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Inspecting Your Classic Car Before Purchase

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Inspecting Your Classic Car Before Purchase

man with beard inspecting a classic vehicle

Inspecting Your Classic Car Before Purchase

Purchasing a classic car can be an exhilarating experience for any automotive enthusiast. Whether you’re looking to relish in the nostalgia or make an investment, it’s crucial to conduct a thorough inspection before committing to a purchase. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the essential steps to inspect your classic car, helping you make an informed decision and ensuring that your dream ride lives up to expectations.

Note: A vehicle inspection by a mechanic or classic car auto appraiser is recommended when purchasing a classic vehicle.

Research and Preparation

Before embarking on your classic car inspection, it’s imperative to research the specific make and model you’re interested in. Familiarize yourself with common issues, price ranges, and market trends. A solid understanding of the vehicle’s history and potential pitfalls will help you confidently navigate the inspection process.

Exterior Examination

Begin your inspection by examining the car’s exterior. Inspect the body panels for signs of rust, dents, or mismatched paint, which could indicate past accidents or subpar repairs. Next, carefully examine the chrome trim, bumpers, and grille for pitting, peeling, or damage. Check the condition of the glass, ensuring there are no cracks or chips that may require expensive repairs.

Under the Hood

The engine is the heart of any classic car. Open the hood and inspect the engine bay for any signs of oil leaks, frayed wires, or cracked hoses. Check the fluid levels and their quality, paying particular attention to the oil, coolant, and brake fluid. Next, start the engine and listen for unusual sounds or vibrations that may hint at mechanical issues if possible.

Interior Inspection

Step inside the classic car and examine the interior. Check the condition of the seats, carpets, and headliner, as these can be costly to repair or replace. Ensure that all the controls, including the lights, gauges, air conditioning, and audio system, function properly. Don’t forget to test the windows, door locks, and seat adjustments, as well.

Undercarriage Examination

Crawl underneath the classic car and inspect the undercarriage. Look for signs of rust, corrosion, or damage to the frame, suspension components, and exhaust system. Also, pay attention to the condition of the floor pans and rocker panels, as these areas are particularly prone to rust and may require extensive repairs.

Test Drive

An inspection should include a test drive. Before hitting the road, check the tires for even wear and sufficient tread depth. While driving, listen for unusual noises, assess the responsiveness of the steering and brakes, and note any vibrations or handling issues. Test the vehicle at various speeds and on different road surfaces to get a complete feel for its performance.

Documentation and Additional Checks

Ask the seller for maintenance records, restoration receipts, or historical documents related to the classic car. These records can provide valuable insights into the vehicle’s past and the care it has received. Additionally, consider getting a vehicle history report to uncover any hidden issues or discrepancies.

Understanding the Limitations

Will a classic car inspection catch everything? No, it’s essential to acknowledge that inspections may not always catch every issue, no matter how thorough. Inspections are typically visual and may not uncover underlying problems that are not immediately visible. In addition, mechanical issues, such as worn-out parts or impending failures, can be challenging to detect without dismantling or performing more in-depth assessments.


Inspecting a classic car before purchase is essential to ensure you’re making a sound purchase. By following these guidelines and conducting a thorough inspection of the exterior, interior, engine, undercarriage, and through a comprehensive test drive, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision. Always remember, in addition to your inspection, a vehicle inspection by a mechanic or classic car expert is recommended. Patience is critical when searching for your dream classic car, and inspecting it correctly will help you enjoy many miles of memorable driving experiences. Have a vehicle in mind? Get a quick quote today.


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