1 June 2005

How Do You Buy a Collector Car?

Buying a collector car is a big deal. There’s so much more to consider than if you were to pluck a new one from a showroom floor. Because each car has its own history, every one holds its own place in the market. To make sure you get a fair deal, make sure to research and purchase through reputable channels.

Because of this, it’s no wonder that 35 percent of the nearly 10,000 participants in the 2004 Hagerty Network Hobby Survey chose to purchase their car from a local contact or friend. This is the most personal way to buy. If you know the seller well, you probably know how the car has been used. If they babied it, you’ll know. If they ragged on it, you’ll know that too.

Even if you don’t know them personally, at least the seller is local. This gives you the opportunity to inspect every inch of the car in person and to take it for a test drive. It can be inspected by your trusted mechanic, and maybe a friend who knows cars or a fellow club member can take a look at it as well. While this is the time-honored way, about 35 percent of survey participants might consider it old-fashioned. These folks chose to point and click their way to new-vehicle ownership.

The Internet has become a popular forum for uniting enthusiasts all over the world. You might feel like the only one in your town with a passion for Pacers, but there are thousands of links to others online who share your sentiments. You can talk shop, swap stories and maybe even pick up that dream car. Wherever car lovers congregate, there’s bound to be some buying and selling, so it only makes sense that the Internet has also evolved into one of the most popular venues for car commerce.

Because the options are endless – almost every car club and hobby publication is “wired” to some degree – you’ll definitely need to do some research before you buy. Some of the major sites, like eBay and Hemmings.com, keep detailed records on each seller. If someone has been unhappy with a particular seller, they’ll know it and will share it. eBay also allows users to run history and inspection reports on vehicles you’re considering and offers free buyer protection up to $20,000, adding to peace of mind.

Still, this is no substitute for doing your homework. When buying online, as with all other channels, know what you’re looking for and what similar models are worth. Also, set a clear spending limit and don’t let the emotion of the moment come into play – buyer’s remorse can be a very sad state.

Additionally, ask the seller if you can take a look at the title and all other supporting documents that they have for the car – repair logs, receipts, etc. These can easily be faxed or e-mailed. Also, write a list of questions ahead of time for the seller. Their reluctance to share any of this information should be a red flag.

If the car you’re considering isn’t close enough for a do-it-yourself inspection, consider hiring a certified professional appraiser to take a look at it. An appraiser will provide a detailed report containing the value recommendation. Even if it costs $200, it’s just a fraction of what it could cost if you get stuck with a lemon.

The same rules apply no matter where you’re buying a car. If through a print publication, as 16 percent of our survey respondents, you won’t necessarily have the benefit of learning the seller’s history, but homework still has to be done – ask questions, test drive when possible and bring in local talent when you can’t.

If you purchase through a dealer, like about 9 percent of respondents did, check with your local Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been filed, ask for references and as always, make sure you get everything in writing.

If you buy at a live auction, as about 2 percent of survey takers did, make sure the auction house is reputable, know what you’re getting into and know buyer’s rights.

Bottom line? It’s not where you buy, but how you buy. Be aware and be careful.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Scott Jones Indiana June 12, 2014 at 10:40
    Car Collecting(Everything You Need to Know) by Steve Linden, published by Motorbooks has the best information I've ever run across. I use his inspection checklist every time I go to look at an old car for possible purchase. His great advice about not getting emotional is: "There will always be another one!"

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