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Homepage. This page: Help in finding your next old motor - tips & advice on locating a good classic car in mags, on the internet etc.

Find a classic car to buy


car
Ok, so you've decided that buying an old car, van or whatever is a really good idea, and convinced your nearest & dearest that owning a classic vehicle will bring all manner of hitherto unknown benefits. For now, don't mention the oil spots on the newly paved driveway, or the spare bedroom being used as an overflow storeroom for essential spare parts - you can always bring that up later, once you've found & bought a car.

The trick now is to find some suitably old cars (references to cars could equally apply to vans, trucks, motorcycles and most other vehicles) for sale. For the sake of argument, I'm referring mainly to cars from the 1970s and earlier, although much of what I witter on about could apply to later motors too.

"Where is the best place to buy a classic car?"

The options for tracking down the vintage of classic of choice are varied, and to a certain extent depend on how urgently you wish to buy a vehicle. If you've recently received grudging acceptance of your proposal to buy a classic, you might want to move quickly rather than dilly-dally over things. The internet may be your saviour in this case therefore, more of which later. But, to begin with ...

Buying a Car on the Internet

finding a car on the internet
The fact that you've landed here, means that you're aware of the car info that can be found online. Do a search on Yahoo! or Google and you'll turn up all sorts of dealers and such like, advertising their classics to the world. Common sense has a part to play here, and I'd never recommend paying anything for a car found online til it had been inspected in person, either by you or someone you trust implicitly. However, so long as you take the usual precautions, searching for a classic over the www can be huge fun, and introduce you to cars you've either never seen before, or would never have found for sale if limiting your search to just the printed format. At the time of writing, I'm liaising with a contact overseas who is sorting out the acquisition and shipping of a few super-rare vehicles, types that were never available in this form to the UK buyer back in the 1940s. Without the 'net I'd a) never have struck up friendship with this guy, and b) turned up the vehicles.

Immediacy is the golden benefit of the internet - put up a page for a car, whether on eBay or on a traditional website (my Pedigree Automobiles car sales site is just such a service, on which owners can sell their cars via the 'net to an enthusiast audience), and the ad is out there in next to no time, available to be viewed there and then. This way sellers can put their cars up for sale, and potential buyers can instantly see cars that have been put on the market. No waiting weeks for a print magazine to put a tiny photo ad in their back pages! Many classic car dealers now have an online, or 'virtual', showroom, in addition to their 'bricks and mortar' building, so hunting around online for these sites can be well worth an evening sat at the PC!

Online auction sites have taken off at an astonishing rate, none more so than eBay. Real-time (ie current) auctions can be viewed from anywhere in the world, opening up the car market to punters wherever there is a 'net connection. You can search eBay quite easily, without registering - although if you decide to bid, you need to complete a simple sign-up form and register first (as you would at a traditional, 'waving in the air', type auction). Well worth a go, I've found some amazing classics this way

Try it yourself - click here for a test search of eBay listings
(This sample search is set to 'Ford Escort Mk1' but you can also enter your own searches, so why not have a look and give it a try? no need to register or anything to give it a a test run.)

Easy isn't it!!?? I've also written an auctions tutorial for those who've not tried eBay yet. There are other auction sites around, such as Trademe in New Zealand, and QXL.com, but there's no doubt who is the most dominant at the present time.

Classic car magazine adverts

Stroll down to the local newsagent, and if it is a large-ish outfit, you'll find a bewildering array of magazines that relate to the classic car world. Some try to cater for all interests, whereas other try to focus on a particular timeline or make/model of vehicle. Fans of classic Fords and Volkswagens are particularly well served by the specialist magazine press - if your interests are a little more offbeat though, you'll probably have to go with a general classic car mag and hope to find something of interest within their shiny pages. Most of these magazines run a classifieds section, in which you should concentrate your hunt for a oldie motor. Those with a free-to-advertise policy are more likely to root out the interesting 'finds', cars that an owner wouldn't shell out ££ to advertise, but for free is happy to give it a whirl. In addition to private sellers there will probably be page after page of dealer ads too - these can be worth reading in close detail, although don't expect to find many cheapies here. The private car ads are going to be better hunting ground most of the time if price is your overriding concern, as dealers have to factor in their mark-up, and also cover any money they've thrown at a car to bring it up to scratch.

A perusal of the various motoring magazines will give a good idea of what market they are trying to cater for. 'Classics' and 'Practical Classics' for instance, are geared more to the owner-mechanic who tends to run affordable classic cars, perhaps as a daily car, with less emphasis on the exotic and deeply expensive stuff. 'Classic Cars' and 'Classic and Sportscar' tend to concentrate on the more rarefied end of the market, and The Automobile (one of my favourites) has a cut-off of 1960, featuring vehicles that cater for most pocket depths. These car magazines are all monthlies, if you want to keep a closer eye on the market then a weekly might be worth hunting out, 'Classic Car Weekly' springs to mind. If your aspirations are of a sporting nature, then 'Motorsport' is probably worth a look, but isn't exactly a £snip.

Enthusiasts of classic vans and pickup are well catered for, with several titles containing information on this type of vehicle - 'Classic Van and Pickup' is probably of most relevance as the articles & vehicles on sale focus on the lightweight end of the market. Heavyweight lorries and trucks get plenty of coverage in titles such 'Heritage Commercials' and 'Classic and Vintage Commercials' - they also feature lighter vehicles, but tend to concentrate on the earth-shaking heavyweights. 'Old Glory' also caters for the lorry enthusiast, with a sprinkling of steam vehicles thrown in for good measure.

Niche titles are also available for buses, emergency vehicles (police cars, fire engines, ambulances), classic tractors, plant/earthmoving equipment, and so on, although may only be available to special order - don't expect to find these very specialist titles down at your local Tesco.

A search through any of these magazines could help you find your next classic vehicle purchase!

The problem with magazines is that they aren't that cheap, especially if you purchase several titles each month. With cover prices hovering around £4 or so a time, it pays to closely examine all the titles you can before shelling out, so that you find the mags that best fit with your requirements. 'Classic Car Mart' is a useful publication worth mentioning here, as it contains a huge array of both private and dealer ads, with less of the fluff that some other mags can dish out (in my opinion anyway). The other issue is that of ad currency - several weeks may have passed between the seller paying to advertise their car in a magazine, and it actually hitting the newstands, by which time the car could have sold via another means already.

Occasionally something interesting will turn up in the publications that usually cover more recent cars, such as 'Auto Trader', although classics are getting scarcer in these mainstream mags. Don't forget the free ad ('Loot' type) papers either, as interesting old cars can turn up, from time to time. Just don't rely on finding something in these papers, as you might be in for a long wait.

Local Car Garages & Dealerships

Cars from the 1970s and into the 1980s are often referred to in the same breath as more established classics, so there are still finds to be had in the murky world of the secondhand car dealer's garage, particularly those who aren't too fussy about what age of part-ex they'll accept. If you have a few dealer forecourts in your area, it can't harm to pop in and see if they get 70s or 80s cars in from time to time. Leave your number and they might just call you if something a bit unusual comes along. A long shot agreed, but sometimes you need to look beyond the obvious routes in order to turn up something 'fresh to the market', as an antiques dealer would say. MOT stations are also worth a call too, there are still lots of little old ladies and gents pottering around in Minis, Fords and Rovers that they bought on their retirement. These cars, like the owners, might be getting on a bit now, and no longer assured of an easy MOT pass. Once a car fails the MOT, the owner may decide that they want rid of their old motor rather than spend any more dosh on it - if the garage is aware of your interest in a particular age of car, they may put the owner in touch with you. I've not tried this myself, but can't harm to try.

Classic and Vintage car events

cars often turn up for sale at classic car events
Many events now have a 'car mart' section, where owners can park up their pride and joy and paste a 'for sale' notice in the window. The variety of cars for sale at such a location will depend heavily on the popularity of the event, the weather, and many other factors too. But if you plan going to some shows anyway, it can't harm to look out such a sales area, and see if there's anything tasty up for grabs. While at the show, I'd also recommend hunting down the owners of display cars that interest you, and having a chat with them. Not only will you probably pick up some useful tips on buying a good example of a given car, you may also hear whispers about examples that might be coming onto the market soon, before they've actually been advertised. Buying cars that haven't been advertised can be really exciting, and may turn up a great 'barn find' vehicle.

Traditional motor auctions

If you're looking for something particularly unusual, or in mint condition, you could always do as the dealers do, and trog over to a classics auction and have a bid. Caution needs to be taken however, as once you bid, the car is yours. Checking it over prior to the auction is therefore essential. Try to hear it run, and eyeball the small print, not just for the car in question but also the auction company's terms and conditions. Look for a buyer's premium that will be added to the bid price. This can often be 17.5% so is an appreciable amount when bidding for an expensive car - bear this in mind when setting your own bidding limits!! Auctions can be a great place to buy a car, whether a minter or a barn find, but it can also be risky so do your homework first, and don't forget to register for a bidder's number either. If possible, attend an auction or two just as a spectator, to get the 'feel' for how they operate - the auctioneers can rattle through the Lots at an alarming pace, so be ready for this.

Car club newsletters and magazines

If you know exactly what make and model of car you want to buy, searching through an owners' club magazine can reap real rewards. Cars that get advertised within a club are often well looked after, and finding a worthy home for their car, rather than maximum sale price, may be of great importance to the seller = this means you may just snap something up for less than it would have sold for on the open market. The cost of joining a club can often be cancelled out via savings on car insurance policies that a club may offer, so the up-front cost of joining a club shouldn't put you off from this approach. This method can be an excellent way of finding the classic you want.

Where to buy a classic - a summary

The trick is to use as many options as possible, with a view to turning up information on examples of car that you want. Dealerships, shows, and magazine ads require a fair bit of foot slogging. Hunting for cars on the internet can take time too, and a bit of practice with different search phrases (both in eBay and the search engines), but can be done whenever you have a few spare minutes. A combination of all these approaches should therefore bring results to the original question - "Where Can I Buy a Classic Car from?"

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