Can I Still Afford This Hobby?

Feel like restoration and routine maintenance are pricing you right out of the hobby? The Historic Vehicle Association feels your pain. Check out these tips to make your garage dollars go just a little bit further.

In last month’s issue of the HVA eNews, many members took the time to comment on an article that examined the growing trend of vehicle preservation.  In the piece, entitled To Restore or Not to Restore, the floundering economy was cited as one possible reason to explain why more people than ever are leaving vehicles in a “rough original” state rather than going to the expense of totally restoring them.

Everybody Does It

It can be hard to justify all the money spent on something that most folks consider a hobby. One of the facts revealed in an economic impact study commissioned by the Historic Vehicle Association in 2010 found that people spent an average of $8,770 every year on general vehicle costs related to restoration, repair, parts, and maintenance. Historic vehicle enthusiasts spend an average of $2,734 annually at professional auto shops—not surprising when you consider that the average hourly rate for a professional restorer is around 75 dollars.

A good rule of thumb, so say the experts, is to figure that a full vehicle restoration job will take around 1,000 hours. Since the average collector car value is less than $30,000, naturally one has to consider if it’s worth paying a professional $75,000 to restore one.

While frame-off restorations have been the popular movement for the last 50 years, the mindset that this is the only option is becoming somewhat a thing of the past. There are many reasons for “survivor” vehicles gaining popularity—from their increasing rarity to the stories they tell—but here we explore some ways you can make restoring a vehicle a little more pocketbook-friendly.

Keep It Real

Think about what it will take for you to feel you can enjoy the car. For some people, that may mean a frame-off restoration. But for others, it’s using all the original parts you can and calling it good when you have a reliable driver. Once you have that picture in mind, plan accordingly.

Do Your Research

As part of your project plan (every restoration job should have one), take the time to meticulously research every facet of the vehicle you hope to restore. It’ll pay off in savings later. Use the internet to connect with people who have undertaken similar projects and find out everything you can about their experience—from leads on parts, or even a parts car, to tips and tricks to solve problems unique to your preferred make and model.

Join a Club

Consider it as essential as doing your research. Restoring a vehicle is a monumental task; you’re going to have questions along the way. If you join a club and make some friends, answers and money-saving advice are generally free and just a phone call away. Clubs are also great places to get some hands-on help. Clubs offer resources such a parts and service directories and online discussion boards where you can even trade or barter with other members to get a specific job done.

Consider the Possibilities

It’s pretty incredible what you can find on eBay and in the classifieds, so resist the siren’s song of parts catalogs. Anyone can pick up the phone and order parts that they need from a catalog, but this may not be the best way to get the job done. Sometimes there’s no other way and it makes sense; just don’t get caught up in the ease of using a catalog. Repairing rather than replacing can be a better choice not only for originality’s sake, but also for your wallet.

Take Your Time

Rome was not built in a day and neither will your vehicle be restored. Vehicle restorations are not normally a quick or easy process, especially if you are doing a majority of the work yourself. Remember to keep a fluid “timeline for completion” and, if you run into a roadblock, take a step back and regroup. Hasty decisions just to get the job done can be costly, so be patient, anticipate setbacks, and stay focused on completing one facet of the project at a time.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to save some dough on your old vehicle? Log your comments below or over at the HVA’s Facebook page, then look in a future issue of the HVA eNews for a “top 10 list” of the best reader tips and responses.