Keith’s Blog: New Year’s Resolutions for Car Collectors

It’s a new year and a time for a fresh start.

For some of us, car collecting is like being stuck in a pounding surf, where each wave that hits sucks $5,000 out of your pocket.

For others, it’s a daily lesson in collector car math — buy a car for $50,000, put $50,000 into it just to make it decent — and then sell it for $50,000.

But maybe if we are just a little smarter and more thoughtful in the coming year, our collector car experiences will have more miles of smiles.

Here are a few things you might consider before your next buying or selling experience — they might make you a more satisfied collector.

Try to honestly evaluate the true cost of a car. If you’re at auction, you have commissions to pay, perhaps sales tax, and often the costs of trucking home the car.

Don’t fool yourself about the car’s needs. If you haven’t driven it, expect the fixes of little things that are wrong to add another 10% to your purchase price. Whether it’s turn signals, gas gauges or heater fans, nearly every old car has needs.

There’s no such thing as a partial restoration. You may decide just to paint a car, but then the old chrome will look crappy. Be aware that when you start to unravel this ball of string, it won’t stop until it’s all over the garage floor.

You can’t be in a hurry. Old cars don’t get serviced the way new cars do. It’s not unusual for a shop to have your car for a month while they diagnose its problems, source the correct parts, install them and test the car.  If you have an event that is a month away, you’re already out of time.

Don’t just buy something because you can afford it and it’s red. Try to ask yourself what use you have for a certain car. Does it do something for you that none of your others do? Is it a rare model you have sought for years?

Don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you just walk way from. If the math doesn’t add up, don’t do the deal. There’s always another car around the bend. Maybe not the same car, but you can find a similar one most of the time.

Use your car as much as possible. Old cars generally offer “value in use” – the more miles you put on the car, the more enjoyment you are getting back for your financial investment.

Finally, never lose your sense of humor. We are choosing to bring these old cars into our lives. Along with the cars comes the experiences they create. It’s all a package. The challenges and frustrations make the successes — as manifested in a top-down drive on a two-lane rural road — even sweeter.

Happy New Year to all!

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market, now in its 33rd year. Keith has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and had his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity. He has received many honors, including the Lee Iacocca Award, the Edward Herrman Award, was inducted into the Concorso Italiano Hall of Fame and more. He is on the boards of directors of The LeMay Museum and Oregon Ballet Theater, and was formerly the chair of the board of the Meguiar's Award.

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  1. Nice commentary, and spot on. Buy what you like, for fun not profit. You always come out ahead. ………Jim.

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