Why NOW Might Be the Best Time to Buy an Affordable Classic Car
We’ve covered much of the ‘where to buy a classic car’ question recently, but how about the question of ‘when to buy a classic car’? I don’t know that there’s a golden rule as when to buy your next affordable classic, it depends upon the car and the opportunities presented to you.
In my experience there are two huge factors that influence a potential purchase… money and space. Do you have the money to buy and do you have a place to put your new acquisition? If you’ve got those two things it’s just a matter of finding the right deal. Permission from a significant other could be a factor, but you’re on your own when it comes to getting your wife on board. So you’re ready for a new car, how can timing allow you to get a great deal on a great car?
The classic car market does shift seasonally, especially in northern states or states where people cannot drive their classic roadsters year round. In places where people are forced to store their cars away for the winter the question as to whether they should mothball the car for one more winter always comes up. If the owner has to pay for storage over the winter he must decide if it’s worth the money or if it’s time to sell the car.
I did a quick search in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area for self storage units about 10’ x 15’ in size. They ranged from between about $75 and $200 depending upon location. I’m talking the drive up kind, not heated or anything fancy. To store a car through the coldest winter months of November through February will cost at least $300, probably more. I took this into account when I bought my 1976 BMW 2002 for $700 one November knowing I wanted to eBay it in the spring. If I had not had free storage available at a friend’s St. Paul warehouse I would have never bought the car. I would have paid half what I paid for the car in storage for the winter.
This is the kind of storage issue that leads a lot of people to put their cars on the market in the fall. Most people don’t get the urge to buy a fun convertible as winter approaches for the same reasons people look to get rid of them. People want to buy fun cruisers in the spring, to enjoy during those first really nice weekends after the long winter, and on into the summer. In the fall you’ve got the potential for a lot of cars on the market and not too many people looking to buy them. They’re harder to sell and prices drop quickly when sellers become impatient. When a seller just wants to get rid of their car you can really capitalize on a good deal.
Another thing a ready and willing buyer has on their side these days is a generally poor economy. In this regard the affordable classic car market is much like the stock market. In these lean times those with the cash have more opportunities for bargain shopping, snapping up cheap stock and cheap cars that have flooded the market.
The affordable classic car market has been especially affected during this brutal economic down turn. I believe it’s the little guy who was on a budget a few years ago who finally sprung for a neat affordable classic that might find himself in an economic position today that forces him to sell his baby. He probably doesn’t have a 3+ car garage, he may not have a surplus of cash that allows him to continue to maintain, license, and insure a purely fun, indulgent second or third car. The top tier car collectors who buy the blue chip collectibles like Mercedes Gullwings and 12 Cylinder Ferraris continue to pay up for the best cars, mostly oblivious to what’s happening on the low end of the spectrum. It seems to me it’s the casual hobbyist on a budget that’s been especially hard hit.
I was reading through some local Craigslist classifieds last night and saw quite a few listings citing economic woes as the reason for selling. It used to be “baby on the way” or “buying a new house” “wife says the car’s gotta go”. Now there’s a lot of “lost my job, can’t afford to keep it” or “downsizing, must sell”. A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are cleaning out their garages.
Taking into consideration the time of year and the general state of the economy it is an excellent time to find some real bargains on the low end of the collector car market. If you can cobble the money together in the next couple of months, you’re bound to find some great deals on an affordable classic car. As harsh as it may sound, the collector car savanna needs vultures too.