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Buyer Beware – General

Buyer Beware – General Published: 27th Apr 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Latin for let the ‘buyer beware’, here’s how to be in the driving seat when it comes to buying, financing and even selling your classic car

It’s a bit different now but when your classic was a contemporary daily driver, Spring was the traditional time to think about changing it for something that had weathered the previous winter rather better!

Perhaps you’ve picked up the issue of Classic Motoring with a view to buying your first classic? While many owners regard their classics as ‘keepers’ a good number of us like to try something different – whatever, the rules on buying the best classic vehicle are the same.

First point to remember is that no matter how shiny and lovely it may look, a classic is essentially just a second-hand car and treated with the same suspicion wherever you buy it as there’s good and bad vendors around – always has been, and always will be. MGBs still rust the same like they did half a century ago for example, meaning that the same basic checks need to be carried out as if it was a five year old model.

In other words, rein in your emotions of finding that perfect classic and look at the vehicle in a cool, collective way as you would (and should) your next daily driver and you’ll be okay!

Mechanical parts are invariably replaceable but if the bodyshell is shot then even coveted classics can be ripe for the crusher! The skill is sorting the critical from the cosmetic

  • First find where the rot lies. Have a word with an owners’ club or model specialist to discover the most prone areas and how to check best. And check out our comprehensive buying guides (they are on the web, for top advice, too
  • Find out how much likely any repairs are going to cost, parts and labour, assuming that replacement panels are readily available and affordable – many aren’t
  • The most important areas relate to the vehicle’s structure such as the chassis, inner panels (wings and sills), box sections, suspension and steering attachment points, floorpans, cross-members and bulkheads. It’s highly likely that past repairs have been carried out; the important point is the quality of such work
  • Look closely at those recent areas of repairs and be very suspicious of fresh, thick underseal which may be masking bad rot or poor quality welding. A crafty tool to keep about your person is a small magnet to check for filler in any suspect regions
  • More cosmetic than serious, although still expensive to rectify, is rot on non-structural places such as wings, wheel arches, outer sills, boot, bonnet, doors etc. Filler work is common here which is where that small magnet comes in handy again! Has a recent respray (full or part) been carried out to gloss over any ills?

Tyre kicking made easy

  • At risk of repeating ourselves, it really does pay to drive a couple of variants to set a day. Better still, why not consider hiring your chosen classics from one of the numerous classic hire fleets, if only for a day, to see if one of the selected vehicles really is your dream drive after all?
  • Does it feel right and perform like it ought to? Is the oil pressure healthy and does the warning light extinguish quickly on start up and not illuminate at low speeds?
  • On the move, is their a rumbling sound suggesting worn crankshaft and bearings? Lighter tapping in the area of the top end is normally tappets/camshaft wear
  • Have a compression test carried out if the vendor is agreeable; that’s a plus point in their’s and your favour
  • Certain noises are a characteristic on many classics, especially transmissions. Is the gear change quality okay, do any gears jump out on the over run (i.e. a closed throttle)? If automatic, does it change gear smoothly without jerks or undue delay and is the fluid clean and doesn’t smell sour or burnt?
  • See that the vehicle has an even stance without listing or sagging (usually at the rear) which suggests worn or broken suspension springs. Have new parts been fitted?
  • Press down firmly on each corner to check if the body moves up and down; it should be no more than twice. When on a test drive, is the suspension okay with no undue clonks, creaks, crashes and so on?
  • It depends on the vehicle in question but overall is it responsive, precise without undue slack and no wandering or crabbing (maybe a wonky or badly repaired chassis)?
  • Does the car pull to one side, which can be due to anything from poor steering alignment to a broken or buckled chassis?
  • Brakes must pull up the vehicle squarely and progressively suggesting a well serviced and adjusted set up. Juddering usually points to worn drums or discs but can be due to a long lay up. If possible, remove the wheels to check visually. The fluid should be clean

Top ten tips

1. Don’t buy the first one you see – check out a few examples of the car(s) that you are considering to set a benchmark as they will vary greatly

2. Find out the car’s authenticity (classic theft for complete vehicles or for their parts is soaring), characteristics and foibles first by consulting a specialist or an owners’ club, the latter who are only too glad to help and perhaps check a vehicle over for you

3. A service history on a modern classic is paramount, although it’s a bit much to expect on an old Morris Minor. But if it has one, then so much the better

4. There’s an old adage that says that nice people sell nice cars and it’s one we hold dearly. If the vendor seems combative, too much of an Arthur Daley or bit too wheeler-dealer slick, does it start alarm bells? You can usually tell an honest sort from the off. By the same token, their place of residence can signify a lot, too. A run down joint can mean tight funds and the car may have been treated in the same vein

5. First impressions count. Does it float your boat, tick all the right boxes, give out all the right signals? As does a gut feeling. If something doesn’t ring true and there’s doubt in your mind, walk away and start again. It’s worth it in the long run

6. Always hear the engine start from stone cold (did it start promptly?) so you can hear undue noises which reduce when warmed up. Ensure all the dash warning lights illuminate/extinguish when they should

7. So long as you are insured, have a brisk and lengthy test drive under varying loads and speeds; a quick gallop round the block simply isn’t enough and if you feel the car is too removed from your normal standards to appraise it, have an expert test it as well

8. Little details count a lot. For example, a clean, dry but not tarted up engine bay and interior, a presentable boot and fuel filler flap (an often missed area), all points to considerate ownership as do a nice set of tyres all of the same make…

9. Finally, even if the vehicle of your dreams checks out okay‚ did you actually like it? If you are having second thoughts walk away and have a rethink…

10. If it ticks all the boxes then buy it – you’ll kick yourself otherwise, but sure enough some other enthusiast will!

Pondering on a project?

Buying a project can be a risky business. and you need to have your wits when buying a total basket case and weigh up all the pros and cons. As for a budget, you can expect to well exceed it so don’t pay over the odds for what is a box of bits. The real bargains are what’s known as part projects where the owner has embarked upon a restoration with all the best intentions, but for a variety of reasons has lost interest. Usually, a fair bit of work and money has already been lavished on the vehicle and these projects are sold at a loss. It’s vital that any project comes complete with its V5 as re-registering the vehicle may result in a ‘Q’ registration number which will greatly affect its residual value plus lose any VED tax advantages.

The hard sell

What about the best way to sell a classic? Thanks to social media, forms, owners’ clubs etc, moving metal has never been easier, either as a straight sale or an on-line auction. Trade-in at specialists is becoming more popular as well where you part-exchange against your new acquisition. The other route that’s well worth considering is sale or return, also known as a commission sale.

Fundamentally, it’s a method of selling whereby you entrust your car to a third party who promises to sell it on your behalf in return for a fixed commission, or return it if it isn’t sold after a specified period.

The benefits are several. For starters, the viewings and negotiations are handled by your nominated vendor, so no more waiting around for no-shows and tyre kickers. Not only that, you don’t have to invite strangers into your home, either. There’s also the probability that the specialist dealer can get a better price than you would be able to ask on a private sale.

Finally, if the car is on finance, you won’t be able to sell the vehicle privately unless it’s paid off first – and this is often a chicken and egg situation for many hardly well off enthusiasts. Of course, the seller wants something for their troubles and its ‘cut’ of the selling price,around 10-20 percent depending on vendor chosen and the actual vehicle.

It can be a win-win situation for both parties if all goes according to plan, but there can be pitfalls. If the car is entrusted to the dealer and it develops a fault which is not caused by him, the responsibility will lie with the you, as it would as if it were in your possession.

For starters, it pays to make sure there’s regular contact between you and the dealer in order that both parties know their responsibilities, and this should include confirmation that the title of the vehicle remains with the owner (i.e. you). It should also be clear whose responsibility it is to insure the vehicle; normally this will fall to the garage on its trade policy, but it is important to have it spelt out at the outset to avoid any nasty problems later (perhaps also keeping it covered yourself?).

Finally, ensure the deal is on a sale or return basis only. This means that if the car is not sold after a reasonable length of time, the dealer will return it to you without charging commission. Do be aware though, that you will need to allow the company a fighting chance to sell your classic – snatching it back after only a couple of weeks may result in the dealer charging some advertising and valeting costs back to you.

How to finance without fear

There’s two types of classic car buyer – those that can afford it today with cash at the ready, and those that can’t. Most of us fall into the last category but don’t despair as raising the readies has never been easier – or cheaper!

Loans have been plentiful for many years (it won’t stay this long for ever though!) and by studying the market you can save a bundle on interest changes because, due to their appreciating nature, some special deals are applicable to classics.

Much of your success here depends on the individual’s credit worthiness, but assuming an average-to-good credit history, the nature of the vehicle and its value will mostly determine where to look for the best finance deal. If you’re smart, and you have sufficient credit limit, a zero percent loan that are bandied around by credit car companies – including supermarkets – may make the most sense providing you can pay it off during the stipulated time because you’ll get walloped otherwise.

A bank loan is the most straightforward. Usually, a personal loan will be what is called unsecured, which means that you will not have to put up a guarantee or any security. Personal loans are available from many sources, but it is always best to start with your own bank. Because of the nature of the competition at present, it is possible to obtain personal loans from other sources such as credit card companies and finance companies.

Hire Purchase is the logical progression from the personal loan but there’s a security aspect. What this means is that the vehicle being financed is used as security for the loan and will appear on the HPI register. Obviously, the longer the period of the loan, the more interest you will pay over the period. Some specialists, such as Mann Island Finance, have schemes in place especially for classic cars offering competitive finance rates.

Balanced Payments Finance lease is similar to HP, but interest is calculated on a daily basis on the reducing balance but is always variable throughout the contract, so unlike a conventional hire purchase agreement if interest rates rise sharply, then either the repayments will have to go up or the length of the agreement will be extended. Secondly, the minimum amount borrowed can be quite high.

What about extending your mortgage? Sometimes referred to as a second mortgage, this can be suitable for that larger purchase of the car you always promised yourself. As the name implies the loan is secured usually on property such as a house. This method of financing should only be used where there is a comfortable amount of equity available and the repayments are not going to be a problem over the full term of the loan.

On the other hand, if you fancy that concours Aston Martin, it may be your only route to happiness as repayments can be a set out over as long as 25 years!

Top twelve tips to banish borrow bothers

1. With so many variables, seek expert advice the best ways of collecting the capital for your individual circumstances. There are specialist loan companies who deal in appraising assets such as classics, for example. Sort the money out before you go classic car buying!

2. Use CASH if you can – it’s usually the cheapest in the long term and ensures a better buying deal

3. Compare the total cost of the loan including interest and not just the monthly payments when deciding – as many folks do!

4. Compare like-for-like and also ensure that the deposits and repayment periods are also the same or close enough

5. For interest comparisons, only use APRs – flat rate calculations vary between lenders, APRs don’t If in any doubt, have a professional check the potential buy over first Auctions can unearth great savings but you are buying blind

6. As it’s a highly competitive market right now, check out the best rates around and use it to bargain the dealer’s rate down. Haggle as hard over this ‘fee’ as the actual car’s price car you want to buy

7. Be aware that PCPs require you to pay a final lump sum so make sure you can budget for it; catches many people unawares…

8. If you intend to keep the car more than three years, consider a straight HP loan

9. Make sure you can easily afford it as getting out of the deal early will cost you financially and emotionally

10. If you’re refused a loan, you can find out why, but don’t be tempted to use disreputable lenders just because they’ll take you on – it’ll cost you more than that dream classic!

11. Choose a deal that strikes a workable balance between a manageable monthly payment and the total cost of the term

12. Cashing in a pension sounds tempting – and many have done so – but look longer term first before you jump! Again, speak to a finance expert before you decide

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