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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Opinion: The art of the flip is inevitable, but it's not foolproof | Hagerty Media

"What is this, a flip?" "This guy is a known flipper." "These damn flippers are ruining the hobby for everyone." Talk to enough car people or scan enough Bring a Trailer listings and you're guaranteed to see these types of comments.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/buying-and-selling/opinion-the-art-of-the-flip-is-inevitable-but-its-n...
19 REPLIES 19
ValuedCommenter
Pit Crew

I don't think you'll find too many people here that will object to someone making a little profit. Nor do I believe that the antagonistic sentiment around flippers is for people who buy a car and do substantive improvements/repairs and then sell it. The issue seems to be that there's a whole slew of "flippers" who are essentially do-nothing middlemen. They may or may not be car enthusiasts, but for whatever reason they seem to have a line on finding cars at cheaper than market prices. They then do little or nothing to prepare the car for resale, and list it at a higher price. There's a sense, rightly or wrongly, that these middlemen end up inflating the market values of cars, essentially making it more difficult for the hobbyists to participate: if only the hobbyist could have purchased the car for the original lower price, the original seller would be in the same place, the hobbyist would have spent less, and the non-enthusiast middleman would have to find a different line of work, which would sadden virtually no one in the hobby.

I think there's also antagonism directly at flippers who purport to be anything but dealers. When you work with a dealer, you know what sort of experience you're getting (and in states that require it, a licensed and bonded business). How are we to tell the curbstone "dealer" from the average Joe enthusiast?
OptimusPrime
Intermediate Driver

Surely we don't need this much hand-holding? If you don't like the price, don't buy the car. Want a deal? Scour Craigslist all day like the people who find cheap cars to flip do. In the end, buyers set prices, not sellers.
ppointer
Intermediate Driver

I see a lot of belly aching on an e91 thread (BMW 3-series wagons, 2006-2013) about a particularly successful, multi-time BaT dealer that is adept at finding and re-selling e91s. I don't think the belly aching is warranted, however, as he cleans up the cars and addresses short-comings. The descriptions appear to be honest, and I would be confident buying any of his offerings. Like @OptimusPrime says, no one is twisting your arm to buy. Perhaps it is just jealousy that someone found a deal with money to be made.
DanielCooper
New Driver

I think the problem with flipping, and with Colin's column and in fact with his business model, is that the concept of cars as investment vehicles is at odds with cars as things to drive and work on and enjoy. Not so long ago cars from the 60s were cheap, easy to work on, and fantastic toys for those with tools and some know how. No more. I understand that market forces are at work but I don't have to like it. I remember pulling the motor on a TR-3 to help a friend replace the clutch (for free), and then when covered with grease hearing her boast of how well she would do when she resold the car. I also remember a friend telling me about his big victory buying a 356 for cheap from a family in New Mexico (without revealing to them its real value), and the money he made selling it. Both of these people were flipping--and exploiting someone else. I really want no part of that side of our "hobby."
OptimusPrime
Intermediate Driver

The next time you buy a car, please make sure you pay full-blown retail for it, even if the asking price is less. Thank you.
Tinkerah
Technician

If she was brazen enough to brag right to your face about how well she'd do on the TR your response should have been "Congratulations! Glad I was able to help out. Where are you taking me for dinner?"
Maestro1
Instructor

I think everybody ought to read ValuedCommenter's remarks here. That's all that needs to be said.
Colin, thank you for this. All I can add is that I have been in the Hobby for years, and my advice is simply, as in all things, be careful about whom you are doing business with. And remember to put your hands on the car, get it on a lift and look at its bones. Every car you look at will have a story......
bblhed
Advanced Driver

Flipping in and of itself is not a bad thing, but here is where it turns into a problem. The ones that scour every ad looking for bargains aren't all that bad, the ones that offer you 60% of what you are asking are funny because they think they will not have the same happen to them.

A lot of the cars listed in this article were flipped at auction, and it was just luck that at least two people in the room that day wanted the car bad enough to run the price up. It is just the sellers good luck that those people were not there the day when they bought the car at a different auction.

There are some Flippers out there that believe TV is real and they can do whatever they want to buy a car (houses for that matter), those are the ones that ruin it for everyone. If a guy that looked like the guy from Counting Cars tried to flag you down the first reaction would be to call the police, not make a roadside deal. There are flippers that will see a car in a garage or other location and go to the extreme of using a "Skip Tracer" (you know them as Bounty Hunters) to locate the owner to present them the "gift" of a low ball offer. The most common method of contact is normally illegally in violation of the Do Not Call list. They will knock on doors, contact family members of owners, tell people they are doing them a favor by removing the car that will never sell, tell people it is an environmental hazard, in short they do whatever it takes to separate the owner of a car from that car. look at the story of the "Wild Cherry" van, that is the kind of thing that the worst Flippers do in the name of profit.

Yes, there are people that want cars and are willing to pay for them, I understand that middlemen need to make a living and that people who want cars don't know how to find them. I also believe that the people that are the make money at all cost people are not the people to buy from.

Also I want to mention that if I have not put a For Sale sign on something the lowest price I will take for it is fair market value plus 9 times fair market value as a fee for bothering me, if I want to sell it I will put a For Sale sign and a reasonable price on it.
Tinkerah
Technician

Interesting hustle but I think there's a fair amount of legwork involved to do it regularly. Years ago one of those guys spotted my car in my opened garage, walked up the driveway and tried to buy it on the spot. After his charm didn't convince me he asked if I knew of anyone else who might have anything "interesting". He explained that's most of what he does: trolls neighborhoods peeking in driveways, garages and backyards and knocks on doors. Claimed to "usually" make a deal and flip immediately. Gave me the "Well if you ever decide to sell..." line but I assured him there and then that's not how I would going about selling.
AG1962
Detailer

Having found a fair number of scooters, motorbikes, and cars in local publications for low prices, and fixed them up so as to be safe and reliable, to finally sell them on at a modest profit or loss (depending), I would call myself a hobbyist. Yes, I have “flipped” the odd vehicle that needed nothing, but most required some fettling and some required major investments. Friends helped me for free, and I helped them right back — knowing this is also a hobby. Six years ago, I relocated to a jurisdiction that allows five vehicle sales a year before requiring a dealer’s licence and submission of 12% sales tax, and reporting of profits as income, so I ‘throttled back’ significantly. Plus I lost both my garage and most of my mechanically savvy friends due to moving. Now I help others with their projects, for resale or not for resale, and acquire one or two vehicles a year to monkey with and eventually sell on. I have probably just about broken even over the years (even counting the 964 Carrera 4 that turned out to need a rebuild and that I walked away from, just before Porsche prices exploded), not counting ordinary running costs like insurance, gas, maintenance, and oil changes. I am certainly a middleman, finding and buying below market, fixing, sub-contracting, polishing, marketing, finding a buyer, etc. — but I am not a “flipper”. As for what’s driving up the price of collector cars: real estate. Nothing says “time to buy my dream car” quite like a few hundred thousand (or million) dollars in unearned windfall profits (untaxed in Canada) when us Boomers sell our long-since mortgage-free houses... flippers’ contribution to driving up prices is utterly negligible by comparison.

1moparweenie
New Driver

In 1950s North Carolina it wasn't called "flipping". It was called "slowly working your way up to a better car". I was 6 or 7 years old when my dad could begin thinking about affording a second car - a maroon '48 Ford 4-door that had been neglected by its first owner. The paint was bad, steering mushy, shocks gone, engine missed when you accelerated, etc. He spent the summer working on that front-end and the flathead & I learned how to compound paint, wash & wax. I also helped with the shocks.
He sold the '48 for $200 more than we had in it and found a '52 Dodge sedan; a Cranbrook maybe in light baby-poop green. The Dodge was in a little better shape but after that winter is was in real good shape.
Dad sold it for another several hundred more than we had in it and found a '54 Ford 2-door. White roof over pink. It needed much the same help that the '48 wanted. And, in spite of the pink, as a 2-door it was a little bit spiffier to be seen in. This process continued through a few more cars until the late 50s when my dad was finally making enough to keep Mom in a relatively new MoPar and himself in a no-help-needed decent ride. If we were "flipping", let's hear it for flipping.
richard2
Pit Crew

I seem to be alone for the moment, but for me the problem with flipping is that it has a tendency to attract those who have no intention of putting much work into the flip. "Lipsticking the pig" is a term in real estate flipping, but it happens in autos as well.

Worse are the ones who do incorrect, sloppy or just plain BAD work on a vehicle, usually to stuff that is hard to inspect, and then flip for profit. I've seen too many people buy what seems to be a good car and then discover some really badly done 'fix' or restoration work and have to undo the whole thing to even start to make it right.

Also funny - at least where I grew up (Alberta), those who bought & sold with minimal work (i.e. polish & wax only) were called "curbers" and the term wasn't any more positive.
SuperCommando
Pit Crew

I don’t think I’d take the opinion of a car dealer over the (de)merits of flipping.
Vern
Intermediate Driver

Totally agree! But at least there are rules and laws protecting you from a bad car dealer. There are few if any protections from random unscrupulous flippers.
DT
Detailer

Caveat emptor has long been the advice to used car buyers. Whether you are buying a car from a Dealer or a Flipper the best advice anyone can give you is to take along someone who knows cars and how to spot a bad one. It's really not all that hard. I have spent the last 45 years flipping cars. I do it because I like to play with the cars I couldn't afford as a Teenager and it's fun. For me the hunt and making the deal is just as satisfying as owning the car itself sometimes. There are good flippers and bad flippers. Anybody on this forum should be able to tell the difference so no sniveling please 🙂
az57chevy
Pit Crew

If a flipper finds a deal and makes some $ more power to them. I think the hubris with flippers are those who mask over a car's issue or who are purposely vague about some car details. An accurate and complete description of a flip is rare these days.
chrlsful
Instructor

did not define the lill guy who had his own tv show in the 60s:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6PqrTZsho0

Asa life long car guy (enthusiast, tinker, purchase, sell) I say it's some1 who seeks out a very low priced desirable vehicle and does almost no thing to it but sells hi in a short time. It is more often done since auctioning cars (trucks, bikes, boats) & internet listings have come about. No longer a supply and demand market it's 'deepest pockets often in an international theater'. To avoid the label one needs more than money in mind for their short term ownership. Time, money and parts should be involved between sales. Some of the time is involved in research (unless a one model, era, or make specialist. Knowing the peculiarities of specific components, work-a-rounds for specific anomalies, etc is all prt of the 'real car guy' job). Flippers don't really care - just the profit. I see them unable to answer questions about the vehicle "Here it is, just gimme some (more than I paid) money. Take it or leave it." I never did purchase or sale w/that in mind. Purchase wuz due to an intense interest in that specific model. An undeniable attraction. I wanted a free car (buy, assure safety, get back to near original condition ie stop/go, comfort) to drive around. Much of the research wuz done pre-purchase (so I could see if affordable to me in rehab). Recoup investment an after thought as I was onto what attracted the eye of sensibility. A driving piece of art (as a young man 50s/60s Italian'n a few other europeans ) and now more of the interesting (gota bent4 motor, any of the midsize wagons, all the i6 equipped, a free wheel model, certain transaxles, etc). Still about a form of curation rather than a means of income (& how that income is made, we might say "w/o respect").
OldCarMan
Instructor

There was a very famous hot rod, V8-60, 27T here that the older gentleman wanted to sell. No one stepped up o help him market the car, despite being a first Autorama winner. He was asking $27k for an historic, really well done, car. A local guy came along and scammed him for $10k, then turned right around and sold it for 6 figures to the big time LA museum hot rod collector. People here were aghast. A famous author and promoter had offered at least $35k as soon as he heard about the car getting sold but was refused. So many people were down on the last seller, he finally went back and "gave" the original builder another $10k. What a guy, right? This is exactly what is wrong with flippers. Ripoff and deceive a seller, rather than provide info and a fair price so you can make a few bucks more. Can we say ETHICS, here?
DUB6
Technician

   I personally have never bought a car - in ANY condition - with the intention of selling it.  I've only bought cars that I wanted to own and drive.  Maybe it's because I've always had pretty sparse disposable income, I don't know, but much the same as I don't like to gamble, I've always just felt that the purchase of a vehicle was/is just for the sake of owning that particular vehicle (whatever the reason).

   Having said that, I have sold way more than a few vehicles - and even some that I've done some improving to.  However, I do believe that I have NEVER - not even once - sold one for more money than I paid for it - or paid plus invested in fixing things.  So, I suggest that instead of a "flipper", I must be a "flopper"!