How to Buy a Vintage Car

by Lori Straus

Although chances are you won’t find the Monkeemobile, if you’re looking for a vintage automobile, you have lots of options available to you. Buying a vintage car may seem like it differs from buying any other kind of car, but truth be told, you’ll find the process similar. In essence, when you buy a vintage car, you’re buying a used car. The same laws in Ontario apply, just add a few extra steps to your due diligence.

The Basics of Buying Vintage Vehicles

You can buy a vintage car from a dealership or a private seller. Dealerships are registered with the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) and must follow stringent laws for selling vehicles. Private sellers must also follow specific laws regarding selling their used cars, but they cannot sell used cars as a business. In other words, it’s legal if they’re selling off their collection of vintage vehicles, but it’s illegal if they’re acquiring vehicles to resell them. Individuals that engage in illegal car selling are called curbsiders. We’ve posted some advice to help you avoid curbsiders.

Research Before Heart

Len Medeiros, owner of UCDA member dealership Old Brock Muscle and Classic Car Sales in Dundas, says, “Don’t just fall in love with the car. Just like with buying used, some people go out and buy the first thing they see.”

Medeiros began repairing old cars in his teens with his father, and that love of vintage eventually grew into his dealership. Although they specialize in Pontiac Trans Ams (sadly, without an eject button), they sell other muscle and vintage cars, too.

You have to know what you want, Medeiros advises. Not everyone who buys vintage demands all original parts, and that’s okay.

But if you’re looking for a vehicle that has been properly restored, learn how to check numbers.

“There’s a lot of crooked people fixing up cars, doing things that aren’t original,” he says.

“Checking numbers” refers to educating yourself on the different serial numbers involved in building a vehicle. This can include the vehicle identification number (VIN), standardized in 1981, but it can include serial numbers of different parts, especially the engine, depending on what year your car was manufactured. Learn what you need to look for.

“The best thing is documentation,” says Medeiros. This can include the original bill of sale for the vehicle, upgrades and repairs to the vehicle, and more. “If you’ve got the paperwork, it’s worth more money.”

You Need the Right Team

Checking oil dipstick on muscle car engine

Unless you’re a licensed mechanic or a hobbyist, you’ll occasionally need someone to work on your vehicle to help keep it in shape. Find a good mechanic for your vehicle. Some garages specialize in vintage vehicles, others specialize in certain makes. Get referrals and shop around.

Also research how easily you can find parts for the vintage car you’re considering. It will need repairs from time to time, and if the parts you’re looking for are extremely rare, that could cause you some issues.

If you haven’t done so already, hook up with a vintage or classic car club in your area. Many of their members will be happy to help you begin your journey into classic cars, and you may even find someone who will accompany you to buy your first vehicle.

Remember: You’re Buying This for Fun

Unless you’re a serious car collector, you’re likely looking at vintage cars to have something fun to drive. Treat your vehicle more like a piece of art that you have carefully curated. Store it properly, drive it only in good weather to minimize damage, and track anything you do to it, like repairs and so forth. Not only will you have the perfect vehicle for those sunny summer days where you can go cruisin’ into the night, but you’ll have an easier time selling your car when the time comes.