Flipping Classic Cars for Profit

If you love classic cars and love making profits, why not attempt to draw a natural point of convergence between the two? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you flip classic cars and cash in on the resulting profits.

What Makes (and Sells) a Classic

First and foremost, it’s important to note that what counts as a “classic” in any field is defined by those within it. As a result, it’s a product of taste as much as age. Films such as Bridesmaids, La La Land, The Dark Knight, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are all 20 years old or less, but are far better remembered and more beloved than countless forgotten films from “Classic” Hollywood. The same holds true for cars. A more recent but widely beloved car has a better chance to be considered a “classic” than a random old rust bucket with no base of fans.

That’s the key – classic cars are typically bought by fans of classic autos in general or a specific kind of car in particular. You’re looking to exploit nostalgia or specific features of the cars that make them desirable (color schemes, design features such as convertible roofs, and so on). By contrast, flipping family cars such as SUVs centers around things such as affordability and size.

Knowing what your target audience considers “classic” and why they feel that way can help you acquire cars that they are more likely to like and thus buy from you.

Are you invested in knowing more about how much you can earn restoring and selling cars then read this.

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Selling Versus Developing “Vintage” Cars

Wine lovers often acquire bottles and then sit on them for many years before selling or drinking them – and with good reason. There’s a reason we say that things “age like a fine wine” if they get better with age. One strategy for flipping classic cars for profit is to emulate that strategy, purchasing cars now and then sitting on them for several years until they are scarcer, nostalgia kicks in, and demand grows.

However, you have to be careful.

For one thing, there’s a reason we don’t say things such as “age like a fine car.” Wine does, in certain conditions, literally improve with age at a chemical and taste-based level, whereas cars obviously start to rust or break down given enough time. As with aging wine, you have to carefully store and maintain cars to keep them in good condition over time – but, unlike wine, this is far more expensive and an uphill battle.

All of this assumes that the cars you sit on become “classics” in the first place. If you spend thousands of dollars on a car and it never appreciates in value, you’ve just wasted a ton of money and space on a lump of rubber and metal you’ll never use. Not every film ages as well as Casablanca, not every wine ages like a Dom Perignon, and not every car ages into a 1950 Chevy or 1960 Aston Martin.

Finally, sitting on a car for years hoping for profits in the future obviously isn’t helpful if you’re looking to get started or turn a quick profit now.

Repairs Versus Profits

The whole raison d’etre of car flipping in any form is profit. On the one hand, as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, but on the other hand, you have to be careful not to spend so much as to make the venture unprofitable.

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Case in point, repairs. Unless you are purchasing a car in a brand-new state, these are pretty unavoidable. In fact, even if you do purchase new cars hoping to keep and sell them later as “vintage” cars as described above, you’re still going to have to maintain them lest they fall into disrepair before they can be flipped. If you do purchase cars that are on the older side, you can expect them to come with some wear and tear.

How much, however, is an open question, and one you’ll need to resolve before you can flip the car.

The calculus here is different for different car models. An older car that is common or less in demand probably isn’t worth extensive restoration costs. A car that has already been deemed a “classic,” however, and is in high demand may be worth it. People still love those aforementioned Aston Martins and 50s convertibles with their Americana. If you can find these cars and restore them, even if those repair costs are significant, you can bet on there being a market of ready buyers for them once you’re done, and their status and rarity may help you elevate the price.

As a general rule of thumb, though, the more extensive the repairs, the less likely you are to be able to flip that car for profit. Surface-level aesthetic improvements, such as repainting and shining the car, are a very different animal than replacing parts or dealing with frame damage.

Acquiring the Cars

Of course, before you can flip a classic car for profit, you first have to acquire one yourself.

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If you are acquiring one or more classic cars at an auction or garage, you’re going to want to make sure you trust the authenticity of the seller before putting in a bid or making a payment. You’ll also want to make sure you aren’t paying more than you can reasonably recoup when flipping the car.

Junk yards are one of the most popular choices for flipping old cars given their lower price point, but remember that aforementioned tension between repairs and profits. The whole reason these cars are lower priced is because they will likely require more money to be poured into them in the form of repairs for them to be usable or sellable again.

Online listings represent a new frontier for scoping out the cars you want at prices that work for you. They can be a good resource for finding new cars to acquire and listing and flipping them yourself.

If you love classic cars and know who to sell them to and how, you can potentially make good money doing so – it’s just a challenging road to get to that point.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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