The 7 best tips for a first-time classic owner

Pontiac GTO at sunset

Classic ownership can be very rewarding, but there’s a bit of a learning curve for the average novice. Most first-timers had to learn the hard way. In an effort to help make that learning curve more tolerable to any fresh-face newbies, we polled the Hagerty Forums community to assemble the top seven tips for new classic owners. Heck, this might even help a few seasoned vets of the car world too.

Join the club

Driving is an activity that only requires one person, yet it is more fun with others. Joining a club dedicated to your specific vehicle will likely supply you with a wealth of expertise and a few new driving buddies. Most likely, these club members have already gone through what you are about to experience, meaning they will have tips and tricks to help you survive the highs and lows on the road ahead.

Do your own work if you can

work on car
Kayla Keenan

Classic cars demand more attention than modern vehicles—there is pretty much no way around that. While you can find a mechanic to take care of your classic every time it needs anything under the hood, it will be significantly more rewarding to your psyche and your wallet if you pick up tools and get some grease under your nails. Everyone has their own limit for how much DIY they can take on—space, tools, and time requirements can be quite restrictive. If you have the means to do your own work, even just for the small jobs, there is no better feeling than hearing an engine settle into a smooth rumble after a Saturday morning garage tune-up. 

Find the right parts sources

Owning an old car means you will eventually need to find old parts. Comments from readers echoed this point multiple times. Your newfound club friends will oftentimes have resources vetted for you. There is likely a small operation that only makes parts for your car; support shops like that if you can. These small manufacturers that reproduce quality parts are almost constantly on the verge of closing and produce many of the parts they do out of love for the hobby rather than for the sake of big profits. Generic-fit parts can work, but why not fit the correct parts and support another person who loves the same car you do? Seems like a win-win to us.

Prepared to be surprised

Always look at your classic like your birthday is coming up and no one has mentioned it yet. There is likely a surprise around the corner, and you just don’t know about it. How much will this unknown repair, service, or modification cost? That is also part of the surprise, unfortunately. Setting aside money on a regular basis will help offset these unexpected costs and keep you motoring happily. When setting aside a budget for a project on your new love, however, literally double your initial estimate. It sounds silly, but we promise we wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. 

Be realistic

Porsche 914 work
Daniel Espinoza

When you embark on a project, or even just want to take your new vintage ride on a road trip, be sure to give yourself realistic expectations. It’s easy to dream of building a righteous restomod Camaro in a one-car garage with only a metric socket set and one jack stand, but that is just not going to happen. From budget to goals, set yourself up for success by researching a bit about what you want to do. Get comfortable with the mountain you want so badly to climb. Do you have the tools and money needed for that idea? To answer “no” doesn’t mean you can’t find a similar project or plan that is attainable with the constraints you have. 

Don’t do it for the money

With multiple auctions, sales sites, and businesses in the vintage car space it is easy to start looking at your new wheels as an investment primed to give you big returns. However, if you want to set yourself up for success and fun you should leave that thought at the end of the driveway. Buy for the enjoyment of the car, not the resale possibilities. If the market drops and you are “stuck” with your car, it is much better to have something you love than something you first saw dollar signs in but now only see bouncing checks.  

Get out and drive

The most popular answer of the poll was to go drive as often as you can. Looking at, wrenching, showing, or talking about your new love pales in comparison to the joy of driving. Vintage cars also have the best manners when they get used on a regular basis rather than sitting in the garage. Become in tune with the squeaks, rattles, and knocks of your car so you can tell when something is normal and when the car needs real attention.

If you’re a veteran of the hobby, feel free to chime in with a tip we might have missed below and also weigh in on each week’s Question of the Week. This week we are inquiring about the best automotive gift you have received. Be sure to tune in next week for a new question and the Answer of the Week pulled from the responses.