Top 5 Red Flags When Buying A Classic Car

Don’t Buy A Lemon When Shopping for a Classic Car

  1. Study the Photos– If the car looks “bad” in the photos the car will look worse in person. Remember a seller is trying to sell a car and usually they will take photos of the best angles and locations on the car and graze over the imperfections. Also look in the background of photos. If you see the ground is wet or there’s car wash supplies in the background they probably took the photos while the car was wet to make the paint look shinier. Also if the seller has tons of other cars in the background that are similar you may be dealing with a car flipper; so tread lightly.
  2. Read Between the Lines- A lot of times sellers can use “code words” to describe a car that you can sometimes read between the lines to figure out what that translates to. Such as “The car has a lot of great character”= “The paint, body, and interior are rough and potentially neglected”. Or “Should run with a little bit of work” = I tried the simple fixes to get it to run but couldn’t so it’s more involved than a fresh battery and fuel”. Occasionally classic cars are being sold by a family member that isn’t savvy with old vehicles and they really haven’t tried to start the car; but most times someone has at least tried to turn the engine over before listing for sale.
  3. Look at the sellers other Ads- A little bit of detective work can go a long way before buying a classic car or making the drive to go see a classic car. Most online advertising sites allow you to look at the sellers other for sale ads and can give you an idea of what type of seller they are. If you see a new car listed for sale every other week you can be sure that they are a reseller and might not know much history about the vehicle. Many of these sellers buy at auction or off Craiglist, Facebook marketplace, etc and will turn the vehicle around for a profit with doing little to no work. While there isn’t anything wrong with this; realize you’re on your own figuring out the cars needs and history.
  4. Check the Age of the Ad- Has the seller been trying to sell the vehicle for a long time? If you see an ad where a fairly desirable car has been for sale for a long time (over a couple months) then there is probably a problem. Either the price is too high and the seller won’t budge or the car itself isn’t what they’re advertising. We can’t stress enough that detective work before responding to a sale ad can save you wasted time looking at a lemon. If you think it’s an issue with the car you can ask for more photos and information and carefully “read between the lines” like mentioned above to get a feel for the car and seller.
  5. “Fresh Paint”- Getting a car painted is about the most gratifying part of restoring an old car and anyone in their right mind would want to drive the car and enjoy it after the work and money that goes into getting a car repainted. If the car is listed as just freshly painted you may want to be careful with the car. Poor prep work and body/paint work might take months or years to show up so a freshly painted vehicle might look good regardless of the work done. Ask some more questions to see who did the work and possibly follow up with the body shop to get a feel for them and their reputation to get an idea of the work done. This is another common trick of a flipper that will take a rusty, clapped out old classic car and hack together the bodywork and get fresh paint on it to double or triple their profit because of the perceived value of a shiny paint job. We’d rather see an honest car that needs work than something hiding sins that will show up months or years later. Be careful as this is one of the biggest ways to get caught with buying your first classic/collector car.

Once you get your first classic you no doubt will want to maintain or modify it to make it your own. Eastwood offers a full line of detailing supplies to keep your new classic looking great HERE.

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