Collecting cars is more than just a hobby. It’s a way of life for the many automobile enthusiasts who pour their time, energy, and yes, money, into finding, restoring, showing, and enjoying vintage vehicles. For some lucky collectors, this passion even becomes a side gig that can bring in quite a bit of cash. Want to get into collecting yourself? We’ve created a guide that will tell you what you need to know to start collecting classic cars: from shipping and selling to restoration and storage.
- 1 Why people collect classic cars in particular
- 2 What kind of collector do you want to be
- 3 You’ll be in good company as a collector
- 4 How to start and add to your collection
- 5 What you need to know about classic car shipping
- 6 What are the challenges associated with collecting cars
- 7 Even more tips for new classic car collectors
- 8 The bottom line
Why people collect classic cars in particular
Why collect classic cars? The short answer is why not! Some collectors love to drive them, some are design buffs, and others have a thing for old-school horsepower. Those who enjoy to tinker get their kicks working under the hoods of classic automobiles. And most collectors, also love the attention that comes with driving a mint condition antique car on a beautiful day. The one thing all collectors have in common is that their vehicles bring them a lot of joy!
Here are two more reasons people start classic car collections:
It’s an investment
You don’t have to have huge stacks of cash to start a collection. In fact, if you’re a reasonably good mechanic (or know one) and are patient enough to wait a sweet deal, you can score some amazing cars for small money. And if you have or are willing to learn the skills necessary to restore cars that aren’t in the best condition, you can make some cash flipping cars, too. Some people will tell you that certain classic cars represent a better investment than stocks, but due to the cyclical nature of the sale of both there’s no telling which will outperform the other. So consider your collection an investment in your happiness. Collect what you love, don’t expect to make a fortune selling, and enjoy the cars you have.
There’s the nostalgia factor
For a lot of collectors, working on and driving specific cars or vehicles from a certain era lets them relive moments from the past. If you have fond memories of the cars your parents or grandparents owned when you were a kid or there was that one awesome car you dreamed about constantly in high school, why not look around for one (or three)!
What kind of collector do you want to be
There are as many ways to collect classic cars as there are reasons to collect them! Some collectors gravitate toward the oldest antique vehicles while others have a passion for the newer classics. Most collectors start out with a love of cars in general and then gradually develop a focus as they grow their collections. Some collectors look for cars from a specific time period while others love a certain make or even type of vehicle. It’s important to remember that there’s no wrong way to collect cars. Maybe your favorite cars aren’t what’s popular among most collectors or at the car shows, but all that means is that you’ll probably have an easier time sourcing vehicles for your own personal collection.
When you’re new to collecting classic cars, it can be tough to zero in on what types of automobiles you want. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you begin putting together your collection:
- What kinds of cars interest you? Do you go crazy for the oldest cars? Are you drawn to vintage wagons? What’s your preferred style?
- What can you afford? You probably have your dream acquisitions, but until you hit it big, search for cars that you like that won’t break the bank.
- Will you be driving your collection? Mileage factors into the value of collectible cars so you need to think about that when investing in any vehicle.
- Do you have the skills to restore cars? In that case, you may be able to find diamonds in the rough that other collectors, who aren’t as mechanically inclined, have overlooked.
Are you a history buff? Some classic cars come with a story to tell and the more interesting the vehicle, the more you may have to spend to add it to your collection.
You’ll be in good company as a collector
Most collectors will never need to build separate structures to house their collections but some lucky people – celebrities and sports stars – can and do! These are the famous folks who really love cars and have the means to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, adding to their collections. It’s fun to follow these guys and to think about what you might do if you had a near limitless bank account to draw from. Want to experience some serious automobile envy? Google the collections these celebrities have amassed and prepare to be wowed.
- Eric Clapton
- Steve Coogan
- Simon Cowell
- Idris Elba
- Jay Kay
- Nicholas Cage
- Jay Leno
- Floyd Mayweather
- Patrick Peterson
- Ralph Lauren
- David Beckham
- Lewis Hamilton
- Rowan Atkinson
- Jerry Seinfeld
- Chris Evans
- Rowan Atkinson
How to start and add to your collection
When you first start your collection, chances are you’ll be buying from personal contacts and from other people you’ve met through local car clubs. You’ll see a car at a show and you’ll get the itch. Or you’ll fire up Craigslist every day to see if you come across any gems.
But as your focus narrows, you’re not going to be able to keep finding what you want nearby. That’s when collectors start going online to buy at sites like Autotrader Classics, eBay, Hemmings, and Classiccars.com. These sites list available collector cars from all over, which means you have a better chance of finding a great deal on the specific vehicles you’re looking to buy.
When you’re buying classic cars online, working with a brokerage company can give you peace of mind because they know the scams to look out for, will find trustworthy mechanics to perform the pre-purchase appraisal, and help set up an escrow payment that protects you in the event your car isn’t what you expected when it is delivered.
Delivered? Yes! When you’re buying online from a remote seller, you’re not going to fly out and drive it home. Putting that kind of wear and tear on a classic car is irresponsible and can even be dangerous if it turns out your new collectible has mechanical issues the seller didn’t know about. Plus, airfare is expensive! Classic car shipping is almost always the better option because your classic car is protected during transport and you won’t have to rearrange your schedule to get it into your garage.
What you need to know about classic car shipping
Whether you want to ship a car you’re selling to someone else or to make sure the seller shipping the vehicle you’ve just purchased does it right, you need to know the ins and outs of classic car transport. The steps you need to take when shipping a car across the country are fairly straightforward, but classic cars need extra care. Here are some tips for ensuring your vehicle gets where it needs to go safely:
- Don’t trust your automobile to just anyone! Some auto transport companies have loads of experience with classic car shipping while others have almost none. You can probably guess which companies will treat your vintage vehicle with the most care.
- Don’t choose the cheapest company! Or the least expensive shipping method, for that matter. Enclosed transport is almost always the better option for classic car shipping because it protects your investment from road debris, weather, and curious people.
- Don’t forget about insurance! Always request a paper copy of your carrier’s insurance information and have them talk you through what is and is not covered. If your classic car is particularly rare or valuable, you may want to purchase extra insurance.
If you’re still tempted to drive the vintage vehicle you’re buying from a remote seller home, consider the following. When you add up the future costs of wear and tear plus the cost of the gas, food, and lodging you will buy on your road trip, driving may turn out to be a lot more expensive than classic car shipping. Choose wisely!
What are the challenges associated with collecting cars
Are there downsides to starting up a classic car collection? Honestly, yes, though for most collectors the downsides are mostly overshadowed by the joy of collecting.
First, there are the costs involved. As hobbies go, collecting classic cars is an expensive one even after you’ve already bought a few cars. Insuring multiple vehicles can get pricey. Then there’s the maintenance. Maintaining them costs money, too, and some vintage vehicles are particularly prone to problems. Even if you do most of your own maintenance, this element of classic car collecting can take up a lot of time, energy, and cash. And then there’s the question of how and where to store your collection. Collectors without unlimited garage space have to be very selective when collecting.
The best way to make sure that the challenges don’t turn into frustration is to know your limits. How many cars can you comfortably maintain at one time? How many can you store at once without parking them all over your yard? Your circumstances will determine how many vehicles you can have in your collection at one time. Overdo it, and the joy of collecting can lead to exhaustion and an empty wallet.
Even more tips for new classic car collectors
Collecting classic cars is more fun when you start off on the right foot. Here are four more tips that will help you build a collection that makes you happy:
1. Narrow the field
Whether you’re in it because you just plain love vintage automobiles or you are trying to make money buying, fixing up, and reselling classic cars, you’ll never be an expert on every make and model of car ever made. Specializing in one type of vehicle lets you become an expert in that type, and that’s when you’ll be able to spot amazing deals and sell for higher prices.
2. Balance sentiment and logic
You should look at cars with an investor’s eye even if you’re not collecting for profit. Buying classic cars involves a certain amount of risk. How much risk are you willing to take to get that one specific model you’ve been dreaming about forever?
3. Consider the Time Investment
Do you have the skills to be your own mechanic? If the answer is no, the next question you have to ask yourself if whether you’re willing to put in the time to develop those skills. You can become your own mechanic with help from YouTube and books, but if you’re still learning then you need to choose your cars more carefully than a collector who grew up with their head under the hood.
4. Resist Impulse Buys
While some classic cars are much rarer than others, very few are so rare you’ll never get another opportunity to buy that make or model. Never buy a car sight unseen or if you get a bad feeling from the seller. And make sure you know what you’re buying so you don’t end up with a classic car that has known defects. When you’re looking at classic car transport, make sure you’re contracting with a reputable transport company. Do your research!
Collecting classic cars should make your life better, not more stressful. While there is a lot to think about, you should also be having fun. Learn everything you can about your favorite cars, find them, and drive them just because you can. Cars can be a valuable asset, but they’re still toys and you should have the chance to enjoy playing with them.