One of the most common questions we get from prospective classic car owner is “can you daily drive a classic car?”
Many of us have grown up with “romanticized” images in our minds of daily driving classic cars that we idolized in years gone by.
Once you reach the age or stage where you are able to purchase a classic car, can you – and should you – daily drive it?
In this article we are going to look at the pros and cons of daily driving classic cars, so that you can get a bit more of an understanding as to whether or not this is right for you.
There Are No Hard And Fast Rules
Long story short, you can certainly daily drive a classic car if you want to.
We know plenty of people who do this.
It’s not as hard as some people make it out, especially if you choose to daily drive a more modern classic (the sorts of cars we tend to focus on when doing buyer’s guides and other pieces on this site).
Ultimately, if you have found a classic car that you desire and you want to drive it on a daily basis, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t.
It’s your car, your money, and your choice! Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should and should not do with your car.
However, there are a number of considerations you do need to make:
Classic Car Safety Is Not So Good
Classic cars are – by definition – older vehicles. Older vehicles – by definition – are less safe than modern ones.
The older the car, the less safe it is likely to be.
If you are daily driving a car – especially if you are using it to transport your family – then safety is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The more you drive, the more likely you are to have an accident, as you are exposed to more opportunities to either crash into someone or something else or someone else crash into you.
Although some more modern classics (such as the Volvo 850r) come equipped with side impact systems, multi airbags and other structural safety components, the honest truth is that safety has moved on substantially in even the last decade.
What was good safety for the time may not even rate a mention in terms of current safety standards.
Many popular classics, such as earlier MX-5s/Miatas didn’t even come with airbags (consult our Mazda MX-5/Miata buying guide here fore more information).
Other cars – such as the Toyota MR2 – can have a reputation for being downright dangerous to drive in terms of handling characteristics (see our article here on whether or not the MR2 is dangerous for more information)
Now safety of modern cars can be a bit of a contentious issue, as some argue that the only real improvements to safety of late have come in the form of driver assistance technology (lane departure assistance, Autonomous Emergency Braking/AEB etc) that doesn’t necessarily help in the event of a crash, but instead does help prevent crashes from occurring.
Whatever your take on safety, we do think it is something worth considering when it comes to choosing whether or not to daily drive a classic car. Although you can control your own driving, you cannot control the driving of those around you and you need to take this into account.
Wear, Tear & Maintenance
This is probably the biggest factor for many when it comes to deciding to whether you can daily drive a classic car,
More use = more mileage = more wear and tear, and higher maintenance requirements.
This can be problematic, especially when you consider that classic cars can be expensive to maintain.
Parts availability can be challenging on some classics (even relatively modern ones). This means that if you put big mileage on your car, you are increasing the likelihood that you will need to replace a part that may be increasingly difficult or expensive to find.
You may also live in an environment that isn’t particularly conducive to daily driving a classic vehicle from a wear & tear/maintenance perspective.
For example, the author of this piece lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.
About 10 years ago there were a couple of bad earthquakes that caused serious damage to the city (along with sadly claiming a number of lives).
The roading system in Christchurch has still not fully recovered from the earthquakes, and poor quality, patchwork repairs mean the road surface in many areas is poor.
This isn’t kind on suspension components, and it’s not hard to see the stress that cars go through when being daily driven in this environment.
Of course these things are fixable, but ultimately if you live somewhere with poor quality roads, inclement weather that is prone to rusting vehicles etc, then you may wish to keep your classic as an occasional use car for when you can drive on better roads or in better conditions.
However, there is one other aspect to consider here.
Many classic buyers seek the lowest mileage possible examples, with buyers seeking garaged, stored-away vehicles.
While low mileage is nice, excessively low mileage (if a vehicle has sat for long periods of time in storage) can be problematic.
Cars are made to be used. Long-term storage (especially if not done correctly) can result in degradation of the vehicle both mechanically and in terms of bodywork etc.
Done correctly with the right precautions, storage isn’t such an issue – but if a vehicle you are looking at has been laid up in a garage for years on end without being driven and used, it might not be the best bet unless you are willing to invest in bringing the car back up to full “health”.
Ultimately, condition is more important than mileage, and we have seen many low mileage cars in poor condition, sometimes due to being incorrectly stored away off the road for long periods of time.
Impact On Value
This point could be a bit of a contentious one.
Some people see classic cars as for enjoyment only.
Others see them as a mix of investment and enjoyment.
A smaller minority see them as investments only (usually those who take classic cars and tuck them away for auctioning off in the future).
If you have any interest in maintaining (or even growing) the value and potential sale price of your classic car, then you need to consider the impact that daily driving might have on it.
As we discussed above, daily driving will put additional wear and tear on your car.
This extra wear and tear and potential for damage etc (along with increased mileage, even if you maintain everything perfectly) will have a flow on effect on the potential value of your classic.
Although we discussed above that super low mileage classics that are stored/garaged are not necessarily the best option, it definitely seems that collectors/investors prefer low mileage examples.
Therefore, if you are purchasing a classic car with the intent of trying to resell it down the track for more money, then think about the impact of your daily driving on future value.
However, if you’re buying to drive and enjoy and any future resale value is just an ‘added bonus’, then this point probably won’t matter much for you!
Another consideration to make when it comes to deciding if you should daily drive a classic car is practicality.
Some classics are just not very practical vehicles.
Take the MX-5/Miata (read our buyer’s guide here) – it only has two seats.
What if you want to head out with two other friends for a day; it would be rendered largely useless.
Practicality goes beyond the number of seats or boot/trunk space as well.
Older cars often have weaker heating/cooling systems. Daily driving a classic car in hot weather (especially if stuck in gridlocked traffic) with a weak air conditioning system is a sure fire way to fall out of love with your vehicle.
Older cars also tend to have inferior entertainment and navigation systems (if they have any navigation at all). Of course you can often upgrade to a newer head unit that has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth etc all built in, but you may wish to preserve the original stereo system. Depending on the age and type of the car, this might once again limit practicality (especially if you have a “modern classic” in that awkward early/mid 2000s era when cars would come with CD players, but no Aux or Tape Deck into which you could place a Bluetooth or 3.5mm aux tape deck adapter – the Fiat Stilo Abarth is a great example of this).
Do consider the practical implications of a classic car; will you have enough space, enough features etc to actually make it work?
You may tire of your classic if you find it doesn’t actually do what you need it to do!
This particular consideration is a bit more “nebulous”.
Here are Garage Dreams, we are fond of the saying “too much of a good thing always leaves one wanting less”.
Your dream classic may excite and thrill you when you use it as an occasional driver (perhaps for special trips out on the weekend, or to take to meet ups and events).
However, it’s entirely feasible that daily driving your classic may make the sheen and excitement wear off.
This is especially so if your daily driver is a “flawed” classic when compared to the modern car driving experience.
Older cars can often have weak air conditioning and heating systems, poor In Car Entertainment and so on.
If you use your classic daily, then these potential shortcomings (depending on what vehicle you have purchased) may actually detract from the overall enjoyability of the ownership experience.
Now this won’t happen to everyone (we can already see the queue of people waiting to comment about how they have daily driven the same classic car for years and love it as much as the first time they turned the key). If this is you, then that’s fine – in fact, it’s great.
However, we know of people who have saved up, purchased their dream classic, and then gone off it fairly quickly after daily driving as they have found that the downsides outweigh the upsides.
Conclusion – Can You Daily Drive A Classic Car?
Yes, you can can daily drive a classic car. There is nothing stopping you (provided the classic car in question is compliant with current road rules and regulations, and you are able to have it insured to drive on the road etc).
The question is more one of whether or not you should daily drive your classic.
As discussed above, there are a few considerations you need to make:
- Safety – Is your prospective daily driver classic actually safe enough for daily use? If not, are you willing to take the risk? Maybe you are better off to avoid busy commutes or long distance drives in your classic.
- Wear and tear – Driving your classic car more will place additional wear and tear on the vehicle, and require more maintenance and repairs (conversely, storing a car with no movement/usage is not good either, and could potentially be worse!)
- Impact on value – Will the increased wear and tear reduce the value of your vehicle if you see it as a potential investment?
- Enjoyment factor – Will daily driving your car and living with its foibles and failings (all cars have issues, older ones especially so) reduce your overall enjoyment and satisfaction?
- Practicality – Is the classic you have chosen practical enough for daily use? Does it do what you need it to do?
Ultimately, daily driving a classic comes down to your own preferences, risk appetite and desire to “preserve” your car.
At Garage Dreams (despite the name) we aren’t big fans of “Garage Queen” classics that never get driven. In fact, this can be harmful for the health of a car anyway – we always advise in our buyer’s guides that readers be wary of cars that have been stored for prolonged periods without use.
At the same time, we understand that daily driving usage of cars can lead to faster deterioration. It’s also undeniable that modern cars are generally “better” in terms of how they hold up to the rigors of 21st Century driving. You’ll enjoy better fuel economy, more features, and greater safety.
In our view, the “sweet spot” is to have a classic that you are happy to use on a regular basis (at least every couple of weeks) and then have a “daily driver” vehicle that is your day-to-day transportation. This way you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You are going to be able to maintain and preserve your classic more easily (while still getting to enjoy it on a sufficiently regular basis) but you also get the benefits of a more modern vehicle as well for your daily transportation.
If you’re looking to purchase a classic car (whether for daily or occasional use) then make sure you check out our comprehensive, growing list of buyer’s guides that will help you to secure a great deal on a good car!