The Price Difference in Restoring vs Buying a Classic Car


20,000! I know what your thinking, why is this large number the first part of the sentence. That number
represents the answer to the question “how many parts does a car have?” 20,000! Of course, that is not
including new models which have upwards of 30,000 but let's use the smaller number for our discussion.
You are thinking of restoring a car, it can be any car you want. I am a Trans Am guy myself so let's use a
1977 Pontiac Trans Am with a 400 cubic inch V8, 4-speed transmission and t-tops. You have the car in
your possession and for argument, sake paid $10,000 and it is a driver but you want it restored for
various reasons, rust or paint or performance problems. You take the car to your local paint shop and
leave the car with them for an estimate to restore your 1977 Trans Am. A few days later they ask you to
stop in to discuss the list they have prepared that will have all the parts and labor needed to complete
your car.

The shop manager greets you and sits you down and offers some light chat to ease you into the
conversation which by now you are understanding is going to sting! He offers to show you the itemized
list he has that covers everything to complete the car, you decide to go right to the bottom as that is
why you are there. $40,000! You catch your breath and wipe the bead of sweat from your brow and
then ask” why?”

The shop manager who is about to perform this complete restoration on your Trans Am without
skipping a beat says “this is the cost of restoring a car and these 8 pages have the pricing for every nut,
bolt, panel, screw and hour of labor it will take to make this car look like it did when it came off the
factory assembly line.

You now understand that restoring a car is time-consuming and expensive. Oh, by the way, it will take 8-
12 months to complete! When the car is complete there is no guarantee that the price they quoted will
be correct. There may be something that comes up that they could not see when the estimate was
written like hidden rust in a quarter panel that was not accounted for or a frame rail that is not strong
enough to support weight or a bent axle that did not appear to be a problem during the road test.
Whatever the case may be prepared to get a call that they will need more money.

The reality is that if you have the means and the car has value either monetary or sentimental you may
decide to have the work done but for most of us we want to get in a car that has been done so we can
enjoy it without the wait. Many people who restore their cars get in over their head and must make a
difficult decision to sell the car and most times for a lot less then what it cost them to do the work,
hence the phrase “my loss is your gain”. If you have never seen how a restoration shop does the work I
highly recommend trying to go to one and asking to see something in progress. It may change the way
you think about buying versus restoring.

Our 122 Point Inspection also covers this click here to learn more about our classic car service.