How to Flip Classic Cars

by Laure Justice

Buying a classic car for a reasonable price to fix it up and sell it for a profit is a way you can indulge your passion for vintage rides while making money. This is called flipping a car, and your profits or losses when doing so are usually directly linked to the knowledge and research you put into each transaction.


The keys to making a profit when flipping a classic car are knowing a car's value, accurately assessing the repair costs involved and understanding the market.

Buy a Classic Car to Flip

To make a profit when buying and selling a classic car, start by buying the car for the right price. Unless you already know all of the details about the market value of the car, you'll need to do some research.

Determine the Car's Value

  • Check an online price guide by visiting car sales websites to see how much the type of car you're looking at is selling for online or by checking with the loan officer at your bank to determine a car's basic value. 
  • A car's condition and level of customization affect its value.  
  • The basic value of the vehicle is only one small piece of the data you need to know before buying the car if you want to make a profit. 

Research the Car's Popularity

  • Some cars are simply more popular than others, and the popular models typically sell faster and for higher prices than less-popular models. 
  • Don't avoid less-popular or rare models, because niche markets exist where less-popular cars stand out. 
  • Knowing your market lets you seek information from groups and  clubs where enthusiasts for each particular car congregate. 
  • Specialty groups also provide a ready-made set of potential buyers when you are ready to part with the car. 

Check the Condition

  • Add information about the car's condition to your research, because the work you have to put into the car affects your ability to make a profit. 
  • Does it need everything fixed or does it just need a good cleaning to get it ready to sell? 
  • Assess the car's value in restored or original condition in comparison to its value with different levels of customization.
  • Markets exist for both customized and original classic cars, so there is no right or wrong choice; just be aware of the costs and advantages of fixing the car one way or the other. 
  • For example, if the interior is damaged, you could get an interior installed using original equipment manufacturer parts that would please an automotive purist, or you could have an interior designed from a less expensive fabric that appeals to a customization enthusiast. 

Check the Price of Similar Cars

  • This is where your research gets local. Pick up a newspaper or search the Internet to determine how much similar cars are selling for in your area. 
  • Note if the cars selling in your area are going for higher prices in original condition or customized. 
  • This gives you the information you can use when deciding if you want to restore and resell the car or if you should customize it to make more profit.

Repair or Clean the Car

Assess what you need to do to the car to get it in top condition so that you can make a profit. If you find a car in a barn or storage unit and it starts right up and just needs a good cleaning and polishing, calculate the time it will take you to do the work.

If the car needs other work, however, you need to have an idea about how much repairs will cost if you plan to make a profit when it's time to sell. Each expense cuts into your profits. Assess whether you can do the work yourself or if you need to get an estimate from a mechanic, an upholsterer or a body shop.


Add all the expenses you will have to invest in the car and determine how much it can potentially sell for to calculate if you can make money on the car.

Make the Flip

After you have the car and you've put in the effort to get it ready to sell, prepare for the sale. Decide where and how you want to market the car.

You have several options when selling classic cars such placing ads in print publications or posting them to online classified websites, or print or simply stick a sign in the vehicle's window and wait for the right buyer to find you while you are enjoying driving the car.

  • If you decide to list the car online, take a lot of pictures from every angle, and ensure that the images are clear. 
  • No matter where you list the car for sale, itemize and highlight the car's features. 

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