Should you buy a classic car?

If you want to stand out from the crowd but you can’t afford a flash set of wheels, there is an answer; a classic car.

With so much more character and charm than modern vehicles, classics have personality, unlike all those Fiestas and Corsas your mates are driving.

Classic cars aren’t mere transport; they’re different from the norm, which automatically makes them a bit special. Why spend thousands customising a modern supermini for individuality, when you can buy a classic and instantly stand out from the crowd?

Why spend thousands customising a modern supermini for individuality, when you can buy a classic and instantly stand out from the crowd?

It’s not that simple though – things never are. There are all sorts of dull things to think about, like insurance, usability and running costs, plus those all-important safety issues. But don’t let these put you off; there’s always an answer.

On a more positive note, most mainstream classics cost peanuts, while parts are often plentiful and cheap. Many starter classics in good nick can be had for little more than a grand; you can pay much less, but if you want to spend more time on the road than in the garage, you need to invest in a tidy example.

So far so good, but it gets even better. If your classic was built before 1 January 1973, you don’t have to pay road tax – not a bean. That can mean a saving of well over 100 quid compared with a modern motor; you still need a tax disc, but it costs you nothing!

It’s not all good news though; while it’s fun to brag about free road tax to your mates, your fuel bills will probably be higher. Older engines are less efficient than today’s computer-managed units, so don’t expect a 1970s Triumph to give as many miles to the gallon as a 21st century supermini.

The biggest bonus with classics though, is that they don’t shed value like yesterday’s newspapers. Buy a decent classic at a sensible price, look after it, and you’re unlikely to lose money when you come to sell.

Even older used cars still shed value, but with classics, all of the depreciation has already taken place so their values remain stable; you may even find that your classic increases in value during your ownership. However, if you run a classic as an everyday car, it’s unlikely to prove to be the cheap option; a need for much more maintenance will cost you, and if you can’t do at least the basics yourself, it could end up costing you a lot.

But if you’re not comfortable with even the basics of car maintenance, most classic cars come with a social scene attached, and if you join an owners’ club you’ll have a ready source of expertise at your disposal to maintain the car yourself. And with parts prices often criminally cheap, running costs can be astonishingly low.

But there are two major spanners just waiting to throw themselves into the works – safety and insurance. Older cars lack even the most basic safety kit, and insurance companies tend to shy away from covering under-25s. Even though classics tend to be less powerful and driven more carefully than more modern cars, because their owners cherish them, under-25s are less experienced than older drivers, and when you mix this with a lack of anti-lock brakes, airbags and strengthened safety cells, insurers get twitchy.

If the worst comes to the worst, you may have to insure on a conventional insurance policy; you just won’t be able to agree (and hence guarantee) the car’s value before any claim might be made.