Asking if a classic car is a viable first car is much the same as asking someone if they like the colour blue; some will, and some won’t. It’s not so much whether a classic car is suitable for a new driver, more so if the person driving it is right for the vehicle.
Going through the pros and cons of classic vehicle ownership, you see an entirely different battle take place inside of someone from that of buying a normal, modern car. A modern car, especially in these delicate eco-focused, economy driven times, is weighted up and decided very much by our heads.
Are we going to be able to afford to run it? How much will it depreciate? How much fuel is going to guzzle? And how much damage is it going to do to the environment? Questions that have been around for years, but only within the past 5 have we really taken them to a conscious level when buying a car.
Classic cars were built around a person’s heart; someone’s idea; their inspiration; they’re ultimate creation in some cases. They were designed to steal your heart. A number still do. VW Campervans, Beetles, Classic Mini’s to name but a few who still have a cult following around a mode of transport that was ultimately designed for a simple purpose; something it did so well, that they have become icons.
The argument for a classic car as a first car does have some advantages. You can pick up certain ‘classic’ cars for very reasonable prices. They are far simpler too, which means they are cheaper to fix (lower costs are always a new drivers necessity) and inspire a new driver to really learn how a car works and therefore respect it.
You could even learn to fix it yourself; a skill lost on most these days and further reducing the cost of ownership.
In the grand scheme of things, they are economical too, especially when you counter in how much energy and natural resources are needed to build new cars.
In fact, classic cars can still return good mpg figures; after running two cars from two different decades at the same time, a 2.0 16v Calibra and a 2.2 16v Astra Coupe, the difference in fuel economy was marginal. Due to less weight and superior aerodynamics, the Calibra sometimes returned a better overall mpg figure.
Insurance premiums for classic cars are far cheaper too, especially if you limit your mileage. Factor this in with higher resale values, less depreciation (or in some cases a rise in value), the unique qualities period cars have and the simple fact that they are far more fun and it seems ideal for a new driver to drive a classic car. Or does it?
Getting a good quality classic car can be expensive. Split screen Campers easily fetch 5 figures, not to mention to added care and attention they require. Parts will be harder to come by too, and the dreaded rust that anyone from the previous generation will be able to tell you about is something not to be overlooked; it’s probably what our parents lost their beloved first car to.
They can’t match the ever increasing mpg figures of new cars. Go back 5 years and 30mpg was acceptable; now it’s a minimum requirement by most buyers. Some larger engine classics are completely incapable of this figure, with most being able to achieve this at best. CO2 however is a major problem. One old Volvo 740 emits over 10 times the amount of poisonous gases as a new Volvo.
However, the major problem is that they are fundamentally dangerous. Original Mini’s had no crumple zones. The Land Rover Defender is being replaced as the design of the current model, which has the same dimensions as the original from 40 years ago, is being outlawed due to its poor crash capabilities and increased driver/passenger/pedestrian safety laws.
Laws the old Defender doesn’t just break, but makes a mockery out of.
Recently, Chevrolet conducted a head on crash between a 1950’s Malibu and a 2011 model. The 2011 model would have allowed all the occupants to walk away from the crash relatively unscathed. The 1950’s classic would have killed everyone inside of it, due its poor body structure.
Add in the fact that older cars are easier to steal, the lack any modern convinces or safety features and the cheaper ‘classic car’ insurance is reliant upon the driver and car being a certain age, and this ‘pot of gold’ motoring alternative looks less like a money saving scheme and more a pot of rust.
But none of these downfalls matter to the kind of person who buys a classic car. You don’t buy one of these cars with your head; you buy them with your heart. The fact your head can make a valid argument only makes them all the more appealing.
No modern car, no matter how retro styled, modified or influenced by the icon it is trying to imitate can come close to owning and driving the real thing. These kinds of cars were built by people for the love of the car, not by manufacturers identifying a niche market and trying to exploit it to make money.
Put it to you this way; you don’t go and buy paint for your house by what is cheapest and will last longest, you buy what you really like.
If you’re the kind of person who has white emulsion or cream because its ‘easy’, go and buy a new Honda Jazz or something. If you go and buy purple because you like it, try a classic car.
The fact these cars can make sense to your head is a bonus. But these kind of cars were made with a real soul; you’re heart should be the only thing that guides you. After all, they were born out of love, and carry it with them every mile they cover.