,
    Thank you for your quick response! I already have a buyer for the sl55 and will be selling it this week. I guess that the R129 is a good car since you have three of them:-) Thanks again for your input.

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