How to Buy Antique Car Parts

Working on an old car is a rewarding hobby for many men and women. Restoring a classic or antique vehicle to its former glory is a satisfying yet challenging undertaking, whether for private enjoyment or for participating in car shows.

How to Buy Antique Car Parts

One of the challenges of car restoration lies in the fact that the appropriate parts are difficult to find. While a classic car is usually defined as being 20 to 45 years old, an antique car is at least 45 years old. Most antique vehicle models have been discontinued, and some makers have gone out of business as well. In many cases, the parts are no longer manufactured, even by companies that are still in business, so any parts obtained are either pulled from other defunct vintage cars or have been sitting on a shelf for years, even decades.

Enthusiasts of antique cars may find that they have the easiest time finding the parts they need on eBay. The large number of sellers offering products on eBay often means that buyers have access to the widest variety of items in any one category. The eBay website is user-friendly, and with a few shopping tips, any buyer can enjoy the shopping experience and get the rare car parts they have been looking for.

Shopping for Antique Car Parts on eBay

There are a couple of different ways to shop for antique car parts on eBay. Each method is relatively simple, but because everybody's thought process works differently, people may prefer one method to another.

A quick way to find vintage car parts is to do a keyword search using the Search field on the homepage. Shoppers can enter a general phrase such as "antique car parts," "vintage car parts," or some other combination of words, and then click on the Search button or press the Enter key. All active listings with those keywords in the title will be displayed. eBay users can also enter more specific search terms, such as "Studebaker hood ornament" or "1965 Ford Mustang door handle." Depending on the word or phrase used, the search results will include appropriate listings in the Motors department if an item or items are available, but occasionally another category, such as collectibles or toys, will also pop up. Simply click on the correct category to display only the applicable products.

Another way to find antique car parts is to return to the homepage and simply click through categories from the beginning. For example, find the link to Motors, and then continue to navigate through successively narrower categories until arriving at Vintage Car and Truck Parts. Then find the category needed and click on it to view current merchandise being offered.

Types of Car Parts

As with any vehicle, the key to getting the correct parts is knowing the year, make, and model of the vehicle. Depending on the part needed, some additional information may be required to get a correct match. For example, even within the same year, a certain make and model may be produced with different engine sizes, and that size can affect the type of air filter needed as well as many other internal parts.

On eBay, parts are grouped into categories and systems. Finding the right part is a matter of knowing which category or system the part is likely to be listed under. The following table gives a breakdown of common categories and examples of parts found in each.

Car Parts Category

Example Parts


Bumpers, grilles, mirrors, trunk lids, emblems


Dash parts, pedals, steering wheels, switches and controls

Engines and components

Belts, crankshafts, pistons, vacuum pumps

Lighting and lamps

Headlights, instrument panel lights, light bulbs, turn signals

Wheels, tires, and hub caps

Rims, hubs, bearings, spinners

Additionally, car systems and example items include

  • Air conditioning and heating: compressors, belts
  • Air intake and fuel delivery: air filters, carburetors
  • Brakes: pedals, brake pads
  • Charging and starting: alternators, solenoids
  • Cooling: radiators, fans
  • Exhaust: mufflers, tailpipes
  • Ignition: distributors, spark plugs
  • Suspension and steering: steering wheels, worm gears, shocks, struts
  • Transmission and drivetrain: clutches, speedometer cables

Buyers can also find accessories, details, and smaller parts categories from which to choose. Many car enthusiasts are already familiar with basic car mechanics, but some newcomers to the hobby may need to do a bit of research in order to determine what exactly they need and where to find it.

Specifics on Antique Car Parts

Regular car parts are one thing, but car parts for antique cars have special considerations. The condition of a part should be assessed before buying it. If the part is an original that is the same age as the car, it has been sitting around in likely unknown conditions for many years or even decades. The part may be rusted, rotted, or otherwise damaged. Depending on the age of the automobile, some parts may be quite rare, so it may be necessary to take a part that is in poor condition and restore it. This may add to the projected expense of a part.

Be sure to look at all photos provided of a part. If the item description does not address every concern, ask open (as opposed to yes-or-no) questions about the part's condition that require the seller to elaborate on the description. The seller may not know much about the part's history, but at least this allows the buyer to enter the transaction knowing that the condition of the item may be questionable. Then the buyer can see if a return policy is offered on the listing.

Antique cars tend to have the same maintenance issues as old and classic cars, only to a greater degree. Problems such as oil leaks and loose or ineffective weatherstripping are common. Buyers should be prepared to deal with these or other similar part and system breakdowns. Body rust is another condition that must be contended with on older cars. Doing some research on the specific year, make, and model of the vehicle may turn up more information; it is common for a certain line of cars all to have similar weaknesses, such as axle boots that go bad or defective valve gaskets.

The eBay Buying Process

Once you know exactly what kind of part you are looking for, you can take time to read about individual items for sale. When you click on an item in the search results, you are taken to a detailed item listing. Here, you can view additional photos of the item (if available), check out shipping methods and costs, see if the seller offers a return policy, and read details on the history of the item and other pertinent facts.

Evaluating Seller Ratings

Choosing a reputable seller is important to having a positive buying experience, and eBay has a rating system in place to help buyers evaluate sellers. On every listing page, you can find information about the seller: a username, number, and percentage. The number is a score that reflects overall feedback on this user, from both buyers and sellers. The percentage of positive feedback indicates how often a user typically receives positive feedback. If you want more information, you can click on the username, which is linked to the seller's profile page. You can then view detailed seller ratings, comments from buyers and sellers, and other items for sale from the same user.

When dealing on eBay, be sure to leave feedback for buyers and sellers after each transaction is completed. By doing so, you help the eBay community and other buyers like you by letting them know which users provide good service and products.

Shopping eBay Stores

If you have a positive experience with a seller and would like to do business with him or her again, you can see if the user has an eBay Store. High-volume sellers often set up an eBay storefront for shoppers to visit so they can view all available items at once. In the case of antique car parts, a seller might have several parts for the same vehicle; if you buy more than one at the same time, you could possibly receive discounted shipping.


Antique car parts can be hard to come by, but the power of the Internet and eBay's convenient online marketplace make it easier to find needed items. eBay's website is user-friendly, and with just a few tips, any buyer can quickly navigate to a listing and complete a transaction by clicking through preset categories or typing in a search term.

The keys to finding the correct part for an antique model car are

  • knowing the year, make, and model.
  • knowing the engine size, seat style, or other applicable information related to the part in question.
  • knowing what category or system the part would likely be listed under.

It is also important to know what condition the part is in to be sure it functions correctly in the car. Because some old parts are rare, it may be difficult to find one in good condition. Buyers should investigate seller profiles and also research the details of a listing thoroughly before bidding or agreeing to a purchase. Good sellers can be revisited in their eBay Store. By following these tips, anyone who uses eBay can experience the ultimate in convenient, secure, satisfying online shopping.

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