Most people don’t buy classic cars with the sole intent of making money -- the pure enjoyment of our cars comes first. But breaking even on one’s ownership of a car or keeping costs low sure helps with that happiness quotient.
It’s really hard to time the market, but how do you protect your car investment while still enjoying it?
Buy It Right
Selling a car with the proper documentation and maximizing your return is certainly important, but most professionals say that they make their money when they BUY the vehicle. This takes some homework. It’s easy to fall in love with a car and overpay. These cars are passion purchases so it’s easy to get in over one’s head. Here are some good tips:
Do your research. Look up marque-specific sites online. Different years of the same model can often have very different options and features that make them worth a lot more or less than other examples. Hagerty offers industry-leading price guidance and records of historic auction sales as well. It’s important to know what it is you’re buying and what others have paid for similar cars.
If possible, shop around. If you can sit in a car, drive it, and view other similar examples, even better. The last thing you want to do is pay for a car then find out you just don’t fit or that you don’t like the experience. Every car is unique based on its past. They can make different noises and steer, handle and brake very differently than what you drive every day. Sites like Driveshare.com even offer opportunities to rent collector cars from other individuals… how about a weekend-long test drive to see if you really like that model you’ve always admired from afar?
Keep the Mileage Low
Getting behind the wheel is a main motivator for many collectible purchases. If you pay a premium for a super low mileage preservation-class car, then every mile you put on it will hurt. If you plan to drive your car to work, on long trips, or on road rallies, then buy accordingly. A higher-mile well-maintained car won’t suffer in value from an extra 10,000 miles like a 20,000 mile original car will. Think about your intended use and if you want a car you can use and enjoy, don’t pay that premium for that perfectly preserved museum piece.
Maintaining the condition of your car starts with where it’s parked when you’re not driving it. If you live in an area with distinct seasons (specifically, winter) you’ll put your car away when the snow begins to fly. Find a place where your car is unlikely to get accidental damage (away from skis and bicycles stored on the wall or hung from the ceiling). Remove your battery and/or use a battery tender over the winter. Use some gas stabilizer. To keep mice and small rodents away, buy some pest repellent, there are ones that are safe around kids and pets. Put some in the cabin, some in the trunk, and a third under the hood since mice like wire insulation. Placing some pest repellent around the perimeter of the garage helps, too.
Proper Mechanical Maintenance
If you don’t drive your car often it’s easy to overlook this, but the next buyer may be looking for records of regular oil changes and other fluids, checks of brake linings, and general proper treatment. Some models bring specific concerns and pricey scheduled maintenance. Porsche 944s and some Ferraris, for example, require timing belt changes at frequent intervals. Having proof that these services are up to date become bigger benefits when selling these cars.
It’s one thing to change your oil; it’s another to keep documentation of it. Receipts are easy – there are even online options to keep your files-- or you can stick them into a folder and organize them when it comes time to sell the car. If you perform maintenance yourself, then keep a log and file the receipts for the oil and other parts you bought. This is really about telling a story -- and that story is that you were a conscientious owner, confidently selling a vehicle that was well cared for.