Our Two Cents: What Advice Do You Wish You Received Sooner?

Teach them young. Matt Fink

Live and learn. It’s a fun phrase to help us cope with a setback. We could do better—we’d likely not make as many mistakes when given the right automotive insight. It always pays to listen to those who have been there and done that. (It might take a while to arrive at that conclusion, but that’s another ball of wax entirely.)

I reached out to see what lessons the staff at Hagerty Media has learned the hard way, as among us there had to be plenty of situations that we could have avoided with the right knowledge. Here’s the automotive advice we wished we received sooner:

Modifications Hurt Resale Values

“I figured it out on my own pretty quickly, but it would have been nice to have been told this in the same way I told it to my (slightly non-believing) son: The more you change a vehicle away from stock, the more the probable resale value will likely suffer.

Not everyone likes your choice of slot-mag wheels, or the color of your Earl Scheib repaint, or the sound of the glass packs you’ve installed. Either leave the car alone, or only make changes that can be reversed back to stock. He listened and learned: He used Plasti-Dip to color the wheels on his Ford Mustang, and just peeled it off when it came time to sell it.” —Steven Cole Smith

Bigger Isn’t Better

Radford Racing School tire wall vertical
Blair Bunting

“Don’t ‘over-tire’ your car. When I bought my Miata, I immediately swapped on the stickiest street-legal tires I could afford. They sucked, and completely sapped the personality out of the car. You hear people say they want their car to handle ‘like it’s on rails,’ but never stop to think that a train going around a bend is pretty boring.” —David Zenlea

Don’t Cheap Out

Kristofer P

“This may sound elementary, but I think everyone needs this reminder: Buy the best car you can afford. If you can’t afford it, aggressively save for it, and don’t get distracted by instant gratification of having something now.

Unpacking this a bit, in my early years of playing with cars, I would just call it my ‘shitbox era’. I think we all go through one, especially when we’re young and poor. But sometimes I am a slow learner, I buy something that seems cheap and cheerful just to have something old, just to find out that the path to making it something safe and presentable only brings cost and sadness. Then I sell it for a loss from what I had into it. I did this a few times before I caught on.

Be patient with your search and spend your money wisely. It’s better to spend more money up front (within reason) and put it toward one car you can enjoy now rather than to buy a turd and spend a small fortune polishing it.” —Greg Ingold

Use A Paint Meter


“I forgot this tool on the last purchase (a 1990 Miata) and did not see during my inspection that the left rear fender was repainted. Now I see a slightly different shade of silver on that body part every time I walk up to it, and it infuriates me. A paint meter would have uncovered this.” —Larry Webster

Never Finance The Toy

frustrated buying car consumer showroom dealership sales ftc cars rule nada
Getty Images

“I use my vintage cars and motorcycles to escape from the ‘real world.’ Having to work overtime or delay a parts order to keep up with the note is the wrong type of stress. This often prevents me from buying better starting points for projects or getting the make/model I truly want. Owning something free and clear is just more fun than having to remind myself I’m working on the bank’s car, not mine.” —Kyle Smith

“I learned a similar lesson about debt: Don’t co-sign for a friend’s toy. This wasn’t a personal issue for me, but someone I knew once learned this lesson the hard way. It negatively impacted their credit score when the friend’s Harley got repossessed. Ouch. So I must ask, if a friend asks you to co-sign anything, are they really that good of a friend?” —Sajeev Mehta

Perfection Is Overrated

1983 Lincoln Continental Valentino restomod
Sajeev Mehta

“I used to sweat every detail, overthink every restorative task before taking action. At some point in the restoration of Project Valentino, I learned that seeking perfection was a good way to wind up in debt, in the hospital, or perhaps both.

Perfection likely doesn’t exist for most folks. If you want something done, you must accept compromise from either your restoration professionals, parts vendors, or your bank account. Or all of them!” —Sajeev Mehta

Cars Are Tougher Than You Think

Test Fuse Box With Multimeter
Sajeev Mehta

“I come from a family where we never owned a car that wasn’t hanging on by a whisker. There was always something seconds away from going wrong, and when it did, it was a disaster. I came to dread any clunk, any light on the dash. This made me the automotive form of a hypochondriac. I still fight the urge to sling parts and work at every little thing that isn’t in tip-top shape on my current rides. But when I win a battle, the peace of mind I have, even just for a bit, is astonishing.” —Nathan Petroelje

Underpromise, Overdeliver To Yourself

Brandan Gillogly

“Be realistic, or just overestimate everything. Everything always takes way longer or costs way more than you think it will at first, so if you overestimate both on a project it’s a nice little surprise when you’re ahead of schedule and under-budget.” —Andrew Newton


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    To be honest I have learned well on my journey and have been around some very solid people about cars.

    The one issue I dodged because I did not have the money is to modify a car in a way that would make it look old before its time. A odd paint job or graphics like the 80’s cars had that today look silly. I had an idea of yellow lighting bolts like a GM show car had. Today silly.

    The other is when you know a good deal take it. I have rejected a $15,000 Dino and a $15,000 Pantera when I was younger knowing both were going to be worth more. The fear that I may have had to daily drive for a while kept me from buying. As it worked out I could have gotten around that but hind site is 20/20

    FYI Perfection is not over rated. It is a target to aim for and just get a close as you can.

    As for Modifications it just depends on the car and modification. Some street rods well exceed the value of the stock car. On the other hand Pro Street cars under sell their investment.

    Finally one for the list. Do not get too crazy. I see on the Corvette site where guys lower cars and add much larger wheel. Then I see them leave an event pulling out of the fair grounds and they scrap the nose driving the car out on the street.

    Keep a car easily drivable do not lower it or do something that makes driving it a challenge. That extra inch of lower vanity is not wortht the damage it can do.

    I fully endorse the buy the best you can afford. It is often cheaper in the long run.
    Let someone else eat the restoration cost.

    As for paying cash. That used to work but today prices are so out of hand you do need to get some money from some place. I used a bit of my investment to pay for my Corvette. It is at the point the cars value is rising each year and I can drive it. Just don’t spend your retirement. Invest in Nividia or property.

    Lots of logic in the article and comments so far.

    Defy logic: It’s your car (truck, whatever). Do whatever you want to it and with it and don’t worry about the resale. Enjoy your journey with the vehicle instead.

    ^in respects to the above… only a sliver of people consistently make money investing in vehicles. Even a slimmer number of those are hobbyists. If your concerns are leaving value for those that follow you… there are other investment paths that are more logical than something that requires annual care, registration, insurance and suffers wear ever if you pickle it in a climate controlled garage. I’m not saying thrash your vehicle until it is trash (but that is your call), but understand why you are in the hobby.

    Yes this means someone will take a mint condition 32 Ford and chop the roof to make a generic street rod and so on. We don’t all have to like what others do in the hobby, but letting others enjoy it their own way is better for the hobby. Restored 100% stock isn’t the only happy path –and for some that would be an unhappy path.

    I am 100% aligned with don’t get too fussy.

    My buddy is working on a Brat that had a bad front hub and didn’t run right along with a host of other problems. He spent a lot of time removing the windshield and redoing the cracked up dash top. The whole time he was doing this, I kept pointing out that it doesn’t run right and can’t move because the splines are stripped out of the front hub. I did finally shame him into getting a new hub. Now it moves, has a new windshield and a great looking dash… but still doesn’t run right

    As far as things I wish folks told me sooner… righty tighty lefty loosey. I didn’t have anyone mechanically inclined around when I first started wrenching on things (bicycles and lawnmowers at this point) and it had never occurred to me that there was a unified standard for thread direction. When I first learned righty tighty lefty loosey, it was like a spiritual revelation

    Righty-tighty…except for lug nuts on left side wheels on some prewar vehicles. Passenger side wheels in my 1939 international Harvester pickup project came off with little effort but drivers side wouldn’t break loose…even when taking a sledge hammer to a breaker bar. A visiting uncle said “some of those old ones have left hand threads on the left side…” They came off easily when turning backwards and amazingly I didn’t bust a wheel stud swinging that sledgehammer! I’m guessing the thinking was there was a danger nuts could work loose as cars became “faster.” ( top speed on this truck was probably 45).

    As for doing what you want. It is ok to a point.

    Too often people do what they want then wonder why they can’t move a car. As long as you understand the why then have at it.

    I have a very hood record for making money or minimizing loss in my cars. That is because I think long and hard before I do something. So far I have made few moves that hurt long term.

    You may not make money but don’t look like the only taste you have us in your mouth.

    “The only taste you have is in your mouth.” LOL I hope this great phrase is remembered when needed.

    Tried to reply on this only to see “you’re posting too fast , slow down” which is I think the sites montitor disagreeing with you so they won’t post it. Unless someone is using foul language or calling names, I fail to see how you could post too fast when you type like me with 2 fingers. I just wonder if THIS post will go thru!

    If our resident site specialist is on… this is something I commonly see ON MY FIRST POST OF THE DAY!!!

    Most forum software has a “time between posts” variable that will bark at you if you post comments/replies in quick succession. That variable is set by the site admin, so it’s purely software looking at a time stamp. Not sure why that setting exists, but it does!

    1. Stay single so you can use the other advice. (Thankfully I did that. I know it’s not for everyone)
    2. Buy a home and property as early as possible and don’t buy in a subdivision. You need looser rules regarding vehicle ownership. (I want to build a garage and my zoning makes it difficult)
    3. Never finance the hobby.
    4. Follow YOUR passions regarding vehicles. Not everybody likes what you like.
    5. Don’t get too many projects going simultaneously. (Unfortunately I have not yet learned that.)
    6. There will always be more to learn. It’s never finished.

    I recently bought a 1970 Dodge Coronet 500. I love the looks of these cars although that year is polarizing. Being a New Mexico car it’s rust-free but sun-baked. 383 Auto on the tree in a cream color. Will a few R/T bits and a high-impact color during a minor resto raise the resale color, maybe? I’ve seen some cool cars in bland colors that don’t hit their average prices. If I had my druthers and was keeping the car forever I’d paint it a copper color and skyjack the rear with huge meats like my high school friend’s car.

    Paint it copper and jack the rear.

    Maybe you end up keeping it for years. Own it as if you intend to and you likely enjoy the experience (however long) more.

    We’ve applied this philosophy to the last 3 houses we have lived in. This was informed by a ten-year soul-crushing reno-flip house that was all about pleasing the resale. Yep it sold really fast, and the new owner undid/redid half the “renos for the market” that were done.

    Next owner can swap tires easy. Paint is harder but if you don’t like sun-baked cream patina (and not all the market does) going copper isn’t a bad choice. I love high-impact colors myself, but they tend to be common at shows which is ironic. If someone is that fussy about original color they will just repaint it.

    Snailish is right – make it the way you’d want it to be. One can second-guess the market all day and all night and still flop miserably. Use the examples of his house remodels: the next guy will make it what HE wants it to be anyway. Fix it up and enjoy it the way YOU want…

    “Don’t Cheap Out” also applies to parts, repairs, upgrades, or anything else you might spend money on for the car you bought. It seems a lot of folks really start to “cheap out” once they’ve bought the car. There’s nothing wrong with looking for a good deal, but so many seem to think that “cheap price = good deal” and that’s just not case most of the time. It also boggles my mind when someone buys something like a Porsche or Ferrari, etc., and when it comes time to replace parts they start searching Temu in order to find parts. What are you thinking??

    @snailish seems to have a lot of wisdom, especially when he mentioned his “soul-crushing reno-flip”. That’s a huge thing to understand about ANYTHING you might want to make changes too. No one wants your modifications, your vision, your choices. Any perspective buyer wants things done the way they want them done, not the way you did it. You’re just wasting your time and energy in changing something in hopes to make its resale higher—the new owner isn’t going to keep your changes.

    That being said, it also helps very much to know the market when it comes time for resale. For example, most Ferrari buyers are looking for stock, original, as-it-left-the-factory cars. Whereas Porsche owners are fine with stock cars but also love their “outlaw” cars too. And “outlaw” Ferrari won’t do well on resell, while an “outlaw” Porsche likely will.

    When I bought my dream car, I bought the best I could afford—and that was my goal. I was only looking for a driver quality car, but ended up with a concours level car for LESS then I had planned on spending (right place, right time). Of course, there was one problem… it was a red Ferrari! I was the last person who wanted a red Ferrari, but the original color was green. After I bought it, I had the car repainted to its factory original color and made one modification (that judges don’t like at concours events)—I removed the extremely ugly side markers. It looks so much better now, and everyone who sees those are gone compliment me on how much better the car looks. My taste is normally a “no modifications, exactly as it left the factory” guy, but sometimes I have to do what makes me feel happy.

    And I couldn’t be happier.

    Buy Low and Sell high. Don’t take any wooden nickels. 🙂
    It’s often less expensive to buy a car that’s been restored than t is to restore one.
    Buy what you like and drive it.
    And my favorite one, from David Freiberger of RoadKill: Don’t get it right: Just get it running! Love that advice.

    To not try solving the Navier- Stokes equations ( 4.1 clay description ) Not worth all the effort.

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