The costs of restoring a classic car

Are you doing it for the money or the love of the machine?

There’s little doubt that the proliferation of car restoration TV shows have inspired some people to have a classic car of their own.

But let’s get something straight. The idea that someone can take their rundown classic into a workshop and get it back three or four weeks later in pristine condition is no more than entertaining, made-for-TV nonsense. 

For the average car enthusiast, the reality is that restorations take time and are rarely, if ever, completed in one session or by one shop. For most, such undertakings are limited by the availability of the usual resources – time and, most of all, money.

So, let’s consider the reality of restoring a classic car.

As a financial proposition, car restorations usually don’t stack up. For those who can do much of the work themselves, the value proposition gets a bit better, but these people are the exception rather than the rule. Even highly-competent enthusiasts will at some point need to engage others with specialist skills. And that comes at a significant cost.

Dreams of restoring a car and then selling it for a big profit are just that. Again, making a profit will be the exception rather than the rule and, for most, just breaking even would be a good, but rarely achievable outcome. The fact is that in almost every case the costs will far exceed the restored value of the vehicle.

At this point, you may be wondering why people would engage in such a costly hobby. Yet car restoration and all its associated industries are a significant business and a pastime for a huge number of Australians. Quite simply, for some, cars are a passion and a lifestyle – the money is a secondary issue. And while it’s impossible to put a value on learning a new skill, or the personal satisfaction that comes from resurrecting something that was long ago consigned to the scrap heap, these things can’t be ignored.   

If you have to think about it, or you’re looking at it from a purely economic perspective, a classic car restoration probably isn’t for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream car. Buying one that has already been restored may not provide the same level of personal satisfaction, but it can be much more affordable. In effect, someone else’s loss could be your gain.    

Before:

Classic car before resto

After:

Classic Car after resto