How Expensive Is Car Restoration as A Hobby? (Four Considerations)

Car restorations can be a rewarding hobby.

The unrivaled automotive appeal of undeniably unique classic cars after restoration has inspired lots of people to try their hand at this hobby.

However, as you would expect, car restoration can be an expensive hobby.

So, How Expensive Is Car Restoration as A Hobby?

Car restoration will cost you both money and time. As a beginner, you should expect to spend a lot of both when restoring a car to its previous glory. According to, a car restoration by a professional shop can cost between $40,000 to $60,000. This does not essentially include the fee of buying the vehicle.

On the other hand, the time to restore a car is estimated to be 1,000 hours for DIYers. The excitement of car restoration can wear off quickly if you don’t have sufficient cash or time to keep the project moving steadily at a steady pace.

Four Factors That Can Determine Car Restoration Expense

Some of the factors that determine how expensive car restoration as a hobby include;

1. The Car Models

Most car enthusiasts already visualize the type of car they want to restore.

Those with a blaze for automotive history may want to restore the 1930s classic cars, while some might want to restore the classic Ford mustang they drove in school.

Regardless of your car preference, ensure to choose a car that won’t go beyond your budget.

The initial cost of buying a car from a local yard can be deceiving.

Some cars might be affordable because they have extensive damage, and the restoration cost will be particularly high.

When searching for a car to restore in newspaper classified ads or local salvage yards, it is important to start by knowing the kind of car you are looking for.

However, you should have some room for flexibility regarding the type of car you want to restore.

This will help in ensuring you don’t break your budget right away by overcommitting to a project that might prove to be beyond your abilities.

Online car forums provide a great platform to get restoration insights, particularly for beginners.

2. Tools

After determining the type of car to get and how much money and time you can dedicate to the restoration project, you need to know the type of tools you will need and whether you can get discounted parts.

The same tools you are using to repair and maintain your newer vehicle can be used to restore a classic car.

Some of the helpful restoration tools you might require include;

  • auto jig
  • grinder
  • air compressor
  • paint remover
  • and dent puller.

3. Car Restoration Parts

Discounted parts will help lower restoration costs considerably; hence access to a local salvage yard or seller can have a substantial advantage.

Today, the internet has made it easy to find car restoration parts, with sites such as proving invaluable.

While the tools can be costly, different car restoration steps require different tools.

This makes it easier to spread out the price of purchasing different tools.

It can sometimes be difficult to get what you are specifically searching for when finding vintage auto parts.

You might sometimes require adapting parts from other models and makes to fit your classic car.

You can normally find many old car parts on online auction websites, such as eBay, featuring a unique automotive section.

4. Mechanical Considerations

Mechanical considerations involve the careful evaluation of your prospective project.

Before investing in a car restoration project, ensure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

Keep in mind you might need to rebuild the engine, revamp the electrical components, remove and reapply paint, replace the interior décor, and others.

If you don’t have the know-how, you can consider taking a mechanical or welding lesson and investing in equipment to support the car restoration projects.

Analyzing the project’s scope will help determine if it is within your budget and how much time the project might need.

Choosing A Car for Restoration

The car choices to restore are endless from early twentieth century cars, post-war models, and muscle cars.

The issue is not finding a specific car; it is choosing the best one to buy.

Some of the guidelines to follow in choosing a car include;

  • Whether there is a particular car you have always desired, but you were poor or too young to buy?
  • If a specific car played a part in a special moment in your life, such as going to school in a 66 Mustang model or getting married in a 59 Ford.
  • If you want to get back a car you have ever owned.
  • Do you like the European cars of the 50s or 60s?
  • If the car models of the 1930s are desirable.

Start by thinking about your interests and listing your top five candidates on paper.

If you are unsure about what you want, you can check out some car books at the library.

Here, you will find books on all car eras, subjects, and makes to help you narrow down on the one appealing to you most.

But when coming up with the list of candidates, ensure to take your time in checking its pricing value.

Once you have a list of five cars, it’s time to narrow down your list.

First, cross out cars that you cannot afford, or the car is very rare that it is not worth looking at.

For instance, if you have a Duesenberg or Tucker on the list, you should ensure you have a lot of cash to spend on it.

Buying A Car for Restoration

Now that you have decided on the specific car to purchase, the next step is finding the right one.

The internet provides thousands of websites that list old and damaged cars for restoration.

Also, most newspapers have classics and antique listings in weekend classified sections.

Another ideal source to find cars is joining car clubs because members regularly purchase and sell these vehicles.

When you meet the seller, ensure to talk with them extensively before you head out to look at the car—only deep and specific questions instead of the general ones.

Ask whether the vehicle is complete, specific missing parts, if it has any missing parts, how long they have owned it and why they are selling it.

Remember to write down the answers from the different sellers and compare.

The next thing is to examine the car one on one, and you should take your written answers with you.

Ensure the seller approves your overall condition assessment using the notes for reference.

If the vehicle is drivable, take a short ride with the seller while noting any issues as you engage in verbal discussion.

When the seller accepts the offer, get all the proper documentation such as title and written bill of sale about the vehicle.

Now the final step is taking the car home to start the restoration. The transportation cost can range from $0.45 to $1 per mile.

Bottom Line

Classic car restoration is an engaging hobby.

Beginners are urged to learn more about restoration before deciding whether to commit fully to this possibly rewarding endeavor.

Choose a popular car with an ideal owner’s club and the readily available parts. Join the car restoration club, and take part in meetings before purchasing a car.

The other owners or members will be more valuable compared to other resources.

Additional Hobbies For Consideration