Buying a classic car is one of those things that many of us aspire to in life.
While there is undoubtedly appeal in having the “latest and greatest” in terms of cars, there is also something special about continuing to maintain and use an older car, the way the maker intended. No matter how good new cars are (and they seem to be getting better and better every year in terms of performance, economy, features etc) there will always be a number of us who long for owning an older classic.
Maybe it’s because you’ve always wanted a particular car since you were a kid – this is, after all, part of the reason why the “JDM hero cars” of the 1990s are going crazy in terms of price at the moment. Kids who grew up in the 1990s playing Gran Turismo are now old enough and far enough along in their careers to buy the 3000GT or WRX STI that once sat in their digital garage, and has been a dream ever since.
Maybe the idea of owning a classic car just seems appealing, even if you don’t have a particular car in mind. There’s no doubt that while modern cars are immensely capable, they have largely lost a lot of the “analog” nature that allows older cars and their drivers to connect better.
Whatever your reason and motivation, is owning a classic car right for you and your needs?
In this article – which is very much an opinion piece and not grounded in any scientific fact or basis – we look at whether or not you should own a classic car.
The Garage Dreams editorial team have owned (and continue to own) a range of different classics from the Citroen 2CV, to the Fiat 131, to more modern classics like the Volvo 940 and Alfa Romeo 156, so we decided we would share our take on how you can try to understand whether or not classic car ownership is right for you.
Please note this is very much an opinion piece … your mileage may vary!
Is This Your Only Car?
One thing to consider is whether your potential classic car purchase is going to be your only car.
Although you can definitely daily drive a classic car if you want (provided it complies with all the relevant legislation in your local jurisdiction) driving a classic car each day as your only form of transport is probably not going to be as enjoyable of an experience as driving a more modern car.
While there is a certain appeal and allure to daily driving a classic, the truth is that the novelty can wear off rather quickly indeed … and this can be problematic as you might even find yourself falling out of love with your new classic.
Considering that classic car prices have been climbing rapidly in recent years, you can probably pick up a basic new car – or a nearly new vehicle – for around what you might expect to pay for a decent classic (there are certainly still some bargain cars out there, but a lot of the hero cars of the 1990s and early 2000s are getting up there price-wise for us mere mortals).
If you need a car that ‘does it all’ and is your only form of transport, then you should give serious thought to whether or not a classic is suitable for your needs. We’re not saying it won’t work, but you need to be able to live with the compromises.
How Do You Feel About Never Being Finished?
Perhaps one of the most psychologically challenging elements of classic car ownership is that you’ll probably never be “finished” when it comes to working on your car.
By the time you’ve done one lot of repairs and maintenance, it’s often time to sort something else – especially on more complex classic cars or vehicles with a poor reputation for reliability.
The truth is that most classic car enthusiasts secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) love this part of the classic car ownership experience.
You’ll always have a project that you can lavish attention on. There will always be some way you can improve your car and make it better.
If you like the idea of having a car that is a “labor of love” then owning a classic could well be worth it. Many classic owners we know love the fact that there is always more they can do to their pride and joy, and enjoy the tinkering and improvement process.
On the other hand, if you’d just rather have something that works all the time and you have little interest in working on it (or paying someone else to do the work) then you might be better to just have a more modern car.
It’s All About Compromise
Fundamentally, classic car ownership is all about compromise – especially if it’s going to be your only car.
You compromise by eschewing modern conveniences, safety equipment, reliability and economy (as well as performance – let’s not forget that many basic modern cars are faster than ‘hero cars’ of days bygone) but in exchange get to enjoy something special and unique, and often have a more “connected” driving experience.
If your classic of choice is a car you have always wanted, there’s also something ever-so-special about finally getting to drive around in a dream car. Little else in life compares to turning the key for the first time on that car you’ve always wanted since you were younger – you really feel like you have made it!
Conclusion – Is Owning A Classic Car Right For You?
In our view, owning a classic car is worth the potential hassle and expense if you go into the process with the right mindset. It’s all about your ability to compromise, in short.
If you just need a daily driver that works reliably when you need it to and does everything it says on the tin, then a “boring” modern car is honestly the way to go.
While there can be great appeal in buying a classic car to use as a daily driver – and you definitely can daily drive a classic car if you want to – if it is going to be your only form of transport then you might want to reconsider.
The truth is that determining whether or not it is worth you investing in a classic car is hard to do … it’s such a personal matter.
At a basic level, you can boil it down to which of the following groups you sit in:
- Do you need one car that ‘does it all’ and is as reliable, economical and easy to live with as possible? If so, then owning a classic car as your main vehicle (or only vehicle) might not be the best choice
- Are you looking for a second car or weekend toy, or you’re otherwise happy to live with the compromises that come with driving a classic (particularly older cars from the 70s/80s/90s)? If so, then a classic car could well be worth the investment.
Do you think owning a classic is all it’s cracked up to be? What classic(s) do you own? What are your classic car ownership tips? Leave us a comment below and get the discussion started!
If you’re thinking of buying a classic car – and especially if you are intending on using it regularly and so need it to be in reliable condition – then check out our wide range of buyer’s guides first. We cover European, Japanese and American cars, mainly from the 1990s and early 2000s.