1. Do Your Homework
Once you decide on your ultimate dream car, do your homework. The internet is, of course, a valuable research tool but classic car clubs and live auctions are also great places to network with knowledgeable enthusiasts. Before you buy, have an expert check it over to make sure you are getting exactly what you’re paying for. And always buy from a reputable source.
2. Study the Market
Several publications offer insights into the market. Magazines like Car Collector and Classic & Sports Car track auction results. Market price guides such as Hagerty’s Cars That Matter, Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides offer current values based on recent sales and most auction houses publish their sales results online.
3. Do It for Love
Don’t buy a car with the thought of making money overnight. Buy something you are going to enjoy driving and owning. But don’t fall in love at first sight, either. Some cars have great sex appeal but that doesn’t always translate into value or reliability.
4. Buy a Significant Make
Classic cars with famous heritage such as Ferrari, Duesenberg or Porsche are better long-term investments than less desirable marques. But note that not every famous manufacturer’s model is valuable. Each has had its share of winners and losers.
5. Make it Rare, Please
Low production numbers and survival rates are important factors in the value. Fewer than 100 produced is good. Fewer than 50 is even better. Think of the great European sports cars like Jaguar C-Types (50 made) and Ferrari GTOs (39). Unique, pre-war luxury cars like Duesenberg and Packard, and certain 1950s and 1960s American cars built in low numbers, are ones that will hold their value more.
6. Bigger is Sometimes Better
Bigger engines can sometimes mean a bigger return on your investment. The most desirable 1960s muscle cars are the special, high-performance, big-block V8, four-speed cars, produced in limited numbers. The V12-powered sports cars of Italy took many victories on the track because of their sheer power, aerodynamics and performance, making them instant classics, much like their derivative road cousins.
7. Learn Your History
Knowing a car’s complete history is one of the most important factors to consider. Any factory-issued paperwork or documentation can add considerable value to a car’s selling price. Who was the original purchaser and where was it sold? Did a celebrity or notable individual formerly own it? Are there any photos? Did the owner keep a service log? These are important questions to be asking.
8. Consider a Sports or Race Car
Currently, one of the strongest segments of the market is the sports and racing sector. For a real thrill, buy a vintage sports or race car. These cars are always in demand, so buying the right car almost ensures a lasting market. For example, the current market for a nice Jaguar D-Type is about $(US)2m, but the car Stirling Moss drove at Le Mans is worth considerably more. There are also many established vintage events across the country that will let you ‘exercise’ your prize.
9. Build the Right Portfolio
Building a great collection with the right cars will help build a reputation that can be good for the future value of the entire collection. A well-planned portfolio will draw interest from a specific and much attuned market of potential buyers at auction time, helping to secure a strong return on the original investment.
10. Care for Your Car
Don’t forget to make allowances for upkeep. Classic collectibles require climate-controlled system garages or special storage facilities, plus regular service and maintenance. And don’t forget to add vehicle insurance to the equation. Surprisingly, it is more affordable to own insurance on a classic than a new car – if you keep an eye on the mileage covered.