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04 Aug 2022

Top tips on buying a classic car

Classic Motor Show
Top tips on buying a classic car

Buying and owning a classic vehicle is an exhilarating and exciting journey but how do you know if you have made the correct decision in your purchase? What do you look out for, what do you avoid and most importantly, how do you know if you have found a good deal? The classic car market can feel intimidating if its new territory but that need not be the case.

Gary Dunne, Sales Manager at Silverstone Auctions and Classic Car Auctions, shares his top tips to make sure you drive away happy.


Give yourself a planned budget. That may be £10,000, £50,000 or more but have a budget in mind and have a number that you don’t want to go over. When you know your budget, set about researching the marketplace for the type of cars that you would like.

Look at classified adverts, auction listings and classic car specialists. This will give you an idea of what you might be able to buy for your money.

Find a trusted garage or mechanic

When buying a classic car, find a local and trusted garage or mechanic to have a look at your purchase and give you their thoughts. Often as not, there may be a list of things to do but not all of them will need to be done right away. Of course some will need to be addressed sooner rather than later but there will be others that might not need doing for a few years.

It’s also important to build a relationship with your garage or mechanic. There is likely to be a cost of running a classic – they are often twenty, thirty, forty years old, or more after all. Having someone you know, trust and can rely on will be beneficial in the long run.

Don’t rely on just a picture

It is essential to go and see the car in question. If you are looking at a car but are not an expert, try and take someone more experienced with you to help have a good look around the car. This will mean getting on the floor to inspect the underneath and having a good look at the engine bay and mechanicals – take a mat and gloves if you don’t want to get dirty!

Make sure you see all the paperwork for the car, V5 of course, but also ask to see anything else related to the car. This could include a folder of restoration invoices or receipts for work carried out and old MOTs that substantiate the mileage.

Trust your gut

Don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t feel right. If something feels off, you’re likely to be correct. There may be plenty of cars to choose from, but every classic is unique. There is no way a history can be duplicated. A car with quality restoration is different to a home-built car, but everything has its own value. Additionally, ownership is not always key, though low ownership often has a financial value. A car is only original once, but similarly a freshly restored one may not have the foibles of a long-stored car.

Try an auction

An auction can be a great place to find your first classic car. You can visit an auction and thoroughly check over the car that has peaked your interest. You’re able to carry out your due diligence before the sale and then inspect the car once more. At an auction, all the history files are at hand, and you’ll have a team of specialists and experts available to help as much as you need – even if it that is to just pass over the keys. A car sold at auction means a buyer can be sure they are only ever going to pay what the market decides the car to be worth.

However, of course prices can fluctuate if there is a frenzy of bidding then you know there are lots of other interested parties. If a car is more niche, there may only be one or two potential buyers as competition for ownership. Ultimately the cars will make what the bidders decide to pay, and our vendors can make decisions with our guidance, ensuring that we give everybody involved in a sale the very best chance of getting what they want.

Enjoy the process

Most importantly, have fun! Buy the car that you would like, not the one you think is likely to be the best investment.


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