STEP 1: EDUCATE YOURSELF
Car collections begin with memories—the desire to acquire that same kind of, say, stick-shift Volkswagon Beetle your dad taught you to drive (except this time, no hole in the floorboards). It fires up your ignition and gets things rolling
But before you start your search for the perfect Beetle, make sure you learn as much as you can about the car. How common is the make and model, and how many exist? Are repairs simple or complicated? Are there garages in your area that service this type of car? How popular is it in your region of the country compared with the U.S. as a whole? The more you can learn early on, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
A great place to start your search is the Web. Unless the car you’re looking for is super obscure, a simple search on Google or eBay Motors will yield thousands of entries to peruse. There are also great websites out there like bringatrailer.comwhere buyers share stories about their cars and purchases (Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld included) that can be fun and invaluable reality checks.
There are also countless collectors clubs, along with sites dedicated to specific makes and models where you can gain even more insider information on exactly what you’re looking for.
STEP 2: FIND YOUR RIDE
Once you’ve settled on the type of car you want, you’ve got to determine whether it’s in your price range. Published guides like Edmunds
or Kelley Blue Book
can give you some broad estimates on your auto’s value. A simple Web search for the type of vehicle
and its year will also usually display what the selling range is for that make and model.
Finding that exact car you’re looking for can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but stick with it. Randy Nonnenberg, co-founder of bringatrailer.com, compares the process of online auto shopping with online dating: Expect to have fun, but also go into it knowing it may take some work. (You also may find that the car you ultimately end up with may be nothing like the car you originally set out for.)
Once you’ve located a car you’re excited about, that’s when the real fun begins. Chances are it’s not just going to be sitting in a garage on the other side of town. It may be across the state or on the other side of the country. In that case, you have to ask yourself: Is the car a good deal or is it too good to be true? “Buying a 1963 Corvette that’s 3,000 miles away [based on] three pictures on the Web is fun,” says Nonnenberg, “but it usually ends in tears if you’re not careful.”
To start the vetting process, always ask for service records. This will help in some cases, but if the car is 50 years old, records could be spotty at best. Other options range from traveling to see the car for yourself, which could be costly, depending on the car’s location; hiring an unknown local mechanic to give it a once-over; or hiring an independent car inspector, like InspectMyRide, to check out your dream car. (InspectMyRide is an incredible service, for the record. An inspector will drive out and check out the vehicle on your behalf, providing a 150-plus- point inspection report.) Between that and an AutoCheck report, you should easily be able to determine if the asking price for your dream is legit or an insta-pass.
If you’re having a hard time finding a car that fits all your specifications, broaden your parameters. Say you’re looking for a four- wheel-drive Jeep in January—you will be one of thousands looking in, say, the chilly Northeast or the Rockies. Instead, look in warmer regions like Arizona or Florida. The price you’ll pay for having the car shipped could easily be made up by the lower sale price you’re paying for a car.
STEP 3: MAINTAIN YOUR DREAM
Finding your perfect classic car is exciting, but the delight should continue with ownership. More than new autos, however, classic cars need to be looked after. Besides insurance and engine maintenance, make sure to keep your baby clean
and shiny. Repair or replace any interior cabin parts as needed. Part of the fun of owning a classic car is searching for period accessories like door handles, in-dash radios, or aftermarket toys like tachometers, continental wheel kits, and more—all of which make a special car really shine.
Wash and wax the exterior at least once a month in the driving season (late spring through early fall). Avoid driving your vintage ride in bad weather or dangerous road conditions. Sure, driving always entails some risk, but you should never increase the risk by putting your vintage car
in situations where it could be damaged or worse.