In addition to benefitting from a trove of data, Hagerty Insider also relies heavily on the expertise of veteran market watchers, including Dave Kinney, appraiser and publisher of Hagerty Price Guide. In this column, he will answer often-asked questions about collector car values and buying and selling. Though Dave can’t put a value on an individual car in this column (that’s what people pay him to do in his appraisal business, after all), he can field questions about the appraisal process, how to go about buying and selling classics, and the industry as a whole. Have a question of your own for a future article? Ask in the comments section.
In-person assessment: I was looking at ads online and I got in contact with a seller. After a long series of questions and answers, he insisted that I come and look at, and drive the car myself or send a representative. Is this a Boomer thing, or is he trying to head off what he thinks might be a scam on my part?
DK: I have no idea what his motives are, but I congratulate him on his resolve for finding a correct new owner for his car. I’m sorry, but he has a point. I think what he is trying to head off is not a scam but your possible disappointment. There is nothing like taking a look, and a drive, and a walkaround before buying a new-to-you car. And there is a twist to this tale: the cheaper the car, the more important this might be.
Hear me out on this. If you are buying a $300,000 car and the interior is moldy, a thorough cleaning with seat removal and hand cleaning of all soft-touch surfaces might take three hours for removal and replacement of the seats, and eight hours for a thorough cleaning. For sake of argument, let’s call it a $1,500 job. The cost on a $30,000 car? About the same. As a percentage of the value of the car, it’s a big difference. Can you do this job yourself? Probably. Do you want to or have time to? That’s a question only you can answer.
I don’t do what are known as pre-purchase Inspections (PPIs) and I haven’t for over fifteen years. Why? Simple. Without knowing the customer, I can’t possibly know their likes and dislikes, expectations, personal taste or which way they might fall on a judgement call. Is he 6’6 and won’t fit into that 1956 Thunderbird he so wants? Is she not used to the feel of non-power brakes? Do they realize that a slight oil leak on a 50-year-old, $14,000 British car is acceptable to most?
No one can know your complete and total list of likes and dislikes except you. There are thousands of components to every automobile. Are you okay with slightly pitted chrome around the dials of the gauges, but would consider the same amount of pitting surrounding the vent windows a deal breaker?
If you were thinking of purchasing a 1965 Mustang (or ’66 Corvette, or ’67 Ferrari GTC) and it is to be your first collector car, unless you have a friend who has one, you might be in for a tremendous shock. Cars from fifty and sixty years ago are different. On the plus side, they are generally easier to fix, are more straightforward in their level of complications, and, I would argue, more fun to own and drive. A well-maintained (or well-restored) car from “back in the day” can be a time machine, a new hobby, a family treasure, and a point of pride.
One thing a fifty-year-old car can’t do is drive like today’s cars. (This helps explain the restomod movement—cars for people who want the old school look with many of the comfort and power features found on newer cars). Only you can determine whether this particular car will light your fire.
With that in mind, who should go look at a prospective purchase? The answer is you, or a trusted friend who knows cars of the era, or ideally both. Can you send a mechanic? Sure, but what about the cosmetics? I could go on, but it’s your money and your decision. This is a judgement call. Talk to members of the car club associated with your desired model, learn the ups and downs of the car you are thinking of buying. Explore, shop and buy wisely, and you’ll know you got exactly what you were looking for.