The 4 Keys to Buying a Classic Car

What you need to know to ensure you're buying heaven on wheels.

Don't think of your first classic car as an investment. "The best you can hope for is a minimal loss or maybe a maintaining of its value," says Karl Brauer, senior director of content and executive publisher at Cox Automotive. Ultimately, that shouldn't matter. You're buying something unique. "You should think, I'm doing this because I love the car and I want to drive it." That said, there are a few guidelines.

Research is key

Most likely, you know what you want—say, a mid-'60s Corvette. "Research the ownership of the car and what it's like to own one," says Brauer. Use the Internet to find local owners' clubs and networks. "The nice thing about the car community is that it's a community of enthusiasts (it's their love, not their job), so people like to help others get into the hobby." Specialists can be found in almost every city, and local clubs will recommend the best.

Buy insurance

Classic-car insurance is a bargain, with some caveats. It can't be your daily ride and you must have secure parking. But man plans have no mileage limit and, like other classic insurers, uses "agreed value" instead of Blue Book plus depreciation. This means you assert the car's value and back it up with photos. If the car is totaled, the insurer will pay out the agreed value.

There isn't one way to get the best price

"I've bought vehicles at auction, a couple off eBay, a couple in person," says Brauer. Just go in armed and educated. "If you're bidding sight unseen, money should not change hands until you've seen the car in person."

Best Life No-Brainer

Dealers offer security. You will pay more, but you'll have recourse. "Even if the dealer says the car has no warranty," says Brauer, "you're buying from a business with a reputation to protect." Cooper Classics Collection is a great place to start and even provides financing.

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