The cost of being an antique car owner
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Most people use cars to get from point A to B, but for some people, automobiles aren’t just transportation, they’re a collector’s item.
For serious car collectors, buying and fixing up old cars isn’t just a hobby - it’s a lifestyle. We talked to two antique car owners about their passion for buying and fixing up cars and the cost of their unusual hobby.
Carlos Pomares is a 48-year-old antique car collector in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He is the founder and president of the Bloomfield Cruisers, a local group of car collectors and motorcyclists.
“It’s evolved into a way of life,” Pomares said. “It started it as a fun hobby. In college I always liked them, and once I had finished all my schooling and transitioned into adulthood, I got my first car. It marked a turning point in my life.”
Pomares has been collecting cars for the past 20 years. He owns a dozen cars, a collection he calls “eclectic.” His favorite cars include a 1972 orange Corvette, a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle and a checkered taxi from the '80s. Pomares keeps a couple of his cars in his four-car garage and the rest on a separate property. He owns his own lift to do car repairs.
John Susan, a 72-year-old car collector from Quartz Hill, California, has 14 cars. He drives his primary car, a 1930 Ford Model A, down to the Grand Canyon each year to attend car shows.
“I got into my first Model A in college, and I got hooked,” he said. “I bought my first car, and I’ve kept it ever since.”
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“There’s how much I tell my wife I spend, and how much I actually spend,” said Pomares. “That’s the old joke.”
How much a collector spends on their cars depends on how many they have and the condition the cars are in. Pomares does most of the repair work himself, except for paint jobs. The annual cost of maintaining a collection varies each year.
“I probably spend, not including buying new cars, $5,000 a year or more,” he said. “There are years when I have some extra restoration costs so there will be a spike. Some years I spent $15,000, some years I coast.”
Susan on the other hand only spends around $1,500 per year on gas and oil. He keeps many spare parts on him when he takes longer drives, so he doesn’t have to pay for specialized parts to be shipped.
Novice car collectors looking to keep their costs down should avoid buying a car that needs restoration. Pomares said you could wind up paying double for restoration what you paid originally for the car.
On top of his annual costs, Pomares pays a couple hundred dollars per year on car insurance for his cars.
Classic and collector cars require special car insurance. It can be less expensive than regular insurance if the cars aren’t regularly driven.
Learn more about classic car and collector’s car insurance.
Car collecting goes beyond buying and owning cars. It’s a community.
Check out our guide to buying a car.
Susan describes meeting a German father and son duo at a repair shop who helped him fix up his Ford Model A. They didn’t know English and Susan didn’t know German, but they were still able to communicate the language of mechanics. They spent 16 hours in silence, passing tools to one another.
“I enjoy working on the vehicles and finding the parts, but for me, it’s about meeting the people,” he said. “The people are the most interesting part of it all.”
There’s a stigma that car collecting is “an old man’s game,” said Pomares. But that’s changing. The Bloomfield Cruisers is considered a family-oriented club that hosts events throughout the year to benefit the local community. The club hosts a car show each year with over 100 cars.
“I used to think my favorite part was owning the cars,” he said. “That’s about 50% of it. The other part is the people you meet. That cars are on one side and the humanity is the other.”
While collectors have their own reason for participating in the hobby, Pomares said there’s something in car collecting for everyone.
“For some people it’s about owning a car they’ve had forever, for others it’s about recapturing their youth. For me, it’s a little bit of both,” he said. “I love collecting cars with interesting stories.”
Image: Nastia Kobzarenko
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