There are few people out there who have bought and sold more classic cars than Richard Rawlings, co-owner of Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas and star of Fast N’ Loud, which airs Mondays on Discovery. With an admitted 3,000 cars under his belt, he’s been around the block. A lot. His advice to new collectors:
Figure out what you desire and what your budget is—and stick to it.
“A lot of people overshoot their budget and get themselves into more debt than they should, or they make a spur- of-the-moment decision,” Rawlings says. “They wanted a ’68 Mustang and end up with a ’78 Vette.”
Be realistic about what condition the car needs to be in.
Decide whether you want a road- ready car or one that needs some work, but be responsible. “I buy a lot of cars from people who had great intentions and got in over their heads,” Rawlings shares. Know what you can do.
Try out your desired car.
People’s dream cars are usually vehicles they’ve been in before. Get on a plane to see the car in person. “A $500 or $1,000 round-trip air ticket is a whole lot cheaper than getting a $20,000 or $30,000 toy that’s not as described.” It’ll be worth it.
Be relentless in your inspection.
Shoot for a one-owner original, Rawlings says, “And if even one small item doesn’t suit you, don’t buy it.” And always remember to put things into perspective: “Our version of ‘rust issues’ in Texas is completely different from, say, someone in New Jersey.”
Decide if you’re going to love the car.
“You’re buying something for yourself. If you make money on it, great, but you’re buying it to have something you love and enjoy,” Rawlings says.“If it’s sitting in your driveway, you’ll see it every day. You have to love and enjoy it.”