Finding non-crash parts for a classic or vintage car can be an exciting challenge, and there might have been times when you’ve wondered where to buy the classic car parts you need. You may be able to find some parts online, but it requires some research to help ensure you’re getting the part you need for your investment.
Classic car swap meets are great places to look for parts you need, or accessories you want, while at the same time possibly connecting with knowledgeable experts. Meets are something of a treasure hunt. Unlike a retail store, a cars and parts swap meet typically has tables, boxes and bins of parts that, depending upon the seller, will be in varying levels of organization. Although you may go there searching for one part, you never know what else you might decide to buy.
Get ready with these tips to help navigate the ins and outs of a classic car swap meet.
What to know if you go
If you’re new to classic car swap meets, here are several tips for making the most of your experience.
Put your list in writing
Part numbers, photos or even drawings can be useful in the buying process; in an ocean of parts, certain items can look similar. Write down as much information as you can to ensure you get the part(s) you need. Having a good idea of what your part looks like makes it easier to spot. This also makes it easier to ask the seller or another car buff about whether it's the right component or not.
Although some sellers may accept credit card payments, most still prefer cash, so it’s best if you take plenty of it along. It’s better to have extra cash in your pocket than to end up not being able to get a certain part you want.
Give it some time
Swap meets aren’t always a quick in-and-out event. Be prepared to walk around to search for your parts and speak with the vendors. Look for clean parts that are priced reasonably. While some tables may be neatly arranged, other vendors may have heaps of parts in a box or bin. A thorough search may yield some great finds, although it'll take more time than you'd spend at an auto parts store.
Take the right tools
In addition to your existing notes, bring paper and a pen to make notes on items that you’re interested in but aren’t ready to buy. That way, you’ll remember which table or stall you need to return to. A measuring tape can help ensure the part is the correct size, and a pair of work gloves is good to take along for handling dirty parts or sorting through bins and boxes.
Think about what you’ll do with the parts you buy
Do you need a box or backpack to transport them? If you’re buying a large part or plan to make multiple purchases, think about how you’re going to tote them around the swap meet. You might consider taking a folding wagon or cart to make it easier. You may also need to arrange transportation to get larger parts home, such as shipping an engine. Swap meet vendors may not ship larger or heavier items. Contact a freight company before attending the meet if you anticipate purchasing fenders, door panels, an engine or another big or uniquely shaped part. Verify whether the shipping company can pack the items for you or if you'll need to pack them up before the company retrieves them.
Look for original equipment manufacturer parts
OEM parts are made by the car's original manufacturer, not a third-party company. These parts usually fit a car perfectly because they're made to suit its exact specifications and dimensions. Alternative or aftermarket parts, which are made by third-party companies, may not have this precise fit — although they're usually similar in quality level to OEM items. Ask the vendor if there are warranties on the parts you're interested in. And, if you choose OEM parts, remember to ask your insurer about a policy that covers the higher prices of these components once they're installed in your vehicle.
Ready, set, buy
Now that you’re fully prepared, the only thing left is going to the swap meet. Arriving early means you’ll have the best selection, but going later in the day or as the event nears closing time could mean that vendors are more willing to come down on their prices.
Finally, consider taking someone with you. Having a friend and fellow auto enthusiast along can help make the day even more enjoyable, and it also provides you with an extra set of eyes to help in your search.
Once you have your classic car together, you'll want to protect your investment with insurance. Contact Nationwide for more information.