Should I buy a classic car?

I’m looking for a $3,000 car. I don’t drive to work, so it will be for running errands and the occcaisional 200-mile trip to see friends. There are lots of lousy, choices in this price range. And at this price range, even an emissions issue can render the car worthless. Then there are the classics. A '72 Dodge Dart slant-6 sedan, a restored 1979 Corolla station wagon, a brown Cadillac with a brown interior… these are the cars I love.

$3000? Look for a Cavalier or Cobalt. Maybe a Malibu or Focus or Taurus/Sable or even a Century. If you are lucky, a Geo Prizm (Corolla) may be found at that price.

There are tons of halfway decent cars at this price. If I was smart, I would buy a '99 Escort I saw… those things are unkillable. But if you look at my other posts, you will see I am not smart. Things with wheels make me stupid. That’s how I ended up with 6 vintage bicycles.

Classic cars are great hobby cars, poor sole sources of transportation. If you’re an accomplished mechanic, maybe, otherwise don’t do it.

I had a 1972 Mercedes Benz 280 SEL 4.5 for a few years. It looked like a cold war embassy staff car. If you go for a classic, find the best one out there. Paying an extra few thousand dollars for one that’s been restored will be much cheaper than doing it your self (and much cheaper than paying someone else). I also had an early 70’s era Plymouth Valiant with push button automatic on the dash.

In Colorado, classic car registration is very cheap – 5-year plates for $100. Classic car insurance can be cheap if it is not your only car – full coverage on my MB was about $250/year. There are a lot of restrictions such as, it can’t be your daily driver, 5,000 miles per year, must be garaged, etc. Check into the policy before buying.

Classics cars are a lot of fun, but not as daily drivers. I’ve come to appreciate modern safety equipment – seat belts, air bags, traction control, ABS, etc. in today’s world where half the drivers on the road are text messaging, putting on makeup, shaving or just not paying attention to driving. Find a classic car mechanic who is qualified to work on these cars and pay for a pre-purchase inspection before buy it.


Here in Texas, I was going to register my bike as a classic, until I looked into it. The restrictions were that it was onlyl to be ridden to/from events involving classic vehicles. As I wanted to be able to ride it at any time of my choosing, it has a regular plate on it.

In my opinion, no you should not buy a classic car. FIrst of all, I don’t think a 1972 Dodge Dart or a 1979 Corolla station wagon are classic cars. There ws nothing unique about them when they were new. I bought a 1948 Dodge sedan back in 1977 with the idea of restoring the car. I did have the engine running well, but the body and interior work were going to cost me a fortune. Had the Dodge been a convertible, it might have been worth it. However, there were too many Dodge sedans made back then and I would have put a lot more money into the car than it was worth. Fortunately, I was able to sell the car for more than I paid for it. In 1978, I bought a new Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2. By 1978, the 4-4-2 just meant it had a special trim and handling package. The engine was just a 260 cubic inch V-8 and the transmission was the T-200 thress speed automatic. I just sold the car two week ago for a lot less than $3000. Even though there weren’t very many 1978 Cutlass Salon 4-4-2 models produced, without the the muscle engine and 4 speed transmission and dual exhausts, it didn’t generate much interest.
If you are mechanically inclined, good with your hands and have a lot of time on your hands, an old car can be fun. However, for daily transportation, an old car is not so great. If I were to get back into having an old car, my first choice would be a 1963 Studebaker Avanti. My second choice would be a 1957 Studebaker Hawk. If I owned one of these cars, it wouldn’t be a daily driver.

Honestly, if you can get a truely “restored” '79 Corolla wagon for $3K and you’re confortable with it not having modern power or safety features, I think it’d be a great buy. Parts might be a bit tough to come by when you need them, but they were great little cars. I wish I still had my '76.

“And at this price range, even an emissions issue can render the car worthless.”

For some reason people have an aversion to spending more than the original purchase price to fix up something.
If someone outright gave you a car then you wouldn’t want to spend one dollar to fix it?
The less you start with the more you have to put in it.

I knew a mechanic who owned 5 Rolls Royces, back in the 70s.
He bought them in pretty rough condition for a couple thousand dollars, then restored them in his spare time.
He drove a different one to work every day and enjoyed them all the more because they were the fruit of his labor.

Just because it’s an old beater does not mean it’s a “Classic”… The sellers of all these old road-oilers always refer to them as “Classics” when usually they are run-out junk…

I would be surprised if you could find a slant 6 72 Dart in good condition for that kind of money. This era of Dart is becoming more and more desireable and they’re getting snatched up.

Forget the “restored” 79 Corolla wagon. Most of those have been recycled into cans full of vegetables on the grocery shelves and I sure can’t see why anyone would restore one of these things. The cost to even do a mild restoration would be many times what the car is worth.

The brown Cadillac is an option no doubt about it but gas mileage will take a hit.

If the '72 Dart is a 2-door, it will be reborn as a 340 and be worth SERIOUS money…Not many of these cars around…They rusted out faster than the buyers could make the payments on them…

That’s the problem with $3,000…nobody’s selling good old cars (a.k.a. “classics” to them) for that price.

Mr. Norm is buying this era of 2 door Dart up and cloning them into the old style Hemi Darts popular on the strip way back when. Starting price is about a 100 grand I think going up to 150.

One cool thing about them from the best of my recollection is that they do not use any body filler at all in the restoration of the body. It’s all metal work and tapping with something like 400 hours invested in the body alone.

Classic cars are cool. It is fun to roll an actual car with character around, getting thumbs up, meet up with other people that are into them but -make no mistake about it- are real work as well.
To most of us* that own them, wrenching on them is half the fun, besides driving.
If you intend to just drive and have someone else fix it, be prepared to spend money on every tiny little thing.

Should you decide to get one, be sure to get one from below the ‘rust belt’ so you get a car with a straight body, one that doesn’t have too much filler. Engine work is relatively easy in comparison to body work. Body work also tends to be the more expensive of the two.

  • currently own a1952 dodge truck, 1964 AMC Rambler, 1972 VW bug besides regular modern driving appliances.

Lot of great thoughts out there so far. The only thing I would add is that classics take money to prep and buy. At $3 k , you aren’t there. I would only consider classics as second hobby cars you can afford. Basic transportation is the game for now…Or renting when you need it for that occasional trip till you an save up more. After $5k, the chooses begin to resemble real transportation opportunities instead turn the ignition and pray.

Well, I decided to get a '98 CR-V, which I plan on keeping until it is a classic car in its own right. I have absoulutely no problem spending more on repairs than the worth of a car.