Where can I buy a classic car?
Your options for finding a classic car to buy include private sellers, specialized and general auctions, and classic car dealers. Learn about each type of classic car seller as you begin your search.
Private party classic car owners
Buying a classic car from a private owner may give you the most room for negotiation, since they may not have the pricing restrictions that auctions and dealers do. Check the classified ads of local newspapers and auto-focused publications to find private classic car sellers. Classic car clubs may be able to connect you with private collectors looking to sell. You can also search sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay and set up alerts so you're notified if a classic car you're interested in is posted for sale.
Buying from a local seller can allow you to easily see and test drive the car before buying it. If you expand your search outside your local market and you can't arrange a visit, see if you can have a third-party mechanic perform an inspection on the car and report back to you. Learn more about buying a car out of state and how to inspect a classic car.
Keep in mind these factors when buying a car from a private seller:
- You and the seller will be responsible for transferring the car title and taking care of other car sale paperwork required by your state's BMV or DMV.
- Before the sale, be sure to verify the vehicle identification number (VIN) so you know you're not buying a stolen car or transferring a counterfeit title.
Traditional on-site classic car auctions
Before an in-person classic car auction, do your research on the auction house to find out their reputation among classic car collectors. If an auction house specializes in classic cars and has a good reputation, the cars may be more sought after and expensive than you'll find elsewhere — but that might be a tradeoff you're willing to make for a classic that matches its description. You should have a chance to inspect the car, but a test drive may not be possible.
If you win the bid on a traditionally auctioned classic car, you'll pay a fee to the auction house on top of your winning bid price. Similar to the documents you'd expect at a car dealership, the auction company may arrange the ownership transfer paperwork. If they don't, be sure to follow the car sale guidelines set by your state's BMV or DMV.
Online classic car auctions
Some classic car auction companies also hold online auctions, which can have a wider selection of cars for sale. Depending on the auction's rules and the car's location, you may not be able to inspect the classic car you want to bid on. However, the auction house should provide in-depth information on the quality of the classic car.
Similar to on-site auctions, you'll pay a fee to the auction house on top of your winning bid price, and there will be no negotiating the final price. If the auction house doesn't arrange shipping, you'll need to arrange to pick it up or ship the car yourself.
Online auctions run on public websites
Classic cars can also be auctioned on general auction sites. Since they're not specialized, these sites may not inspect or verify the vehicles they're selling. While you may be able to find classic cars at lower prices, it might be much harder to verify their validity and condition. It's also likely that you'll have to handle all of the ownership transfer paperwork and shipping.
Learn more about buying a car from an online auction.
Classic car dealers
Classic car dealers sell cars on consignment. Car owners rely on the dealer's marketing reach, display space, sales team, and back-end support for title transfers, taxes, and fees. In exchange, the dealer receives a commission for the sale. Note that the negotiating range will likely be narrower with a dealer since they also have to account for overhead costs.
As with specialized classic car auction houses, the dealer risks their reputation if they sell a classic car that doesn't live up to its billing — so it's likely they've inspected it thoroughly. You should have the opportunity to take the car for a test drive, and they may let you have a mechanic have a look at it.
If the dealer doesn't know much about the history of the car, ask if you're allowed to contact the car's owner. Talking with a classic's owner can help you uncover important details about the car's condition, parts, and story.
Other options for where to buy a classic cars
You might also find classic cars for sale at car shows, through word of mouth, or while you're driving around. Classic car clubs can be a helpful resource for connecting with enthusiasts and collectors who are ready to sell or can recommend reputable sellers. Once you've found the car of your dreams, follow our guide to buying classic cars.
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