How to Locate Antique Cars for Sale

March 12, 2012

Most sellers gravitate to the same marketplaces, so there is no great secret for finding antique cars for sale, but there are a few good research tips.

Finding antique cars for sale is a very different process then shopping for a run of the mill daily driver. Luckily there are plenty of resources available to the classic car buyer in order to locate just the car you are looking for. Here are a few different places to start your search.

In order to get a good idea of what you are looking for, online shopping is a good place to start. However Internet shopping is more difficult than just simple point and click when you're looking for a big ticket item like a car. Since eBay is an established community of online sellers, you have a greater assurance that the vehicles you are looking at are legit. When you search for your vehicle using eBay, make sure that you pay thorough attention to the vehicle description and get a good idea of what that type of vehicle is selling for. eBay is a good resource, however one downside is that since eBay has nationwide listings the vehicle might not be in your local area.

One upside about shopping on Craigslist is that the vehicles will be in your local area. However Craigslist isn't as well-regulated as eBay, so be careful. Never attempt an online transaction through Craigslist. Offers to ship vehicles through Craigslist are often fraudulent. If you choose to meet a Craigslist seller to look at a car for sale, make sure that you are careful and that you know the ins and outs of the car you are shopping and the neighborhood you are going to. Craigslist can be a great place to shop for a vehicle, but you should also make sure that you take all necessary steps to protect yourself.

A great resource that is too often overlooked is using car enthusiast forums to shop for your classic car. There are a variety of vehicle-specific enthusiast forums online that can be a great place to shop for a car. Generally, the people that use these types of forums are more knowledgeable and passionate about their vehicles then the average seller. Even if you don't end up purchasing your car through a forum marketplace, the other users in a forum can probably offer invaluable help and advice for your transaction.

The Old-Fashioned Way
Last but not least is going about your purchase the old fashioned way: Try putting a wanted ad up on some bulletin boards locally. Describe what you are looking for and why you're a good purchaser. Some of the best classic car-finds around can be had this way. Some examples of great places to post this type of ad are at local car parts suppliers, repair shops, car clubs and even senior centers.

How to Estimate Restoration Costs

Depending on what sort of restoration you're going to do and how much work is needed on your target car, you can be looking at a few hundred dollars, all the way to a project that's going to take you a year or more to complete and several thousand dollars.

Restoration Type
What kind of restoration you plan on performing will determine how much the job is going to cost. A full show room quality restoration for car shows is going to cost several thousand dollars and take a number of months to complete. The car must be completely stripped and rebuilt from the ground up. Parts have to be acid dipped to clean and many may require plating. If chrome pieces show rust or chips, the part needs to be stripped and rechromed. Replacement parts have to be acquired. This can sometimes mean custom fabrication of metal parts.

Performing a restoration that isn't for show is much less expensive. If you find broken parts, you can simply replace them with something that works. Metal parts won't require replating or chroming unless rust is evident and profuse. A "resto-mod" is a type of restoration where the car is cleaned up and restored as much as can be done inexpensively and then modification completes the task. This type of project is much less expensive than a full restoration, even one that isn't for show.

Before undertaking any sort of restoration project, decide what purpose the car being restored will serve when completed. If it's going to be something you drive every day, you probably won't want to invest all the time and money into a full show quality restoration. Vehicle storage during restoration is something else you need to consider. If you don't have somewhere to safely store a rolling frame for a month, a full restoration is probably out of the question.

How to Conduct a Background Check on an Antique Car

There are lots of really good vehicles out there, but some people will look to take advantage of you and not give all of the facts about a certain car. Your goal is to find more information and figure out what a car has been through, so you can know whether or not you are getting a fair deal.

Seller's Local DMV
The first place to look is the DMV where the seller lives. Find out from the seller which states the car has been registered in, so you know which DMV histories to check. When you visit the DMV website for each state, they will all have a special section for antique cars. There, you can get information on how to safely purchase one. More importantly, you will get information on how to check the history of those cars. There will typically be a form to fill out and you will have to pay a small fee to make it happen. This is well worth the cost because it will help you know whether an antique car for sale is worth the asking price or not.

Independent Background Check
Beyond using the background checks from the DMV in each state, you can also look to independent background check sites to help you in your search. There are many sites that handle antique cars specifically to help people determine whether or not those vehicles have been through trouble. The best sites will, once again, charge a fee for this service. If you enter the registration numbers for the vehicle, they will be able to pull up a full history of items for you. There are many things that you will want to keep your eye on when these reports are produced.

  • Previous car accidents. Checks show you any crashes the car has been involved in. This is incredibly important and if the seller is withholding information about that, then you know you have a problem
  • Service history. The best reports give you a complete rundown of any engine troubles and repairs that an antique car for sale has had in the past.
  • Chain of title. You can get the full run down of who has owned the car, as well as where they owned it

These things will give you a chance to tell if a certain vehicle is priced appropriately and if the seller is being forthcoming with information like they should be. Additionally, you might check with the antique car club of that type of car in order to get more detailed information if the owner has registered there.

Money Saving Tips for Antique Car Shoppers

In antique car sales, prices can fluctuate quite a bit from month to month. What you saw a car advertised for last month may be thousands of dollars more or less than similar cars are being sold for today. There are a few things you can do, whether you're buying or selling, to make sure you get your money's worth.

Whether you're looking to buy that 1955 Chevy Bel Air or sell your 1963 Corvette, one of the best ways to be sure of what the car is worth is to have it appraised. Licensed appraisers keep current on car values across the country. They will know if your buyer in Spokane has offered you enough for your Corvette, or if a seller in Dallas wants too much for his Bel Air. An appraiser will also be able to tell you if the car is authentic and whether numbers match or not.

Auction Sites
The major auto auction sites are an excellent place to review vehicle values. Auction sites like Kruse's and Barrett-Jackson will give you the most current information on what car collectors are paying for specific cars around the world. eBay is another good auction site to check what particular cars are valued at.

Car Clubs
Car clubs are another excellent place to pick up information about a vehicle's authenticity or value. Most car club members are serious collectors and they keep up with what is going on in the collectibles market on a weekly basis. They will be able to give you minute information to verify a certain vehicle's authenticity and thus value as a collectible car.

As long as you do a little research and make sure what you're buying or selling is authentic, you can be assured of making a good deal buying or selling with antique car sales. The research that used to take days on the phone and in the mail can now be done mostly online, saving you quite a bit of time and effort.

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