My Car Quest

April 15, 2024

How to Buy an Antique Firetruck

by Scott Huntington –

If you have an eye for all things red or simply love the heroic look of firetrucks, purchasing an antique one may be for you. If you’ve never bought one before, however, figuring out how to do so and where to look can be a challenge at first.

With nearly 30,000 fire departments in the U.S. alone, you’d think finding an old rig would be relatively easy. However, there are certainly fewer people interested in collecting firetrucks than there are those who want sports cars. Luckily, we have some advice to offer first-time collectors.

Save Up

Buying any vehicle requires a good sum of money, but purchasing an antique firetruck may cost a bit more than that clunker in the used car lot. For example, a 1949 Mack pumper could be as much as $35,000, if not more. Therefore, it’s important to save in advance, especially if you’re eyeing a more expensive make and model. Here is a 1936 American LaFrance 400 Series Squad Truck at a classic car dealer listed for $169,500. They’re not all that much of course, I found a 1956 Seagrave Pumper that’s just $3,000.

Moreover, if you want to restore the truck, you’ll also want to save an extra few thousand dollars to afford it.

Find a Place for It

I’d be willing to be that someone somewhere got over excited at an auction and threw down some cash for an antique firetruck just to get home and realize he didn’t have a place for it. These aren’t cars you can just back into a garage. Unless you have a huge garage, you’ll need to keep it outside. If you live in an area with an HOA, you may get a nasty letter telling you to move it. Make sure you’ve taken care of all the details before you buy.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Firetruck

Carmel-by-the-Sea Firetruck

Begin the Search

Once you’re in a solid place financially, you can begin the search for your dream firetruck. Look online and message private dealers. Speak with firefighters from your local department as well. Often, current and past employees have an affinity for old trucks and can tell you where you might find antique rigs. You might also join the national and regional chapters of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America to find more information.

Inspect and Assess

While it might take time and some serious sleuthing, eventually, you’ll come across a red rig you simply cannot live without. At that point, it’s smart to seriously inspect the truck in question. After all, if you plan to drive it, you want to make sure it’s functional. If you aren’t sure what to look for under the hood, bring someone who understands mechanics. If you’re planning on displaying the red beauty, inspect the exterior for flaws.

Take the Leap

If the truck is worth the price — or you’re getting an amazing deal — the only thing left to do it take the leap and buy it. You can either purchase it outright using the cash you had saved or lease it. Work with the person or organization selling the truck to figure out a payment plan. They might give you a break on the interest rate.

Protect and Preserve

Of course, after making such a hefty purchase, you’ll want to protect it. Your best option will be to buy insurance through a company that specializes in antique vehicles. Insuring your investment in this way may cost a few hundred dollars a year, but the cost of protecting your rig is more than worth it if something ends up happening.

Further protect your red beauty by roping it off to prevent bumps and scratches and covering it when you aren’t driving it in parades and showing it off to your friends. Taking these extra measures will keep it in good condition for many years to come.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Scott Huntington

THE AUTHOR: Scott Huntington is an automotive journalist from Harrisburg, PA. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or check out his site, Off The Throttle.

How to Buy an Antique Firetruck
Article Name
How to Buy an Antique Firetruck
Interested in old firetrucks? Here are some tips on how to find and buy one.


  1. What does a collector do with an antique fire truck besides driving in parades or displaying at a show? Can it be driven around town? Are there fire truck rallies?

  2. Tom Burnett sent in this photo of a 1941 Horch fire truck.

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