4 things to Know Before Buying a Classic Car

July 13th, 2023

The dream of owning a classic car is a strong one, as it pulls tightly on our heartstrings and memories of days gone by, firing our escapism. However, for some people the dream of buying their first classic evaporates in a whirlwind of expensive repair bills, poor driving quality, questionable reliability and more.

Here are our four brutal truths about classic cars that potential buyers need to be aware of before they jump into owning one of these pieces of history.

  1. They’re rarely water or air-tight

    A friend who owns a large collection of classic cars once said to me, “They say a yacht is a hole in the water into which you throw money. The same is true for classic cars, except the water is on the inside.” Vintage weather sealing and general car design is renowned for not being water- or air-tight, so you’ll often wind up with wet feet when driving in heavy rain.

    Wind noise is also far louder than in a modern car, while interior air flow is basic at best thereby making hot days insufferable. Don’t count on 1960s air conditioning to cool you down, either, as it barely cools at best and is prone to make the engine overheat at worst.

  2. They require near-constant work and regular maintenance

    Classic car fans love to tell people how simple old cars are, but this simplicity comes at a cost. Old cars need more regular servicing, and those services are more intense than newer cars. A modern car doesn’t need its wheel bearings looked at for at least 100,000km but many old cars need them inspected, cleaned and replaced or re-packed with grease every 25,000km.

    Similarly older engines often feature antiquated set-ups which require special, high-zinc oil to prevent them from chewing the engine apart. This oil is specialised and expensive, and oil change intervals are shorter than a newer engine.

  3. They need to be driven carefully

    There is an old saying “they don’t make them like they used to” and there is very good reason for that; engineering has made each new car better than the last. Old cars are fantastic for transporting you to a bygone era but this time also saw quieter roads with less traffic, and are best sampled at a slower speed.

    Vague steering, poor quality brakes, windscreen wipers and demisters which barely work, and engines prone to overheating in traffic are all common complaints with vintage and classic cars, which often means they’re best left as cars which are taken out on occasion. Daily driving an old car is not an easy task and, with their appetite for maintenance work, not a cheap one either.

    Leaving long braking distances in traffic is difficult with today’s city drivers, and parking them on the street with their poor turning circles can cause unwanted stress.

  4. They’re immense fun and an awesome way to make new friends

    Speaking from experience there is nothing like the joy of having worked on your car to restore or repair it, then take it out with friends or family and enjoy your hard work. Old cars kickstart conversations with strangers at every petrol pump or car park, and the nostalgia these vehicles bring out ensures these conversations are always fun, positive and entertaining.

    The satisfaction from keeping an old car on the road is huge, as all the hardships outlined above mean you truly earn that feeling of resolve. As a car to take out once in a while classic cars are a truly fantastic experience which will test you, but also bring you rich experiences.