How To Evaluate A Classic Car

Posted on February 11, 2016 By

For most car collectors, the hardest part of evaluating a classic car is keeping their emotions in check. These tips can help guide you in letting your left brain do the evaluation.

You should begin your evaluation in a location where you can clearly see the automobile, either outdoors on a bright day or in a well lit indoors spot. Take along a note pad or a printed spreadsheet to note down any imperfections you see – this will help you in price bargaining later if you decide to make a bid for the car. Don’t rely on your memory to retain these details. Take pictures if you have a camera.

Stand well back from the car and look at it from all angles. From a distance you’ll see imperfections in the paint or body that you might miss at closer range. Slowly move closer, inspecting the paint further along with the finishing work. Look for signs of repainting or body work. Check the doors. Are they corroded with rust? Are the hinges still in one piece? Keep in mind that any problems you find are not necessarily deal breakers, but they should be taken into account when the issue of compensation arises.

Turn your attention to the interior. If the car still has the original upholstery, the wear and tear will give some indication as to how the car has been taken care of. Check under the floor mats and lift the carpets if you can. Note any presence of rust.

Now take a look underneath the hood. If you’re not a mechanic, hopefully you’ve brought one with you. Typical engine problems that you’ll find in classic cars revolve around the fuel delivery system – such as idle adjustment problems, idle float problems, air/fuel mixture issues, fuel pump, fuel filters, and so on. You’ll want to check all of these components for possible problems.

If the car is not in running condition, you’ll have to partially rely on the owners word that the engine is in good condition. Even a mechanic can’t verify the health of an engine simply by inspection. In this case make the assumption that the engine will need major work, possibly replacement.

If the car is in working condition, turn the ignition and let the car idle for a while. Listen to the engine sounds and make note of any irregular noises. After about 5 minutes or so, turn off the engine. Use the oil dipstick to check both the oil level and condition. Dirty oil is a bad sign. Let the engine cool and check the radiator for water level and condition.

Have your mechanic check the front suspension system. Now restart the car. Note if any trouble in restarting. Listen for any abnormally loud engine noises or whining.

Take the car for a spin. Make note of any steering problems or brake issues. Listen for any noises coming from the base of the car such as transmission noises, spring noises, wheel noises and so on. Note if the car pulls left or right – it could just mean the wheels need balancing or it could be something more serious.

By this time, you will know the car pretty well and have an overall feeling about it. If you are still feeling positive about the car, you are now armed with your notes in hand and are ready to negotiate with the owner for the best deal you can get.