This weekend, we bought a 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible. We intend to use it to replace my old 1993 Honda Civic, which is becoming unreliable. It might seem strange to replace one car with an even older car, but there is a method to our madness.
First of all, we shopped around until we found the right car for us. Even though the car is 40 years old, we are only its second owner. It was originally purchased by this little German lady in the factory showroom in Germany and came with her when she moved to the United States. She kept immaculate care of the car. Everything is original and the car is in pristine shape.
This is a perfect example of frugality, by the way—the lady purchased one car, kept it for 40 years, and then sold it for a huge profit at the end of the time it could be useful to her. I really admire that. Compare that to how most people buy cars: they purchase the car new on credit and sell it for a loss a few years later, then repeat the pattern again and again, permanently losing thousands of dollars throughout their lifetime to the car companies.
My husband and I wanted a way around this, and buying a classic car seemed like a way to do it. In fact, owning a classic car, if done right, is one of the few ways I know to make a profit on a car. They have a high resale value, and the more you improve them, the higher that resale value is likely to go. If we take care of the car and are careful about improvements we make, we, too, may make a profit on the car at the end of our time with it. That is a lot better than buying a new car and having it depreciate as soon as we drive it off the lot.
At the same time, we are well aware that owning a 40-year-old car will mean a lot of maintenance and possible headaches. We are willing to take that on because my husband wants to learn car maintenance and well, look at that adorable car!
What can I say? It’s an experiment.
The Pros of Owning A Classic Car:
They Are Fun—I admit it. A large part of this is about the aesthetics of owning a cute/cool/beautiful car, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
They Have A High Resale Value—The car is likely to appreciate, and all the maintenance you put into it will add to its value. If you do your research and make a wise purchase, you have a good chance of selling the car for a profit when you are done with it.
You Are Reusing On A Grand Scale—Instead of buying a new car, we’re investing in something that has a history and uses no new resources. That always feels good.
No SMOG/High Insurance/Other Annoyances—The car is grandfathered in, so I am not held to any of the state requirements, which can be quite costly. For example, it recently cost me $800 to SMOG my Civic in the state of California. I will never have to SMOG this car. Likewise, this is the only way I know to own a convertible without your insurance going through the roof.
A Chance To Learn—If you like working on cars, this is a way to become intimately acquainted with how engines work.
The Freedom To DIY—The engine in our car is pretty simple, and that means that we can fix it ourselves. It is very difficult to fix the complicated engines of today’s cars, which means you are permanently dependent on going to a mechanic. The lower cost of maintenance, and control over how it is done, is a large perk for us.
The Cons of Owning A Classic Car:
They Need More Maintenance—There is no way around it, with an older car, you will be fixing it more. They will have more problems and they will require more attention. That is part of taking an older car on.
The Parts Can Be Hard To Get—This is not the case with us, since the Volkswagen parts are ubiquitous and were used in lots of different makes, but if you get, say, a 1930 Ford, you might have trouble getting the engine parts. It is important to look into this when considering purchasing a classic car, and weigh the cost of the parts against the ongoing maintenance the car requires.
No Modern Conveniences—Depending on what it is, the car may not be very high powered. It definitely won’t have air conditioning. It is likely to only have an AM radio. It probably doesn’t have power steering. You will have to drive a clutch. And so on. There is always a little sacrificing in going backwards in time.
They Are Not As Safe—One thing that is true is that cars today are much safer than the cars of yesterday. No air bags, no anti-lock brakes, and so on. If safety is your number one concern when you purchase a car, classic cars may not be a good choice for you.