Whether big or small, humble or exotic, ancient or modern, you should have a good idea of the kind of classic bike you most want to own.
It’ll be a bike you’ll want to ride and cherish, at least for the foreseeable future, and preferably not one that’ll be locked away unloved in the hope that it’ll soon appreciate some more in value.
You should be buying because you want to ride into the sunset on a machine you love. Do this and you won’t be troubling yourself about whether you paid slightly over the odds or what it may worth in the future.
But first you have to source the bike of your dreams…
Read up all you can about your chosen model. Sift through the relevant classic mags and websites, dealer ads and classifieds. Join an owners’ forum and contact the owners’ club about what to look out for, what to avoid, parts availability and, not least, past and current values.
Sign up for the relevant auction house newsletters and scroll through similar lots offered in recent and forthcoming sales. Auction house estimates and sale prices can be strong indicators of current values.
While doing your homework you’ll gather a clearer idea as to what your chosen model might cost and consequently whether it’s within your budget.
It almost goes without saying that a tired old steed that’s been uncared for, or amateurishly repaired or modified, will be worth a fraction of the price of a similar model that’s been treated to a recent and correct restoration. Similarly, another bike in sound original condition with a well-documented history will probably be a better buy than one with a fresh lick of paint and a patchy past.
You should also bear in mind additional costs such as insurance, maintenance and repairs, and garaging if required. And try not to lose your head and overstretch yourself because classics and unforeseen expense are old bedpals.
Private, dealer or auction?
If you’re after a particularly rare machine or a very specific model, ie. the Mk. 1b in original mauve, then your options will be limited. Both private sellers and dealers can be over optimistic with their asking prices, but they may be able to offer you a revealing test ride or effect some repairs – things you won’t get when buying at auction.
A private seller may also throw some useful spare parts into the deal while a dealer may have more than one of a particular model in stock, thus offering you a choice. Although generally that bit pricier you do have more legal comeback with a dealer should things go awry.
Any seller should be only too pleased to give you chapter and verse on the bike, its provenance, service history, mechanical and cosmetic condition, and what’s been spent on it with bills as evidence. These are all things you should have a clear picture of before travelling to the other end of the country only to find that the bike falls well short of the seller’s description.
Bargains can certainly be had at auction, especially if the bike is offered at ‘no reserve’, but bikes, cars and pretty much everything else offered at auction are sold ‘strictly as seen’.
Whoever you buy from, the first bike you see probably shouldn’t be the one you buy, unless it’s very rare. So, look at as many as time allows as Bike D could be much better than Bike A for the same money, and the more you see the better informed you’ll be.
Whether private or dealer, be polite but don’t be afraid to make an offer well below the asking price. You can justify your haggling by pointing out any defects or why it doesn’t quite meet your expectations, but if you’re unrealistic or push too hard then the seller may well hold out for a less troublesome buyer.
Conversely, if the bike exceeds your expectations then unbridled enthusiasm on your part may also hamper your chances of securing the best deal.
Refrain from making an offer if you’ve only seen the bike in a cramped space or in low light. And unless you’re buying a barn-find basket case, then definitely don’t flash the cash until you’ve heard it running.
A flat battery, no oil or a small but crucial missing part are reasons given for it not being able to fire-up just when you happen to be there. Classic bikes are, ultimately, second hand bikes. The real reason may be something sinister.
Get Classic bike insurance through Carole Nash.