Probably the easiest and most trouble-free way of taking ownership of a classic or performance car, if you're buying from a dealer here's what you need to do to get the best deal
It’s probably still the most popular way of purchasing a classic car – and with good reason. Nothing beats the face-to-face deal, the banter and the flexibility of buying from a dealer.
1: Study the advert
Like what you see? Give the dealer a call and discuss the car. He is likely to know everything there is to know about it, especially if the car has been given a pre-sale service, so ask as many questions as you can.
2: Viewing the car
The great thing about buying from a dealer is that you get great access to the car and, in some cases, even a workshop. So make the most of these facilities – before you arrange to see the car, insist that you’re the one who starts it from cold, and warn them that you’ll be giving it a thorough going over. The chances are the dealer will be happy to see you’re taking such an interest.
3: Inspecting the car: body
Check all the areas you’ve been advised to in the buying guides that you will have studied beforehand. Pay close attention to the bodywork and, if it has been restored, ask for details and pictures of the work that’s been undertaken.
4: Inspecting the car: engine
Leave the engine until you’re completely satisfied with the condition of the bodywork. That way it will have cooled down if it’s been run before you arrived. Listen to it start, check for fluid leaks, and watch that exhaust pipe.
5: Inspecting the car: interior
This is an often-overlooked cost in classic car ownership, but if the interior isn’t perfect, and you want it to be, getting your car up to scratch inside could cost an arm and a leg. So don’t gloss over that cracked veneer or damaged leather, as restoration and repair costs will rapidly mount up.
6: Inspecting the car: the test drive
Give the car a thorough test drive – feel the operation of the gearbox, brakes and steering; are they smooth? Does the car pull up in a straight line? Does it accelerate without hesitation? Drive at least 15 miles, and offer to put in petrol if the dealer says ‘there’s no fuel in it’. Listen carefully for anything unexpected, such as rattles, clonks or rumbles.
7: Check the paperwork
It’s all about history these days, so make sure there’s loads of it. Thoroughly examine the history of the car, and if it is lacking then factor this into your offer. If the dealer doesn’t have everything to hand, try to find out all you can about the previous owner and get in touch with them.
8: Make an offer
If all these boxes are ticked, then make an offer. Buying a classic car is very different to buying a merely secondhand one, and although there can be room for haggling in the sticker price, don’t count on it, as it really depends on the car and the prevailing market conditions.
If the dealer is confident someone will stump up the full asking price, he won’t budge. But assess the situation, and aim to bring the price down – always be polite and firm as you attempt your negotiations.
9: Sealing the deal
The dealer and you reach an agreement and shake on it. It’s unlikely you’ll be driving away in the car there and then, as he may want to prepare it to leave the garage – that should include a service and fresh MoT. If this is not mentioned, see if you can get these jobs done, and thrown in for the price you’re paying. It never hurts to ask.
10: Living happily ever after
For the full ownership experience, join the clubs, get involved in the events, and get out and drive your car. It’s your classic, now get the most from it!