Buying a classic car?

So you’re thinking of buying a classic car? Heritage can help steer you in the right direction.

Well what’s it going to be? Maybe a sporty roadster for the summer? Perhaps a cool executive model from the 80’s or 90’s? Whatever you decide to choose, buying a classic car can be fraught with danger! Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of reputable classic car dealers out there as well as honest private sellers looking to make sure their former pride and joy goes to the write buyer, I know I’ve been there.

As you can imagine though the industry is full of pitfalls ready to catch the unsuspecting buyer. Let’s face it nobody wants to buy a lemon! Here are some hints and tips to buying a classic car. This should help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

It is important to make a checklist before viewing a car. This way you won’t forget anything important. Also take your time looking over your potential purchase, don’t feel rushed by the seller. After all it’s your money you could be handing over.

Body Work

  • Check all the seams for even straight gaps. Anything uneven may indicate a replaced panel which isn’t necessarily a problem especially if there has been restoration work. But it would be wise to investigate further.
  • It’s an old cliché I know, but when buying a classic car you might want to take a magnet with you. Filler is bad, metal is good.
  • Has the car had a respray? Is it a genuine colour? Paint can cover a multitude of sins, inspect carefully look for overspray.


  • Make sure all the tyres are the same size and that means profile and width as well.
  • Check for signs of uneven wear this could suggest steering, tracking or suspension problems.
  • If the tyres are cracked they could be “past their use by date”. Check the date on the tyre despite having good tread they don’t last forever. In fact after six to ten years dry rot could set in so replacements would be in order.
  • Have you got a spare tyre? Make sure it’s up to scratch.


  • Take a good look underneath the car (you’re gonna get dirty) watch out for thick black paint used to cover repair.
  • Check for crumpled marks, this could be a sign the chassis has been straightened.
  • Unusual drill holes can also be suspect as this may also indicate that the chassis has been straightened due to an accident.

Engine & Transmission

  • Make sure the car is cold before you start up the engine (simply feel the bonnet to see if the seller has warmed up the engine before hand, if so why?)
  • Check for leaks underneath. Brake fluid is usually a dark colour when old although so is oil, so if there is a leak it could be either. Just have a look in the brake fluid reservoir or master cylinder if you know how. If not take somebody with you who does.
  • Also check the exhaust when you start the car (need a friend to help) any blue or white smoke could be an engine problem.
  • When taking the car for a test drive, make sure it runs smoothly up and down the gears. It shouldn’t just cut out at any time as this could be the fuel pump amongst other things such as plugs or choke.


  • Brake at various speeds to make sure they are functioning adequately.
  • If you brake they should not pull to one side this could be a blocked hose or a brake calliper.
  • Also make sure your hand brake works adequately.


  • Make sure you put the steering through its paces when test driving the car. Listen out for knocks and other noises and make sure it steers in a straight line. Steering racks are easy enough to source on common classics and don’t cost the earth so this shouldn’t be a major concern but could be a good bargaining tool.

Buying a classic car shouldn’t mean you’re taking on problems.Take your time when looking for the right car and if you’re not sure or not too confident pay for an inspection, this could be money well spent. Ask questions about the car and its history. Take a good look at the documentation as classic cars should come with a decent track record as they tend to be well looked after.

Above all, when buying a classic car don’t let your heart rule your head, trust me you could regret this, I have before. Why not take a look at buying a classic car via our recommended websites

Once you have purchased the right car give us a call at Heritage Classic Car Insurance for a competitive quote from a Personal Client Manager or simply click here to request a call back.