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Hagerty Employee

Tactics for buying and selling in a brave new digital world | Hagerty Media

Although this summer buying season promises to be more conducive to traditional, in-person buying than the last one-particularly if you're fortunate enough to have received a COVID-19 vaccination already-online buying and selling are definitely here to stay.

I will search on line for a vehicle but I will not buy it till I see it in person or have a qualified trusted person locally report back a personal inspection.

Even buying a new car I will need to see it and drive it before I pay the money.

I have seen too many hosed on web deals with vehicles that were miss represented or just not what they were claimed to be. If I am buying a specific car I will run the numbers too.

An honest seller if you let them know you are serious will give you the time. If they get in a rush often you are best to move on.
New Driver

My next attempt at a purchase will involve a local person to lay eyes on the car and report back to me. As stupid as it sounds, it never occurred to me to have a local garage check the car out. If I would have done that I would have been alerted that it was a complete scam. Thanks for tip!

"The selection is verified and well-presented, and in this age of rampant fakes and “tribute” cars, the buyers have some security provided by the auction house that they are actually getting what is being advertised."

Well, yes and no. The auction house will typically verify to its satisfaction prior to the sale, but if something is found to be not as-represented post-sale, you're on your own as the buyer. The auction house will not assist or be held liable and that's right in the fine print of the bidder's contract that 99% of bidders don't read. Just ask the guy who bought Seinfeld's bitsa Speedster Carrera at Gooding.

I've never purchased a car online but I guess its one of my hobbies to look daily and "what if" everything that I like. I know that I need to hit the Powerball! But, I do know that I am lucky enough to have one "specialty" car and 2 daily drivers. I would not buy any car without my own inspection and test drive. I would definitely find a car in an online auction as the extent of choices is broader then shopping local, but I think, to me, part of the price would be going wherever the car is to do an inspection. If not knowledgeable yourself , or can't make the trip then hire a independent inspection service. You are spending the money on a toy, if you can't spend a couple of thousand more for an inspection or visiting yourself , don't buy the toy.
New Driver

From a sellers viewpoint, honesty and an information overload is the only way to go. When I sold my little Brother's Z/28, I took a bucket load of photos, especially photos of all the partial VIN numbers stamped, and almost as important, the date codes of everything, from the cylinder heads down to the starter and wheel cylinders. Whenever a potential buyer called and asked for more photos, I would try to get that done the same day, you need to be responsive....even if the "buyer" wants to trade a 1974 Chevy boom truck with a 454 in it.....sigh....

I also posted the history of the Z/28 (it had been in the family for 43 years, lots of good stories....) on Wordpress, even though Craigs List had a problem with links. I think that saved me a lot of time, kept me from retelling everything over and over. I think what really sold the car though....was the fact that I would not sell the car sight unseen. The eventual buyer wanted to wire me the full amount without ever seeing the car. I told him to send a deposit, come see the car, and if he didn't want it, I would gave back his deposit, minus a small holding fee. He told me doing that convinced him completely that I was honest in my dealings.....

Here is the link to the blog I wrote if you are IS a pretty good story.... 😉
Advanced Driver

One of my favorites is the seller who can't be bothered to pull the car out of the garage for picture taking. Another favorite is the "too much to list" guy. No it isn't.
Advanced Driver

I like the ones who say "don't waste my time." and "no gawkers or tire kickers". Isn't that what every buyer does when it comes down to it?
Pit Crew

Great article, thanks for posting. I’ve bought online and am happy with the purchase. But I am wondering how much it costs for a local expert to look at cars for me? I know I can work through my clubs and friends, but I am what if there is no one?
Advanced Driver

Probably at least $250, might be more now it's been some time since I did it.


Agree, bought two cars last year for pocket change when the market tanked, has rebounded further than expected in 21.
Inspected both personally despite panics since only buy rust-free cars with clean Florida titles. Also had no problem with DMV appointments though some had to wait a month.
GM ALDL cars (pre-OBD-II) often have built in diagnostics for checkout of current and history codes.
Only other thing is I always prepare two copies of the Florida Bill of Sale, one for me and one for the other party. This protects both of us.
Does seem that we have transitioned to a seller's market from the pent-up demand. Wonder how long it will last.

I agree 110% about knowing VINs. And along those lines, I will always look at the VIN of a car for sale to be sure it is the correct format for that particular vehicle. I looked at a '75 Corvette once that had the VIN for a '75 Chevrolet Malibu. I knew how the VIN should start for a Corvette and this one didn't start that way. Its title described it as a '75 Chevrolet. Well yeah, it was but not the right kind of '75 Chevrolet.

But for me that also applies to auction houses advertising cars they will have for sale in the future. There is one big auction house which always is transparent about its vehicles by displaying the VINs of each one. But then on the other hand, that other big auction house never displays the VINs of their vehicles. I find that to be very unusual. If a car is totally legitimate, why would they mind declaring the VINs? I'm not accusing anyone of anything illegal but it does make me wonder why they don't do this.


I don't know the answer for sure about not declaring the VINs, but I have been told that they want to protect themselves and the public from someone who would take the VIN and clone or otherwise misrepresent a car that they have for sale.
New Driver

Just sold a 1969 Mercury Cougar on Classic Auto Trader and it was generally a VERY good experience. Relatively easy to distinguish the serious buyers/interested parties from the those just trolling or trying to scam you (Like offering a cashiers check for MORE than the amount you are listing). As mentioned here take a lot of good photos, of every aspect of the car and include a good video if you are able. The smart buyer who purchased our car had his mechanic/partner call my restoration oversight mechanic and they talked multiple times. EASY transaction after that point.

On the other hand I had NO LUCK at all with EBay Auctions. Nice people but the car never got close to the reserve and I was $600 lighter in the wallet for it.

RE: Pictures. The author starts out on the right track track, saying "Sellers should provide a complete set of good, clear, current photographs showing every aspect of the car, from the exterior to the chassis, particularly of key areas known to be important on this make and model." but then veers into oncoming traffic with the tired old adage "...there’s no such thing as too many photos." and "the more photos, the better."
This may end-up being the most un-popular comment ever, but as someone who's last four purchases have been made on-line, sight unseen, I have to respectfully disagree; there IS such a thing as too many photos.
Far too many sellers - heeding the "there’s no such thing as too many photos" credo - think an auction listing is the place to showcase their arthouse photo skills.
Take this recent BAT listing:
What exactly does that close-up of the wing mirror with it's high-contrast, moody lighting tell me about the condition of this car?
As a buyer, I have to wade-through this crap: the seller's wannabee calendar shots or their 27 versions of the same shot as they seek to find the most artsy angle...26 of which give me absolutely no further information about the car's condition and should have never made it to the listing.
Multiply these shenanigans by however many cars you're looking at and photo-fatigue starts to become a real thing.
So sellers, please; send all your beauty shots to Road & Track or Pirelli for their annual calendars and only give me what I need: "A complete set of good, clear, current photographs showing every aspect of the car, from the exterior to the chassis, particularly of key areas known to be important on this make and model."

Agreed! Only one photo is needed for everything that needs to be seen. If something can't be seen in one photo, show it in another. But it's tedious wading through 157 photos, with each exterior photo taken from a position just six inches from the previous photo. Show everything good enough to be seen, close ups on anything important, such as described flaws. If they are all clear, in-focus and high resolution, that's great.
Intermediate Driver

Am I allowed to mention ? I have a lot of confidence in this sight, and they have all the angles covered. In addition, it is the only other enjoyable car-related email I receive once a week.
New Driver

Just because the web makes it possible, doesn't mean it's a good thing.
Here's my experience with buying online, whether nationally in auctions ,or in the neighborhood with a local app:
I buy about 3 cars a year as a collector, over the last 10 years.
90% of the time I am disappointed with what I've bought. This includes cars sold by dealers, private sellers, widows, family members and guys that did their own restoration
It's not the fault of BAT, or Hemmings or any of the big auction's the two elements that you have no control over:
#1.The anonymous nature of selling online.
#2. Basic human nature. People lie. They lie about how it runs, drives and whether it needs work.
Did you ever hear you dad or some old car guy say "Don't buy a used're buying someone else's problems."'s kind of like that. The exception might be someone selling a million dollar Ford GT that's been in an airplane hanger for 4 years...that's probably a solid car. Everything're taking a gamble.
The internet makes it easy and exciting. You can browse for hours while your wife watches a murder-show, you can put in a low bid and get excited about "stealing" something until the last 3 minutes double or triple your bid. But it's still a rush.
But this is why it's not the best way to buy a vintage, classic or used car.
That "rush" clouds your judgement.
The BEST way to buy a car of any kind is to go see it, and if you are not a mechanic, take one with you. Have them go over it and tell you what they think the car needs, to be what you want and expect from this purchase. If you're not a wrench, a mechanic can tell you if the car is safe, reliable and whether it has hidden issues.
This was easy before the web when you might have purchased a car 2 towns over and you could drive there with your friend who builds hot rods. Today, if you're looking at a car 1,000 miles away that gets tricky. You CAN hire freelance inspectors to look at a long distance sale...but don't ask the seller for a recommendation...especially a dealer.
To keep this post short I'll put it in simple terms:
-You should not think about just the car for sale...examine the seller. If they don't respond to questions, or get touchy when you ask about issues, walk away.
-If there's no video of the car starting, running, starting, stopping and driving, don't bid. There is no excuse these days for not providing a simple phone video of the car starting and driving. UNLESS there are things they don't want you to see. I am amazed at how many cars on BAT sell without a video...that's a LOT of trust.
My best advice from experience:
Find the guy in online auctions or locally who is OCD or just a super-picky about his car. He's the least likely to lie. The guy who has every receipt or a box full of extras is the guy who wants to imagine his "baby" will be well cared for.
And finally...if you're buying local:
Don't ever go LOOK at a car at night, PAY for a car at night, or take DELIVERY at night. The night-time is not the car enthusiast's friend.

Advanced Driver

You got it friend. Need not say more!
New Driver

Thanks for the article. Sad to say I was completely scammed to the tune of $22,000.00. I found the car on trovit, redirected me to Automotive classifieds site, I emailed the owner, got photos, checked if the sellers (James Anderson of 4085 N Dalton Ln Boise ID), address was an actual address it was. He then told me he was overseas and was using a shipping company to broker the deal and hold the money, that was to be a bank to bank wire transfer, in escrow. Autotrans had a physical address as well. Once the 7 day inspection period was over Autotrans would release the money to the seller. I received a receipt, vin # (which was congruent to a 1970 buick GS), a contract and a shipping bill. At first I was able to track the car via their web site. Then the car didn't move and my calls and emails weren't returned. I got suspicious and contacted the seller to ask if he had any alternate contact info, no response. I contacted the receiving bank, they said they couldn't do anything until my bank called them, I contacted my bank. Miraculously the care moved! I think the account was flagged and they were trying to have me believe the car was still coming so I wouldn't try to recall the money. I did go to my local police, made a report and had my bank start a fraud investigation. Needless to say the car never showed, no response from the seller or the company. My bank and I am not hopeful any of the money can be recalled. I'm hoping that sharing this ordeal will save someone the financial and emotional stress of being scammed.

Ouch! Many red flags in your transaction. Seller "overseas". Shipping company holding the money? Wire transfer. Not using a third-party escrow if you aren't buying in person. Not seeing the car in person. Not buying the car in person. I feel for you. That must have been a hard lesson to learn.
New Driver

Rcsane- I had the exact same experience with trovit, the seller overseas and the car at a shipping company. Luckily this set off an alarm with me and I did not pursue the car further.
Then a month later I found another car on trovit and when I inquired about it I got the same response word for word with only the seller's name changed.
I think my experience and yours proves that trovit and Autotrans are scammer sites and should be avoided at all costs!
Sorry for the lost $'s
New Driver

If you don't want to get ripped off, have SOMEONE with mechanical expertise look at the car in person. No amount of pictures, video, emails or texts can insure you're getting what you think you are buying. I've been ripped off 80-90% of the time online, more often by dealers than private sellers, but they too have been less than honest or don't even know that much about the car's reliability and potential issues. The internet makes it all too easy to convince yourself you are dealing with someone who's honest, but sadly...that's not human nature. And as much fun as BAT is...I think that site has been driving prices way too high on a lot of vehicles.

For me the name BAT is a turn-off. If I buy a car chances are I won't want to trailer it home.
Intermediate Driver

Frankly, I doubt the value of a Carfax report. My own car was rear ended in 2006 and the repair cost $9k to fix. The body shop did a great job; to this day no sign of the damage. But I did a Carfax report a year or two after the accident and no mention of it.
Pit Crew

I stupidly sold my numbers matching 70 Chevelle SS 396, online. Both buyer and seller had a good experience, though doing over again, I would never have sold that car! The buyer bought my car by just looking at pics. He requested a pic of just about every inch of the car, including serial numbers of the whole drive-train and undercarriage.
Shipped it from Jersey to Montana. The car did not leave my garage till I was paid in full.
 He took a huge chance of getting ripped off, being I could have kept car and money. Lucky for him I'm not like that! He was very happy with the car. Personally there's no way I'd buy a car without seeing it in person, along with being there for the whole transaction but that's just me!


I don't understand why you are calling this transaction stupid. Did you have seller's remorse or did you find that this type of transaction to be so stressful that you would not do it again? Or was it something else not apparent to us? So many things could go wrong.

I just cannot imagine buying a car online, sight-unseen, with nothing to corroborate the seller's representation of the car. Yet, people do it all the time - and not necessarily low-buck cars, either.
Pit Crew

I have been interested in a few BAT auctions and I could see myself biding in the future. In the past when I have bought vehicles long distance, I paid to have them inspected and flown out to put own eyes on the vehicle before finalizing the purchase. When you find vehicle that you like on BAT that isn't reasonably local, do you scramble to find someone to have it inspected before placing bids and hope the inspection person is honest? If the car was drastically misrepresented, it seems like I would very least be out of the BAT fee. It doesn't seem like I can put a contingency on the pending my own personal inspection either. For those whose who bid on BAT, what do you do?
Pit Crew

One thing that was not mentioned about the on line sites such as Bring A Trailer is their process of deciding whether your vehicle is worthy of their site.
I had the recent experience of being turned down by them and another site to list my car a 1997 Jaguar XJ6. They replied to me that they did not think the car ( a 2 time concourse d'Elegance winner at the local Jaguar club ) was of interest to the buyer. Didn't know they curated potential sellers.
I subsequently listed it on a site that thought I was asking too much. Sold it for more than the asking price in a week to a buyer who knew the model quite well and declared it to one of the finest examples he had ever seen after searching for months. My take away? Don't listen to the jerks that run these sites. They're only interested in listed what they know will appeal the unwashed masses and move through the buying process quickly to make room for another mediocre crowd pleaser