1978 Chevrolet Silverado

A friend of mine and I were discussing the building of my dream truck. A 1978 Chevrolet Silverado, 1/2 ton, short bed, fully restored and wildly customized.

He told me that was all well and good but it would cost me a fortune to have all the work done that I wanted. When I told him I expected the modifications to cost less than $10,000 when the actual truck only cost around $3,000 his jaw hit the floor and he asked why everyone didn’t do that, considering a brand new Chevrolet Silverado is tipping the scales at $35,000 bone stock?

I told him most people don’t have the expertise, time or care to fix up older vehicles.

If you can dream it up, you can probably afford it

Read on to learn how you can purchase an older vehicle, customize it to your heart’s content while saving thousands of dollars compared to purchasing a new vehicle. You could have a one-of-a-kind vehicle for half the cost of a brand new truck or car, which all look the same.

Older Vehicles Cost Less

When starting with an older vehicle platform you drastically cut costs. To begin, the cost of the actual vehicle is much less expensive than anything new. Anyone could purchase an old pickup any day of the week for around $800 to $2,000 depending on what shape it’s in. This rule is broken when you start trying to buy anything made before 1960 and any highly coveted styles, like old Camaros or Mustangs. However, most people have less expensive tastes.

Start by knowing what you want. I’m looking for a Cherolet Silverado 1/2 ton made between 1973 and 1978 that has a short bed. Figure out your dream vehicle platform. If you desire a 1968 Camaro SS or a 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee, those are options, but just the naked body of one can cost several thousand dollars. Still, that is less expensive than a new Camaro or Charger.

After you have figured out what you want, start looking. Ebay Motors has a lot of listings. Your local paper is a good resource. You can also call used car dealers and request they keep an eye out for your dream car. MidMoBile.com is a great resource for mid-Missouri shoppers.

Haggle when you find what you want. You are probably now dealing with an individual or a small used car lot. You are not dealing with a big car dealership salesperson. These people have a lot more at stake and decision making power about the final cost of the vehicle you want. Do not take the first price.

Ownership Costs are Lower

When you purchase that brand new car off the lot, you pickup a $300+ payment each month. Just like every other kind of financing, you are not just paying off your new car or truck, you are also paying interest. On a $20,000 loan with 5.25% interest over 60 months you will pay an additional $2,800 in interest. On a $30,000 loan same interest, same term, you will pay an additional $4,207.

Do not get a loan to buy an old vehicle. Purchasing an older vehicle should cost no more than a few thousand dollars depending on the year, make and model you want. Save up and pay cash for a car or truck, pay no interest, and you can use that interest you would have been paying to customize your ride. More importantly, no matter what happens that vehicle is paid for. Get laid off? Have a huge medical bill come due? You will not lose your vehicle to creditors when you don’t owe anything on it. It is a great feeling to completely own something.

The Buyers Thrill Wears off Fast

When you buy a new car or truck it’s great to show it off for a few months, but the newness wears off and the payments settle in for the long haul. When working on an older vehicle you are customizing, things are constantly changing and being updated. Every time you change or add something it is like a brand new toy. People will always want to know what you are doing with your car or truck, what is next, and what you have done so far.

You could get years of enjoyment and conversation out of this one project. Not to mention, when you finish you will have a completely customized vehicle that is completely yours. You will never see another one like it driving around to steal your thunder. No matter how “limited edition” a new vehicle claims to be, nothing can match your own customization, and there is at least one more, more likely ten thousand more, “limited editions” driving around. Not so with the custom vehicle you built.

Insurance Options for Older Customized Vehicles

When you buy a brand new vehicle you don’t have the option to get insurance. You are required to purchase a full coverage insurance policy, which will normally cost $100 to $200 per month depending on your driving record and history. With older vehicles you can get away with a liability only policy until you start putting some money into it, which take some time. A liability only policy for a single person might only be $30 to $50 a month. The extra money you save can go into customizing your car or truck.

You will not want liability only on your custom vehicle after putting some work, time and money into it. Tabulate what you have spent to build the vehicle to the point it is at, then take out a defined insurance policy for that amount. This should be far cheaper than any other policy you purchase. As you put more money into the vehicle, raise the payout amount.

Another option is historic vehicle insurance. This is dirt cheap because it is based on the idea that you do not drive the vehicle very often. But the insurance agencies normally do not check the miles you drive. If they ask you for odometer readings upon sign up, look for another carrier. The car or truck must also be a certain age. This changes depending on the insurance company.

1987 Chevrolet Silverado

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This turned out to be a lot longer article than I anticipated. If this is something that interests you please come back soon as I hope to begin telling you how to start that custom vehicle of your own!

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Always think about the total cost of ownership with any vehicle. Lifehacker.com posted a great article to help you do just that.