From the late-2000s until recently, the classic-car market boomed, although this has largely tapered off. Still, if you still want to buy that vintage car, what should you look out for?

Many of us dream of one day owning a second or third car: perhaps an affordable sportscar, a classic 4x4 or a stylish sedan from several decades ago. The positive side of such a purchase could be that the car (or motorcycle) has the potential to retain its value, both locally and on international markets. The downside could be that you might need to restore the car or indeed that the purchase price was too high (and you thus over-capitalised). There are also running and insurance costs to consider.

Before you purchase, make a decision about how important the monetary value of the car will be to you, and if you are willing to spend more on the car than you might sell it for one day. We spoke to a number of collectors, as well as Gareth Crossley from classic-car shop Crossley & Webb in Cape Town – which specialises in all things motoring – about current market trends and what to consider buying.

“The incentive to purchase based on investment is gone; this is partly why the market has slowed down. Five years ago, some Porsches were under-valued but they have now caught up. The trend has moved away from trying to make money to rather enjoying what you have bought,” says Gareth.

“Currently, there is a lot of interest in modern classics; cars from the 1990s and 2000s. Even these can be a challenge to maintain, though, because they have complex electronic systems, unlike older cars which are more basic.”

We wondered about the South African specials from Alfa Romeo, Chevrolet and BMW. Gareth explains: “The knowledgeable enthusiasts of South African specials are few and far between and, when it comes to selling them, it is really difficult to put a price on them.”

One collector advised us to put aside the idea of buying an aircooled 911, which has already increased in value, and to consider a manual Aston Martin Vantage V8, instead. These can be found from just more than R500 000.

Needless to say, if you are mechanically inclined, you can potentially save a lot of money and, in the process, make the ownership experience more enjoyable.

Another trick is to find a car which has not yet been advertised. Once an advertisement has been placed, online or in print, you are competing with a much broader audience. Crossley continues: “The best examples will always command more money; try to buy the best one you can afford.”

Keep the future services and maintenance in mind. Is there a local specialist, or will you be doing it yourself? This is where any of the numerous local and national car clubs are of immense importance. Sadly, ordering parts from overseas has become a problem, as they often get lost or stolen. Try to team up with a fellow enthusiast because the larger the order, the better.

As most new sportscars are now available only with an automatic transmission, the interest of a large portion of enthusiasts has moved towards classic cars with manual transmissions, be it an old Mercedes-Benz, Porsche 928/911/Boxster or a BMW M3. Automatic or semi-automatic boxes from the late-1990s to the late-2000s were mostly slow and, in some cases, troublesome, and they simply are not as involving as a good manual ‘box.

Consider the experience and history when looking at a classic. Sportscars (where possible, consider coupés and cabriolets) are easy to pinpoint but the classic 4x4 market – even certain double-cab Toyota Hiluxes – is just as rich in terms of potential models. Series 1 and 2 Land Rover Defenders have become sought after based partly on their utilitarian design, but also because the driving experience is unlike anything else, except perhaps a Willys Jeep. This is often the case with Volkswagen Beetles and Kombis; the latter has significantly appreciated in the last few years. Don’t forget rare cars (and we don’t mean expensive one-off coachbuilt cars). Look for those vehicles of which thousands were manufactured but only a few are left on the road.

“In the end, if you are after a safe purchase, I would suggest concentrating on brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Porsche, and then perhaps BMW followed by other brands. Don’t be scared to make an offer,” advises Gareth.

Consider these tips when buying a classic car

When you buy a classic, it should be a positive experience. The best way to avoid any pitfalls is to have the car thoroughly inspected by a specialist. This will cost about R2 000 and the report will highlight any defects, bodywork or parts that may need attention.

Apart from the obvious (maintenance, rust, engine condition, perishables, documentation, matching numbers of the chassis and engine), take your time to go through the car. Check for panel gaps that might indicate any accident damage and, if the seller allows, take it for a drive. Listen to the engine, test the brakes and turn the steering wheel to unearth any odd noises. If you want to do a more thorough check, there are buyer guides for most models. Do your homework before you start your search. The internet also offers a wealth of information but be selective about which sites you trust.

The cars we’d buy per budget

R150 000

  • W108 Mercedes-Benz 280SE
  • W123 Mercedes-Benz sedan/TE/CE
  • E36/7 BMW Z3
  • Toyota MR2
  • Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTi
  • Audi TT
  • Land Rover Defender Series 1 and 2

R350 000

  • R107 Mercedes-Benz SL
  • E46 BMW M3 (manual)
  • E30 BMW 325is
  • E46 BMW M3 CSL
  • Audi RS2

R600 000

  • 997 Porsche 911
  • Carrera S manual
  • Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
  • Aston Martin Vantage manual
  • E30 BMW 333i
  • Ariel Atom

R1 000 000

  • Porsche Cayman R
  • E46 BMW M3 CSL
  • 997.2 Porsche 911 GTS

Two-wheel alternative

Motorcycles are cheaper to buy, easier to maintain and service, and take up less space. Again, make use of those enthusiasts who know the models – distinguishing between the potential collectables and the duds – and make sure you pay the right price.

Second hand cars for sale