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Flipping Classic Cars for Profit

Updated on April 8, 2017
Blond Logic profile image

Mary shares experiences from 20 years in the auto industry selling classic cars internationally with her husband.

Flipping Classic Cars
Flipping Classic Cars | Source

Where to Find Cheap Classic Cars

Perhaps you have just been to a classic car show and the idea of buying and selling classic cars appeals to you. The new buzz word is "flipping cars." But if you're over 40 years old, this "news" will cause you to roll your eyes in dismay. Buying and selling classic cars for a profit is nothing new; my husband and I did this for 20 years. There are two ways to make money from buying classic cars: either buy them and keep them for years, hoping they will increase in value, or buy and sell for a quick profit. The latter is now called "flipping."

To start your car flipping business, you'll need to buy a car. But where?

If you're like most people with an interest in vintage cars, you have at some point been walking around a classic car show. Car shows have fastidious owners, lots of accessories stands, and in my opinion, a lot of BS you don't need to know to start your new business. At the car show, the proud owner stands next to his gleaming car. He tells you the life story not just of his car but also the model and perhaps the history of the entire company which made the car. What you won't get from him is a good price on a car, so smile politely and look at your watch. Go and buy a hot dog and make your way to the exit so you can begin your own search for a bargain classic car, one you can buy and sell for a profit.

Today I want to tell you where you will find bargains so you can begin earning from this potentially lucrative business.

You make your money when you buy,

not when you sell.

Barn Finds

You will undoubtedly have heard or seen television programs about barn finds. These are cars which have been left for years in a barn, only being seen by the farmer and a few domestic animals. The cars are covered in a thick layer of dust but they have been kept dry—which is important, as humid and wet conditions are a classic car's worst enemies.

When we had a container of our barn finds shipped back to the UK, nothing had been done to them except to tow them to the docks. They were "as is," dust and all. This posed problems getting the container out of customs once it had arrived in the UK, because it first needed to be fumigated for black widow spiders, and I'm sure other insects copped it as well.

That said, cars that have been stored in a barn are in better condition than those that have been used or been left in a field eventually rotting away. The problem is sourcing them. Unless you know someone who knows the farmer you may never know their whereabouts. This is where communications skills come in handy. Those who like the latest words can use the term "networking"; I'll call it talking, or getting out there and meeting people.

Barn Find Classic Cars
Barn Find Classic Cars | Source
Classic Car Business Cards
Classic Car Business Cards | Source

Networking or Talking to People

When you speak to people tell them you buy classic cars. People love to tell stories of cars they've had or people they know who have them. Listen intently, as people talk and inquire about people they know who have classics. If necessary, pay them a finder's fee if the introduction results in you purchasing the car. It is likely they may know others and if they are happy with receiving a percentage for the introduction, it's a win-win situation.

If you're a casual dresser, then opt for t-shirts with images of classic cars, it is an ice-breaker. Follow this up with a business card.

One of our barn finds was a result of striking up a conversation with a man at an antique store.

Garages and Driveways

Men are stubborn about their classic cars. There, I've said it, and let me tell you how you can use this to your advantage. Men will buy a classic car and park it in their garage, much to the chagrin of their wives. The husband doesn't seem to notice that she now needs to scrape ice from her own car's windshield, and soak her new hairdo when she runs from her car to the house in the rain.

As a classic car dealer, this is good news for you because if the husband seems to have abandoned the project car, his wife will do everything she can to get that car sold. If you show up and are interested, you will not only likely have a sale, you'll have a bargain! If left to their own devices, men will honestly believe that they will get around to restoring it. But his wife doesn't believe this, and wants her parking spot back in the garage.

To find these hidden treasures lurking in your neighbours' garages, get in your car and go for a drive on the weekend.

Let me tell you a little story. One Saturday, my husband and I loaded up the kids for a leisurely drive around. This is something we did often to source our cars. Saturday is the best day, as the garage doors are open when people are doing yard work and washing their cars. As we drove by one garage, we caught sight of a chrome headlight sticking out of a tarp. It had the potential to be our next bargain.

My husband got out and started chatting with the man who was 20 years his senior. The man showed him the car and after a few minutes said, "I have a few more in the back yard if you want to see them." On the acre behind his house, he had several classic cars Over the years he bought them and parked them in his garden amongst his tomato and cucumber plants. He had a love of the classics but no idea what he planned to do with them.

Advertise to Buy Classics

Place "classic car wanted" advertisements in local papers. People with classic and vintage cars frequently check the "for sale" section just to see what their car is worth. These ads will reach an audience who are local to you. If your ad is well written and you offer a valuation service (free or otherwise), you're likely to get calls. Although some of these callers won't be ready to sell, many will be.

Scrap Yards and Car Repair Garages

You may be shaking your head thinking neither of these places is suitable. The owners of these businesses could have parked desirable cars on the side thinking one day they may do something with them.

Sometimes, it only takes the simple question, “Have you ever thought about selling it?” People are pressured for time as never before and want people who can solve problems for them. You can be that problem solver.

Use Google Maps

Now you don't even have to leave your sofa in order to find vintage cars in fields, or in people's back yards; you simply need to use Google Maps. Although the map might not be current, some cars have been there for years. It's true that if they have been left outdoors they will have deteriorated, even in dry climates, but they are still worth pursuing.

If you think you won't be able to tell what a vehicle is by looking at an aerial map, stop for a moment and think about this. Could you tell a classic VW Beetle by its shape? What about a Corvette?

Use a Drone to Find Classic Cars in Fields

Back when we were first buying and selling cars, our options to see aerially were confined to hiring a helicopter. Although we considered doing this, it was costly without knowing how many, if any, we'd find. Now your options are much better. Consider using a drone. Check the regulations in your city, state, or country for using a drone.

The advantage of a drone is you can discreetly fly over an area you might not be able to see when travelling in your car. For example, someone's backyard, or in a farmer's field. Although a field may look overgrown with weeds or a mixture of weeds and crops, you could see the tops of classic cars.

DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter Drone Kit with Remote, 3 Batteries, 16GB MicroSD, Charging Hub, Car Charger, Power Bank Adapter, Shoulder Bag
DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter Drone Kit with Remote, 3 Batteries, 16GB MicroSD, Charging Hub, Car Charger, Power Bank Adapter, Shoulder Bag

Oh, how I wish this had been available 20 years ago.

I have seen the quality of the images this produces and it's fantastic. My friend of 40 years has her license to fly and has been using this in both Texas and California.

With a flying time of 27 minutes, you could get the information you need to analyze if a classic car is on someone's land.

Although this drone is pricier than others, the quality of construction is much better. Even if you score just one classic car using this, it will have paid for itself. If you aren't aware of DJI Mavic drones, of the top 10 rated drones, their products hold the top 5 positions.

 

I hope these examples give you the confidence to begin buying and selling classic cars. Whether you choose to do this as a hobby or as a full-time profession, you'll develop skill in identifying not just the areas to locate the classic autos but also their monetary value, scarcity and potential profit you could be making.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      You are a fascinating human being. You've done quite a bit in your life, haven't you, and it all seems to be interesting. Thanks for sharing your insights....great read, Mary!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

      The classic car business was an interesting part of my life. We met some interesting people from all walks of life who all shared a love of cars.

      It has also given me a good grounding of what is important in relation to cars. I don't need to drive the latest models and am not impressed by people who flaunt their cars.

      Thanks for reading .

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