How Often Should You Drive a Classic Car?

Two red cars winding around a curve.

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The classic car market is hot, increasing from $30.9 billion in 2020 to $43.4 billion in 2024. Vintage automobiles typically attract high-end buyers and car enthusiasts who flock to auctions and online marketplaces in search of the perfect addition to their collections.

Yet, owning a classic car comes at a steep price. According to the 2021 Special Equipment Market Association’s (SEMA) “Classic Cars, Modern Markets” report, 35% of classic car owners invest between $3,000 and $9,999 on repairs and unique parts. Meanwhile, 40% spend less than $3,000 on their vehicles, while 25% spend more than $10,000.

While many classic car owners choose to preserve their vehicles in storage, taking them out for an occasional spin will ensure it operates smoothly, saving you money on more maintenance.

To Drive or Not to Drive

Ideally, you’ll want to take your classic car for a spin once a month, if not more frequently. However, driving around the block won’t suffice if you wish for your classic car to remain in reliable condition.

A drive down countryside roads or city boulevards lets the vehicle warm up properly and get its gears moving. Of course, while there isn’t a standard minimum requirement for how often you should drive a classic car, not revving the engine regularly carries consequences.

Preserving a classic car in storage is only good until you let it sit for too long. For example, certain materials might deteriorate, essential fluids may leak, and your car might become host to various insects or rodents.

Most classic car insurance policies limit the distance you’re allowed to drive a classic car anyway – meaning you’re not expected to take it on long road trips or make it your primary vehicle.

Yellow car speeding down the highway.

4 Tips for Maintaining a Classic Car

Regardless of make, model, or year, owning a classic car is quite the responsibility. Classic cars are just that – classic – so keeping them running takes a little more effort than it might for newly manufactured vehicles. Nevertheless, these four tips can help you make the most of your automotive investment.

1. Purchase a Battery Tender

It’d be a bummer if you wanted to take your 1953 Chevrolet Corvette convertible out on a sunny day only to find it won’t start. When your classic car sits in storage most of the time, you risk a dead battery.

Although the same situation can occur in new cars, classic vehicles come with old wiring and technology that cause the battery to lose its juice.

Classic car owners should invest in a battery tender, which measures the battery voltage and charges it if it’s too low. Since battery tenders turn off by themselves once the vehicle is fully charged, you can leave it hooked up to your classic car at all times.

2. Protect It From the Elements

Avoid storing your classic car on the driveway or the street if possible. Aside from enticing thieves, weather can cause significant damage. For example, rain can rust the exterior of your car, while constant sunlight might bleach the interior fabrics.

It’s best to store the vehicle in a carport or climate-controlled garage for ultimate protection. Remember to check if your garage door is sufficient to safeguard your car – particularly during colder months. Moisture from snow and rain might cause a metal garage door to freeze shut and rust, letting cold air in and having a similar effect on your prized collectible.

3. Look for Rust and Corrosion

Rust and corrosion are common and serious problems in classic cars, particularly since finding replacements for older parts is challenging and costly if they require fabrication.

Rust can affect any part of your car’s metal materials exposed to air – but steel thickness, chemical composition, and the environment might determine the effects.

While surface rust is usually fixable, rust that penetrates the surface might form holes in the exterior that render the vehicle dangerous to drive. If rust is suddenly visible, flakes, or flexes wherever the car bears weight, it’s probably best to bring it to a mechanic for repairs.

4. Change the Oil Regularly

Today’s automotive technology allows drivers to travel long distances without damaging the engine. The average modern vehicle can go between 7,500 and 10,000 miles before needing an oil change. This wasn’t the case when classic cars hit the market.

Instead, experts recommend changing the motor oil every 3,000 miles or once yearly, mainly since classic cars aren’t driven as frequently as today’s cars.

If you intend to stow your collector vehicle for a while, change the oil beforehand. In addition to oil breaking down regardless of whether you drive the car, used oil contains harmful byproducts that can damage the vehicle.

Enjoy Your Piece of History

Owning a classic car is exciting, especially knowing that you’re one of a few people fortunate enough to care for a sliver of automotive history. Just remember that even vintage cars were made to be driven, so enjoy taking your collectible out for an occasional spin.

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