Buying a Classic Car – Fully Restored or Fixer Upper?

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One of the first decisions you are going to have to make once you decide you are going to buy a classic car is whether or not to buy one that’s been fully restored. Of course, there are quite a few advantages to buying a fully restored vehicle, but there are also some pretty significant disadvantages.

Which decision will work best for you?

Buying a Completely Restored Classic Car

If you decide to purchase a car that has already been restored, you’ll be able to enjoy your classic car as soon as the sale is complete. Obviously, this makes it a great decision for anyone looking for a classic car that isn’t into performing the manual labor. In fact, if professionals restored the car, it can end up saving you quite a bit of time and money (make sure to factor in the value of your own time when making this decision). Often, something that may take an experienced and professional car restoration company a few hours could end up taking someone without the experience double or triple that, especially considering the research required to perform that type of labor without the experience.

On the other hand, not all restorations are done right. There are certain specialty shops out that that seem more like chop shops. They’ll drag a car inside, blast it with a new coat of paint, throw on some re-treaded tires, and tweak the engine to sound better than it really is. Beware of companies that make a car appear to have been completely restored, but have not really done any substantial engine or bodywork. There is not much worse than falling victim to these types of predators, but there are plenty of them out there so do your research on the car and company selling it.

Since classic trucks and cars have seen resurgence in popularity as of late, some of the sketchy shops described above are unfortunately becoming more commonplace. The only way to completely avoid a nasty sale is to do your homework. Check the shop out as much as possible by finding a few people that have had cars restored there and ask how their experience was. Luckily, those who have been ripped off are typically more than willing to share their experience and help prevent anyone else from getting taken advantage of.

As with any transaction involving money, remember the phrase “buyer beware”. This phrase is perhaps even more accurate when making a purchase over the Internet – you better make sure you have some sort of guarantees in place just in case.

Buying a “Fixer Upper” Classic Car or Shell

alt text goes hereChoosing this option leads to a variety of different, yet equally valid concerns. The first and foremost one being “How much will it cost me to get this thing running well and looking good?” If you’re comfortable pricing things on your own, and have a general idea of the mechanics of a car then you can probably come up with a decent estimate. Even if you think you’ve come up with a pretty accurate estimate, we recommend adding 50% to your estimate. This will help account for all of those nasty little surprises that you have considered, such as parts breaking while taking other parts apart, and the need for new tools that you hadn’t anticipated needing.

It’s not all bad, though. You can often find some terrific deals on project cars, and may be able to spend far less than you would on a fully restored version. If you really know what you’re doing, you might be able to get that car in tiptop condition without breaking the bank.

Additionally, the main benefit of restoring your car yourself is the personal touch you will be able to give to the car. Since you’re rebuilding the car yourself, you will be able to do it exactly how you want it. From hand-selected parts to the color of the body paint, every aspect of the car will be restored how you choose, and you will likely have a stronger emotional attachment to the finished product.


alt text goes hereIf you’re already leaning one way or the other, chances are you’ve already made up your mind without realizing it. Either way, the best thing you can do is have an experienced professional that you can trust look over the car – whether it’s fully restored or a project -to help you determine if the price is right for the condition. A second set of eyes will likely catch things you might miss, especially if those eyes belong to an expert. If you can find a mechanic that specializes in that particular make and model, even better.

One last thought- before you pick your poison, don’t forget to maintain your objectivity with classic cars. Often times, we let our emotions get the best of us. Do not buy a classic car based on emotional reactions alone. Of course, if you do find a classic car that makes your heart race, you should most definitely consider getting it – once you’ve weighed all the pros and cons and made a decision based on facts and not gut instinct alone.

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