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Buying For Parts: Salvaging A Classic Car

One of the most challenging things about owning a classic is that even if you can identify a problem, you have a valid classic car insurance claim and you know exactly what you need to do to fix it, sometimes you just won’t be able to get the parts to repair your car.

This is a risk that every classic car owner knows and really hopes to avoid, but what it does mean is that when classic parts do come up for sale, they can come with a high premium.

Class C Write-Offs
Most commonly, a car will be sold for parts when it is considered to be written off. Though most people associate that term with a big accident, a write-off for insurance purposes can simply be when the cost of repair is greater than the book value of the car.

In some cases, usually called Class ‘C’ write offs, this can mean that a good condition, but not quite working classic is sold off for a lot less than it might be otherwise. If you know what you’re looking for, this can be a great way to salvage parts which, in turn, can be used for your own projects or sold on.

Ensuring Good Condition
One thing to watch out for if you’re considering a Class C write off or just a private sale of an off-the-road classic is condition. A part is only as useful as its lifespan and though a 1969 clutch might be period, it might well have seen 60,000 miles, meaning its almost certainly coming to the end of its life.

An assessment of the vehicle where the parts came from should give you a good indication of their quality; check out the service history and ask the owner for any information they might have. What’s important is that you keep the details; second-hand buyers will want to know the age and condition of any parts they buy.

Scrap Value vs Sale Value
One of the toughest aspects of salvaging a car is knowing what should go into scrap and what is worth cleaning up, keeping and using again. If parts are reasonably universal (such as an exhaust intake), good quality and will fit on a variety of projects, there will usually be good demand for them and, if nothing else, posting an advert for a few weeks is a good idea.

On the other hand, damaged, well used or very niche parts don’t often have much resale value and they could be worth plenty more in the scrapyard. Again, there’s no harm in doing your market research to ensure you don’t send a set of valuable alloys to the scrapyard, but you should balance the cost of your time against the potential proceeds. For all of us, there’s a point where it just stops becoming worth it...

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