For anyone who has been a car connoisseur, or wants to be- the question usually arises about which classic car if any should be bought and proudly showed off. Before you even get down to the nitty gritty of what kind of classic car to buy, there are other factors you should consider that can play a role in whether or not you choose to buy one at all.

You can’t assume that you are making a good investment when you buy a classic car. Sure, we’ve all heard the story of the guy who tripled his money when he took grandmas old car out of her garage after she passed and realized he was sitting on a gold mine of a car. But, that’s not usually the case. You can also browse all the classic car ads on line and see ads that say something like “I put over $64,000 into this car…now I’m selling it for $43,000 OBO”. Do you think the seller is lying? Maybe, but if we were guessing we’d say probably not. It’s not hard to buy a classic car for $40k and end up putting $60k into it to restore it and get it working like new, and get it looking gorgeous just to find out that the car once it’s done is only worth $70-80k. Even if you do all of the labor yourself and can save thousands of dollars in labor costs, it’s still an expensive endeavor both in time and parts.

On the flip side though, had you managed to by an old Aston Martin DB5 twenty-five years ago that may have been a different story. Those cars have increased ten-fold in value and have been a killer investment for those that had the foresight, knowledge or just plain luck to have purchased one back when they were undervalued and before their prices exploded. Wish we could have gotten in on that gravy train, but we digress. We also don’t suggest you take a gamble and buy a classic car for speculative reasons. Do not make the mistake of buying a car in hopes that it’s value will increase and you can sell it for a profit later. If you do that- you will most likely be sorely disappointed. Trust us, classic cars make for a very crappy retirement plan (generally speaking).

A good part of the fun in owning a classic car is taking it out for a spin so that it can be seen, appreciated and driven. Cars are meant to be driven and not just stuck under a car cover in some garage somewhere, hidden from the world in the hopes that the value will increase. But while we are talking about car covers, now would be a good time to advise that if you do buy a classic car, one of the most important things you can have to protect your investment and shield it from the elements is a good car cover. There is nothing more unfortunate to see a gorgeous classic car rotting out in the weather and being baked by the sun all because the owner decided not to invest in a good car cover.

If you aren’t driving and enjoying your car, chances are it’s rusting and deteriorating somewhere. Choosing what kind of a classic car you want will be much easier if you decide why you want a classic car and what you plan to do with it. If you are buying a classic car for fun weekend family excursions, then the old two-seaters are probably out of the question. They don’t exactly fit a family. If you are planning to drive it year round and in different types of weather, then the convertibles may not be your best bet. Driving a car year round is also more difficult if you choose a car that is in constant need of attention, repairs or maintenance. If you are looking for a little classic car to canoodle in with your special someone, then you may not want to buy something that is unreliable, scary, or uncomfortable. That won’t exactly set the mood. If you have no intention of ever taking the car out at all, then you may be better served with a large coffee table book about classic cars that has pretty glossy photos you can look at whenever the desire strikes you.

How handy you are with cars may also help make your decisions. If you choose a car that you can work on yourself, you’ll be much happier than choosing a specialty car that requires special services from expensive shops. Obviously you can take a basic car maintenance class that can be helpful, but if you don’t know a thing about cars you’ll want to be selective in which one you buy or at the very least, have extremely deep pockets to hire the work out. Also, take into consideration your budget. That will have a huge impact on what you buy initially as well as ongoing costs. The difference in engines and parts makes a big difference as well. Some classic car parts are fairly easy to come by and fairly inexpensive. On the other hand, other classic car parts may as well be made of pure gold for how expensive they can be. Also, V12 engines will always be more expensive to fix than a regular four-cylinder for example so know what you are buying and what the ongoing cost might be.

You’ll also have to consider insurance costs. Some classic cars are really expensive to insure, and some aren’t that costly. It depends on a lot of factors like make, model, year, what level of insurance and type of policy you are buying etc. Before you actually purchase the car, you may want to talk to your insurance agent so you know what it will cost to keep your car protected.

Going into the purchase of a classic car with as much knowledge and education as possible is a good thing. Do your homework, read all the articles, magazines, and other resources you possibly can. You can’t be over-educated about the potential car you might buy. Know what the weaknesses and strengths are of the cars you are interested in and understand what the price range is so that you can make sure you are getting a good deal and not over paying for the car.

You will also want to make sure you have a good place to store your car. Obviously you want to protect your investment, so having access to a secure and dry garage is important. A lot of insurance companies require that classic cars be garaged (at least at night) and not left out on the street. Leaving them out can be hard on them. Either way, whether it’s out or in a garage, again you will want to purchase a good car cover to protect your car.

Before you purchase any car, make sure you have done your homework. Check the cars history. Check the title. Be sure you know how much of it is original and how much of it is restored. It’s unlikely that most cars have survived for 40+ years on totally original parts. A lot of cars have been modified to improve performance, fix problems that were known for that type of car and that year, modified to take different types of fuel or other modifications that may not be factory. It’s to be expected, but you will want to know exactly what has been done to the car and when. Make sure you know what that car is actually worth and priced at. Check with NADA’s information and pricing guide to make sure you in the right ballpark for your purchase.

Once you have done all of the above, then it’s important to take a proper test drive. Listen for abnormal noises and research the car first so you know what model-specific problems might exist. It’s always best to drive the car yourself if possible to get a feel for how it drives and the handling. Depending on some insurance coverage that may not be possible and you will have to ride as a passenger, but whenever possible drive it yourself if you can. You need to be able to get a good idea of how the car runs and sniff out any potential issues before you purchase it.

If you do find faults with the car, as a general rule, most are probably pretty easy to fix. You can either have the owner fix the issues before you buy it, or if you’d rather have the job done yourself so that you know it was done to your specifications then you can probably negotiate a lower price for the vehicle as-is and then get the repairs done. Look for small details that can be a red flag and a sign that maybe you aren’t getting what you think you are getting, or perhaps you should not buy the car at all. Missing trim is a sign. Even if you wanted to replace it, there are certain items and parts that are difficult to source even under the best circumstances. If the car is rusted over, it’s a pretty good bet that the whole vehicle has been poorly maintained. Also, some buyers try and be sneaky and will give the car a new coat of paint to hide certain issues right before they sell it and then will try to pass the car off as “newly restored”. Obviously that isn’t always the case and there probably are some fantastic cars that have been newly restored just like the seller is claiming. Just be careful- if you hear that, you might take pause and be thorough in your inspection.

We know the prospect of having an awesome classic car is exciting and might even give you a thrill. But just like adding in-laws to your family, hopefully you like them and they add to your life instead of making it harder. Make this decision and try to avoid the temptation to buy the first car you see (unless it really is “the One”). If you buy a lemon, you’ll find yourself resenting the car and unhappy with the added stress and costs of ownership. There will always be another car out there and if you wait and try to be patient, most likely you’ll find an even better car than the first car. But we get it- the road is calling and the itch to drive your dream car is strong. Just be careful.

So what car should you buy?

We honestly, can’t answer that. Every person is different. Every reason for buying a car is different and every situation and intention for the use of the car is different. Everyone has a different budget as well which obviously factors into the decision. What is right for one person clearly won’t be right for the next. So you’ll have to take all of the above factors into consideration when you think through what classic car to buy.

We know there are a lot of options out there and we didn’t want to leave you hanging. So even though we can’t tell you exactly what car to buy, we can give you a list of some of the most popular classic cars on the market and what some of their characteristics are as well as price range. It should give you a pretty decent starting point to get an idea of what’s out there and then you can go and research which car will be right for you. If you assume that the descriptions below are for cars that are in decent condition and don’t live their life in the shop, you can get an idea for what sort of prices ranges are out there.

$10,000-$15,000 — 1962-1980 MGB

These cares were pretty popular back in the day. There are cute little MGB convertibles that still run the road. They haven’t always been known for being the best cars as far as electrical issues are concerned, but there are over 500,000 of these British cars and there are several companies who will still make parts for them, which is a huge win. They are fairly easy to work on and fairly low maintenance when they are working.

$15,000-$25,000 — 1965-1970 Ford Mustang

Mustangs have always been popular and probably always will. They are pretty easy to find because there are so many of them and they can be found in all sorts of conditions from nearly new to needs a total overhaul and restoration. There are over two million of these cars in this date range and they are still selling well for dealers.

$25,000-$50,000 — 1955-1957 Chevy Bel-Air

These cars have pretty simple mechanics; so working on them is pretty easy. You’ve probably seen some of these chrome babies out on the roads. They have either convertible options, four-door options, or a two-door options so its pretty versatile with different buyers needs and preferences. These cars have been well made and even had emissions controls installed on them and that was way before anyone was even concerned about emissions.

$40,000-$75,000 — 1963-1967 Chevy Corvette

These Corvettes are pretty unique in their design and body shape. They definitely look good and have a flat hood and a very unique and distinct back end. These cars were only made for this five-year span so finding one may be slightly more difficult than some of the others. They good news is, if you love speed and power, then these cars will fit that bill for you. You are going to pay more for these cars though, because everyone wants to look a one of these Corvettes when they see them.

Over $75,000

If you are willing to spend over $75,000 for your classic car then suddenly the sky is the limit and your options are endless. You will be able to find a top quality car that will be more of an investment than just a hobby. For this price, the cars are cherry picks and well taken care of. Again though, you would not want to make a mistake and buy a dud at this price so it’s imperative you do all of your homework and research and really think through your purchase before you pull the trigger.

There is no rush to buy a classic car and the assumption that everyone needs some fancy European sports car is also not correct. Buy something that’s going to bring you joy and that legitimately gives you a thrill to drive around. After all, this is your car and you should genuinely be excited to drive it. Take your time. Think it over. Don’t make any hasty decisions. We assure you, you will not regret doing your due diligence and really making sure that you’ve found “the One” before you make your purchase.