One of the most dangerous minefields in the car hobby is how to find the right fit for an old ride.



“The wrong choice can bring on the kind of pain and heartache that can only be found in old school country songs-but with more rust on the real life old pickup truck.”


The first thing you have to ask yourself is how much talent and/or cash do I actually possess because these are crucial pieces in the puzzle when it comes to the old car hobby.


Too little of either one is an issue-too little of both will be a disaster that will break you emotionally and financially.




Secondly, do some research and find your range of comfort before you begin a search for your dream ride. You will need to know whether you can realistically afford to own that four-wheeled dream from the past and work forward-or backwards-from that point, depending upon the current market price.
Thirdly, you will also need to understand the actual condition of your potential purchase because a low price tag is likely there for a reason: the vehicle needs a ton of work before it can return to the road. Can you assess the condition of the car as it applies to your wallet and skill set to determine whether you just entered a shark pool wearing a seal meat suit?




Old cars are by their very definition old. They have a long history of indeterminate nature that is not often visible to the untrained eye and what lies beneath the surface may indeed be a horror story that would make Stephen King a jealous guy.




We will assume you have assembled enough market evaluation and taken an intense look into your car guy soul (to discover whether this entity even exists within you) to move to the fourth step: the actual search for a car priced within your target range of available money and skills. Bear in mind the project will cost more and take longer than your worst case scenario-by a big margin.





You will encounter many sellers with a common belief their rust bucket is actually a pot of gold during your search. They have watched Barrett-Jackson sell vehicles similar to their rides for serious coin on TV and connect the dots with their price structure. The fact their cars connect to the high end auction cars in name only (much like Billy and Jimmy Carter) is irrelevant to them and your task is to make it relevant to your purchase of their car.






You need to be tactful when you deal with these kind of sellers because they may indeed have the car of your dreams, if you can get them back down to Planet Earth with their price. Do not lead with a real lowball price on the vehicle. You know what you want to pay for the vehicle and the seller knows what he or she want for the ride, a lowball price will just insult the seller and brand you as a tire-kicker in their eyes.





You should absolutely begin with a price lower than you want to pay for the old ride, just avoid making the price Grand Canyon lower than his price tag. Also avoid excessive criticism about the faults in the old car for the same reason as the lowball offer for the car: it is an insult to the seller that will backfire on you.




The best way to negotiate a fair price is to understand the challenges you see in the car and use them as leverage with the seller. Provide the owner with prices you have encountered for similar vehicles in similar condition and let the owner know what the car will need to become a better car, based upon your research. Just deliver the news as tactfully as possible during negotiations.




There are never any guarantees when it comes to the old car hobby for buyers, but these basic rules will help you negotiate the whitewater of a vintage ride purchase with less fear of drowning during the adventure.


Jim Sutherland