How to Buy a Classic Cadillac

Cadillacs are the ultimate in luxurious domestic vehicles and have been for more than century. Classic Cadillacs have been under the General Motors umbrella since 1909 and consistently rank at the top of a list of premier automobiles.

Classic Cadillac cars have a devout following because of their premium quality, innovative designs, and proven reliability over the past century. The pink Cadillac Coupe De Ville with tailfins on the rear quarter panels is one of the most recognizable and iconic classic cars.

Since the most sought-after Classic Cadillac cars are over 50 years old, they are in short supply and in even higher demand. If you’re lucky enough to find one for sale, you’ll likely have to pay a premium to own it.

Here are some tips on how to purchase a classic Cadillac.

Part 1 of 4: Find a classic Cadillac for sale

cadillacs in parking lot

Step 1: Determine the Cadillac model you want. Use your personal taste to determine the model of Cadillac you wish to buy.

Conduct searches online, particularly in websites such as Cadillac Country Club to identify the Cadillac model that you are most interested in owning.

While some Cadillacs are more valuable and desirable than others, it’s more important that you personally enjoy the classic Cadillac you buy.

Step 2: Determine where to buy the cadillac. Due to their rarity, especially for models in mint condition, you may need to travel out of state or across the country to buy your classic Cadillac.

Decide on the distance you are willing to travel to buy a classic Cadillac.

If you have a car carrier or trailer at your disposal, you can get your Cadillac back home without having to drive it for long distances.

If you plan on driving your Cadillac back home from the place of sale, look at local listings in order to minimize the driving distance. Due to its age, there’s always a chance that your classic Cadillac could break down on a long drive, even if it is in mint condition.

hemming site
Image: Hemmings

Step 3: Search through classic car listings online. Use reputable classic car forums to find your desired model such as Hemmings, OldRide, and Classic Cars.

You’ll find premium cars listed on the sites dedicated to classic cars. Narrow down your search results to the distance you are willing to travel in order to purchase your classic Cadillac.

craigslist ad
Image: Craigslist SF Bay Area

Step 4: Go through local classified listings. Use AutoTrader and Craigslist to search for Cadillac listings near you.

There may not be many Classic Cadillac listings in your area because there aren’t many around for sale, but if you find one listed in a local ad, you may get a better deal than one listed on a prominent site.

Expand your search area for ads near you, until you come up with several listings to consider.

Step 5: Inquire at local car shows. During the summer, classic car owners gather in virtually every city in the nation for swap meets or shows and display their cars with pride.

Attend the classic car shows in your city to look at the Cadillacs displayed there. If one stands out to you, approach the owner of the car and check if they are interested in selling the car.

Most classic car owners are sentimental about their cars, so expect that your offer will be refused and accept respectfully.

Step 6: Compare the listings. Go through all the listings for the Cadillacs you’ve found so far and compare the images and conditions listed.

Compare the mileage for each car — those with higher mileage are less likely to be in original condition, reducing their value somewhat.

Rank your top three choices depending on your initial impression and their location, to determine which car to pursue first.

Part 2 of 4: Verify the classic Cadillac’s condition

If you don’t live in the same city or area as the classic Cadillac you are interested in, you may need to ask for pictures, phone calls, and even travel to the location to confirm the car’s condition.

Step 1: Inquire about the classic Cadillac. If you’re serious about the vehicle, a phone call is the best and fastest way to get the most details about the car.

Classic car owners typically have great pride in their cars and are willing to provide as much information as you want about the listed vehicle.

Step 2: Request for more pictures. Ask the owner for more pictures about the car’s condition.

Explain that you’ll have to travel to buy the car and would like to eliminate the possibility of surprises when you arrive. Request for pictures of any rust, cracks in the upholstery, excessive wear, or parts that are broken or not working.

Have the car owner send pictures by email so that you can quickly make a decision on the car.

Step 3: Pick a listing. Inquire about each of the top three Cadillacs you’ve selected. Compare the details of each, narrowing your search down to just one at the moment.

Step 4: Test drive the car in person. Travel to the car’s location to view and test drive it. If anything raises concerns in your mind about the car, you should attempt to view it in person before completing the sale.

Check the car over mechanically to ensure everything is operating as it should and that there are no problems. Look over the car’s exterior and interior to make sure it is exactly as it was described and listed. Check the Cadillac and inspect it for any signs of water damage.

You will have peace of mind about your decision to buy the classic Cadillac, if you’ve seen it in person and taken it for a test drive.

Step 5: Repeat the process. If your first selection isn’t what you want, move on to the second and third selections and repeat the process.

Part 3 of 4: Find the appraised value of the classic Cadillac

Now that you’ve located a car you’re interested in, determine how much you are willing to spend on the car.

With classic cars of any kind, there are suggested values based on listings, previous sales, and appraisals, but in the end, a classic car is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

sample car appraisal form

Step 1: Ask for an appraisal from the current owner. Most classic car owners will have their cars appraised so they can properly insure them.

If the owner doesn’t have a recent appraisal, ask if they will get one for you.

  • Tip: An appraisal can cost several hundred dollars, which you may have to pay in order to get it completed.

Step 2: Get an online valuation for the classic Cadillac. Hagerty provides an online car valuation tool for virtually all cars including classic Cadillacs.

hagerty website
Image: Hagerty

Click “Valuation” on the menu bar, then click on “Value Your Vehicle” to get the classic Cadillac values.

hagerty ist
Image: Hagerty

Click on “Cadillac”, then select the model and submodel from the following pages.

results page
Image: Hagerty

Determine the car’s current value based on the condition it is in. Most cars for sale are in the fair to excellent range with only the top 1% being Concours condition.

Step 3: Negotiate the price. Consider whether the advertised price of the classic Cadillac is in line with the online valuation.

If the car seems on par with valuations or is priced lower, it is a good buy. If the car is higher in value, you may want to negotiate a lower sale price.

If the value seems too high and the owner won’t lower their price, you’ll have to decide if the Cadillac is worth the extra money to you.

Part 4 of 4: Buy the Cadillac

Once you’ve decided on a car and have checked its condition and valuation, it’s time to complete the sale.

Step 1: Draw up a bill of sale for the purchase. Include the vehicle particulars including the VIN number, mileage, year, make, and model of the Cadillac in the document.

sample bill of same document

Include both the seller’s and the buyer’s name and address and ensure that both parties sign the agreement.

If the agreement is being made by phone or email, the document should be faxed or scanned to both parties so that each person has a copy.

Step 2: Pay for the car with certified funds. Arrange payment by either certified check or wire transfer, or use an escrow service such as Pay Safe.

Step 3: Bring home your classic Cadillac. If you’ve bought the Cadillac close to home, you can may be able to immediately license the car and drive it home. You could also drive out with a trailer and bring it home that way.

Shipping services such as uShip can be a great way of bringing your classic Cadillac across the country inexpensively and securely.

Post an ad to transport your car to your location, and accept a secure, experienced shipper’s bid.

Whether you’re an experienced car buyer or it’s your first time buying a classic car, always make sure you take the process slowly. It’s an emotional purchase to buy a car and you don’t want to make a mistake by acting too quickly, then end up regretting it later.

Get a certified mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, to perform an inspection of your classic Cadillac before you purchase it.

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