Spring is upon us, despite the bizarre April snow we encountered last weekend here in Michigan! With Spring comes a whole new fleet of cars coming to market, and all the idle daydreaming we enthusiasts have been doing all winter long over eBay and BAT ads is now translating into real activity for some of us. You’ve finally had enough window shopping, your spouse has grown weary of the long face you make every time you see that car you’ve been obsessing over. The fact becomes inevitable; soon, your next classic car, your latest object of desire, will be parked in your garage- it's time.
While the reasons my clients hire me to perform pre-purchase inspections are as diverse as the vehicles I inspect for them, at their core, my clients are mostly interested in one thing- reducing risk. Buying a 30-80 year old car is indeed a very exciting investment. With every investment comes risk. As I know some of you are currently “on the prowl” for your next classic car, I thought I would take a moment to talk about how you might benefit from a competent pre-purchase inspection, before you park that next dream car in your garage.
No Surprises- Certainly the most common reason I am retained. It’s so difficult for even experienced buyers to complete a long distance transaction involving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a “telephone handshake”. Photographs and videos can only show so much, and in some cases, show only what the seller wants the buyer to see. I have seen countless issues with inspected vehicles that the potential buyer was completely unaware of before inspection. Some are minor and mundane, like a power seat that may not be functioning. Others are much more serious, like a four speed automatic that won’t shift into fourth. (Any of you with experience with dual-coupling Hydramatic transmissions, you know what I’m talking about). It’s much preferred to take delivery with confidence, so you can actually enjoy your new car rather than worrying about fighting with the seller over undisclosed issues with a classic that you are now disappointed - and in most cases - stuck with.
Protection for the Inexperienced Buyer- I have worked with a remarkable number of clients who would call themselves “inexperienced” when it comes to purchasing a classic car. Many of my clients have not spent years studying and learning about cars, but there is that “one car” they’ve always wanted. As it so often happens, they find the car they want, in the color they want, and its seven states away. Now, they’re attempting to safely complete a transaction involving lots of hard-earned money in exchange for an asset they only partially understand, based upon the honesty and disclosure of someone they don’t really know, who also has a vested interest in maximizing profit on the asset being sold. How can you go wrong? I always ask my clients if the vehicle I’m inspecting for them is their first classic. If it is, I often find myself consulting about far more than just the vehicle up for consideration. My service is vital for a first time classic buyer; even if the buyer is local and can see the car for themselves, they are usually not fully aware of what issues to look for on the specific vehicle they are interested in acquiring.
Authentication of the Vehicle- The game is sneaky. I’ve seen many deals on classic cars where the line “likely the original” or “we believe the original” engine, transmission, rear end, whatever, is used… In my experience, about 75% of the time when the line “likely” or “we believe” is used, some major component on the car is not original. Third party authentication is vital when buying an investment grade classic over long distances. Can you take a seller at their word that their Chevelle you’re lusting after is a true LS6 car? Can we be sure that GTO you are preparing to lay down serious money for isn’t just a cleverly disguised Lemans? When a classic car can be authenticated, it should be. Are you comfortable authenticating your next classic purchase from across the country? In many cases, the risks to the value and appreciation potential of your investment grade classic car is just too great.
Negotiation Leverage- Sellers just love this. In a negotiation between buyers and sellers, my role is to help provide useful facts about a vehicle in question to ensure the buyer has complete understanding about the car they are preparing to invest in. Yes, buyers can always look at photographs to possibly spot issues with vehicles, but as I said earlier, just photos can be problematic. In just the past three months, I’ve inspected one vehicle with a dry master cylinder that had sent all its fluid into the booster, and another vehicle’s cooling system was nearly empty. Issues like these don’t show up in photos. Old cars are just that, old. As car enthusiasts in an imperfect world, we should expect there will be a few minor issues with nearly every old car, but imagine the outrage of a buyer who has just taken delivery of their classic only to discover it overheats on the first drive or worse, has limited brakes! Realistically, about 50% of my clients elect not to purchase a vehicle after they have reviewed my report. The other 50% will, now equipped with facts, use knowledge to negotiate a better deal for themselves on the car, often paying for my inspection fee many times over.
Your Vehicle is More Marketable at Sale Time- Want to set your vehicle apart from others when it’s time to sell? My inspections can be a useful tool for marketing your classic when you decide you’re ready to sell. The inspection sets a new “baseline” for a vehicle; what was wrong and right about it when you purchased it. Five years and 3,000 miles later, provided you’ve kept up on your routine care and maintenance, chances are your classic hasn’t changed much. If it hasn’t, a copy of the inspection sent to an interested buyer can help alleviate their stress about the purchase and shows you as the seller to be honest and conscientious about the vehicle, which is a great way to expect top dollar for your appreciating classic.
As always, Happy Motoring.
Michigan Automotive Inspection Services provides professional pre-purchase inspection and appraisal services for automobiles located in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The company is independently owned, not part of a national inspection network. We provide competent, courteous and personalized service to our clients. Our work is never contracted to third party inspectors or appraisers.