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Getting started in classics – Part 4 – So you’ve bought a classic car, what now?

15 July 2023

In our 4-part series we have already done our research, considered which classic is the best for our lifestyle, hovered around for-sale ads for weeks and even test driven a few classics. Now, we have decided to buy the best one. Now it’s in your garage. So, what comes next?

Hopefully, you’ve read our previous installments about buying your classic, so you’ll likely have the keys to a great car already! Check back on previous guides here: .

There are things about any old car that will only show up under extended use, usually after you’ve been separated from your cash! Hopefully all’s well and it’ll only be the odd trifling matter, but if it’s not and you think the seller was being dishonest, you’ve got plenty of recourse to go back to them, but don’t leave it too long…

If you decided to buy your classic from a dealer then you’ve got the most protection in the event of discovering an undisclosed fault under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You have the right to reject any car that isn’t; ‘fit for purpose’, ‘as described’ or of ‘satisfactory quality’ considering the age and mileage. If you bought the car privately, the onus is on you to ensure it’s ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘of a satisfactory quality’, which is why it’s so important to check thoroughly. All a private seller has to ensure is that they’re legally in a position to sell the car and it must match his/her description and be roadworthy, unless otherwise stated.

Auction cars are the riskiest of all, from a legal standpoint, as they’re often sold ‘as seen’ but it’s worth checking the auction houses’ terms and conditions, as this doesn’t always apply. Much of the same advice above goes for online auctions, but it differs depending on whether you’re buying from a private seller or a dealer. The latter means you’re still covered under the Sale of Goods Act, if you discover a fault that wasn’t described or if the car isn’t of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

Assuming none of the nasties above apply and you’re delighted with your new purchase, there’s still a lot you need to do before enjoying some summertime classic driving. For example, the moment you sign the V5C you’re legally obliged to tax the car, even if it’s exempt. That’s right, you still have to tell the DVLA you’re ‘taxing’ an exempt car every year.

Going online is the easiest way to do this at but you can also do it the old-fashioned way at an applicable post office. If you’re doing the latter, or registering the vehicle for historic tax, make sure you bring the following documents; log book (V5C) in your name, vehicle tax reminder letter (V11) if you have one, if not, you’ll need to fill out form V10, a valid MoT certificate or evidence the vehicle is exempt (form V112 or V112G for more info) and finally, if you live in Northern Ireland, an insurance certificate or cover note. You’ll then still have to go through the usual road-tax procedure, but you’re presented with a nice £0 charge at the end. It’s important to do this right away as failure to do so can mean you’ll fall foul of the law.

Speaking of MoTs, if your new purchase is in the ‘historic’ class already (made or first registered more than 40 years ago) then it’s exempt from these too. But hang on, it’s not as simple as just never seeing the inside of a test station again. We’d highly recommend continuing to have your car tested annually, even if you technically don’t have to. A vehicle’s roadworthy condition is the legal responsibility of its owner and even the most fastidious of home mechanics can still miss things. Having the eyes of a professional under your car every 12 months is vitally important to your safety and that of other road users. It’s also great legal backup, should the worst happen, after an accident. Many garages are happy to offer an MoT-type inspection for classic owners, they’re losing out on business otherwise.

The MoT exemption does come with another criteria, other than the age of the vehicle. The car must not have received ‘substantial changes’ from its factory specification in the past 30 years. If you’re unsure what that means (understandable), it basically means major modifications or replacements to the car’s powertrain or chassis. For full information of what changes are deemed ‘substantial’ visit

Last, but by no means least, is setting up a classic car insurance policy. This is of course where we can help you at Peter James Insurance. There really are a myriad of benefits to choosing a tailor-made classic car policy like ours. Aside from covering the true cost of your classic car, via an agreed valuation, we have put in place a selection of very handy policy bolt-ons. All our classic car and motorcycle policies also include breakdown cover that gives you peace of mind at home and abroad.

Top tip: We recommend joining an owners’ club. We have a selection of partner clubs to whom we offer tailored insurance cover for members that is fine-tuned to ensure the individual needs of the marque are met. We also offer a discount on the premium to club members as well. Speak to us about what additional features you would like with included in your cover and see our full offering here:

Now all the paperwork is out of the way, you can enjoy the fantastic social side of old-car ownership by attending a classic car show. These come in all forms, from a social meet in the local pub car park, to tens of thousands of people at major events like the Goodwood Revival, Silverstone Festival or NEC Classic Motor Show. What all these events have in common is an appreciation of all things old and on two or four wheels. You’ll likely find plenty of people who share your passion, and their eyes probably won’t glaze over when you start talking about the relative merits of carburettors versus fuel-injection or electronic ignition systems over traditional points. Also, don’t forget to drop by the Peter James Insurance marquee and have a chat as well! We are at most of the big events.

It’s a bit of a fallacy that old cars are unreliable, they’re often more reliable than many less cared for modern machines, but having said this, there’s always going to be age-related wear and tear to deal with. That’s why the know-how from a relevant car club is vital. They have experts who have experienced all the issues you’re likely to encounter with your chosen classic and will be able to supply you with parts and information to put it right. If you don’t know one end of a spanner from the other, or have no intention of finding out, it’s a good idea to find a classic-friendly garage. The owners’ club can help you out here too, it’s well worth the annual subscription for access to this knowledge, let alone all the additional benefits such as magazines and social meets.

Top Tip: As you build your collection of parts and tools, you will inevitably end up with a garage full of rather valuable items. Speak to us about insurance cover for spares, tools and storage equipment.

If you’ve got this far, and followed all our advice, then chances are good that you’ll have a great car you can enjoy for many years to come. The classic car world really is a welcoming one and buying your dream machine is just the beginning of the adventure. Enjoy!

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