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Hagerty Employee

The nature of automotive regrets-those sold and those not purchased | Hagerty Media

My mother, easily the wisest person I ever met, coined the phrase "the good regret." It was 40 years ago. We were on one of our last family vacations together and stopped at some little craft store. My mother was taken with a hand-knit sweater but decided against buying it.

Thanks Siegel, for bringing back all those long pushed aside and mostly scabbed over regret-filled memories! You could've made it easier for me, if you just told me to get my favorite piece of rusty metal out and take a big slice out of my hand and forearm and then rub salt and grease into it for five minutes and wait a couple days for the infection to get going. That probably would've been too easy and not challenged your writing ability enough. That's fair.
Well, as I think about it... I can't say I really mind the bleeding, the salt, the dirt and grease, the guilt, the fourteen steps of grief ( I have my own steps of grief, I'll write about them sometime...); the broken bones, the broken teeth, the broken tools, the laughter of friends when I had to tell them the story of when I sold that one car right before it would've been worth enough to pay off my house, because I had to eat.
No, I don't mind those things too much, those stories and regrets are really a part of being a car guy. 🙂 Thanks Rob for a good story and reminder of I shouldn't get too attached to my cars. Well I can't sell the '64 El Camino, I've left several quarts of blood on that one, I really can't sell the '64 Chevelle; it's my daily driver. I can't sell the '67 El Camino, (55,000 original miles with Dealer installed A/C) I'm too deep in the re-paint etc.
I really shouldn't have sold that '65 Tempest, that was a great car, or that old C10 short box truck. That was a cool piece. Or the '67......
Advanced Driver

Rob, Well put! Did you perchance also major in Psychology?
Intermediate Driver

I regret the sale of the Jensen Interceptor I once had. It was a very low mileage original. I got a good deal on it originally, so when I sold it after 4 or 5 years of ownership I felt good about moving it on, but now regret the sale having seen where the prices have jumped to. I won't be getting another at today's prices. I sort of regret the 'purchase' of a Citroen SM that I had. I got it for free, since it was languishing behind a gas station awaiting arrival of the junkyard scrap pick up. I did get it running and driving, and it had a nice interior, but terminal rust underneath and when hydraulic lines that were impossible to reach began popping, it was sold as a parts car. Engine ran pretty well, but needed work on the distributor. I had some fun with it and made some money on it, but glad I sold it. The problem is that I never got the SM out of my system, and they've gotten to be even more expensive than the Jensen!

A wise man (well, TV character) once said: "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." Unfulfilled desires are sometimes (usually?) better. In other words, there's always more rust than you can see.. Live long and prosper.
Pit Crew

I certainly know the feelings. I let go of my first car, a red 69 BMW 2002, and a rusty 66 2000CS. But that was fine. It was the 70 Buick GS 455 convertible I passed on in the early 80s that occasionally surfaces in my mind. The owner was asking $1,500 but I didn’t like the color, goldish green with a brown interior.
Advanced Driver

Yes, and who knew that there were Vulcans named "Stan"?
New Driver

I was extremely attached to my custom ordered (only new vehicle I ever and will every buy), orange 1996 GMC K1500. Drove it daily for 23 years and when I realized we needed to part ways, I sold it to a friend with the option to buy back first, when he wanted to sell. He recently sold it after keeping my dream alive for two more years, and gave me first option; as much as I loved that truck and wanted it with me for eternity; I passed. I was sad to let it go, thanks for reminding me that it's just a truck

I know I'm going to regret a "should have bought." Last year, I was on the hunt for a Mustang Shelby GT350. I had a very-specific requirement for the options. It seemed like the more closely a car matched my spec, the more the dealer wanted for it--above my tolerance price. I was faced with three options: pay more than I wanted for a car very close to what I wanted, pay a better price but end up with options I didn't want, or keep looking.

When faced with a decision like that, it's often easiest to do nothing. So I did nothing and waited to see if my unicorn would show up. Well, it didn't, they stopped making them and I just *know* years down the road this will be a car I really wished I'd owned and will hold value long-term.

I bought my first car, a 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe, in 1964, I was 16 years old.
In 1968 I was getting married, didn't have much money so I had to sell it.
Having the cash helped a lot but I regretted selling it.
Thankfully the regret didn't last long, in 1969 I found another 1940 Ford Deluxe Coupe, yellow same as the first one. I still have it today!
Intermediate Driver

Geezus! That question has been kicking around as long as I have liked cars, and that's a looooong time. I guess I would be labeled a hoarder, since I never get rid of anything unless I really hate it. I have owned my E-type for 47 years. My Austin-Healey for 39. My Elva Courier for 37. My Genie for 36. My Lotus 46 for 33. And my Porsche 914/6 for 23. Maybe I miss my 1968 Plymouth Road Runner that I traded in on my first sports car, a Triumph. Or the Ferrari 206GT, because it was a problem child. It was the ordeal with that car that caused me to pass on a 250 GTO for a paltry $4500. But that was just an old race car at that time, that had been rode hard and put away wet. I know the guy that ended up with it, and he put a big bag of money into it getting it back to where it needed to be. But with those now going for $50 million and up, that was a BIG mistake. People tell me if I cry over every deal I passed up, I'll eventually be hauled away in a goofy-suit. Spilled milk.
Intermediate Driver

I've been blowing through BMW 3 series for the last 20 years as well.
1991 318is
1995 318is
2001 328is
2011 328is (current car)
Like you, I buy them used (10 years +/-) and get one with reasonable mileage.
They're used as daily drivers in Canada and I generally let them go when the bodies start to fail.
I really like the 3 series but over the years they've gotten progressively "bigger". In particular they've gotten longer and the U-turns I could do in the '91 are now 3 point turns in the 2011.
There was a 2011 330 (twin turbo) that I also considered but my mechanic talked me out of it. I had my own doubts as well....
I'd like to have another '91 (or earlier) but the current prices are out of reach and the ones that do show up have been heavily modified.
New Driver

My biggest regret: A 1956 Porsche Speedster, 1600 Normal,Meissen Blue. $650.00 with the engine in boxes on the front floor. Hardtop, but no soft top. Ratty interior, but with the correct speedster seats. Sold a few months later for what I had in it to pay for fall tuition. One sold et the Hershey RM auction a few years ago for $240,000.00 Wrong seats, trim missing, bad paint, etc.
Next one that got away, a late 30s BMW 328. Found in Germany in late 1965. We were on a rally, and someone mentioned the car was available. Again, the engine in boxes, but all complete. Asking $350.00 in local currency.
Took the phone # and after a few weeks, gave them a call. Sorry, sold. For $150.00

I met Rob several years ago at a BMW event in Saratoga, NY. Wonderful person. Reading this article made me want to put in writing my own "should-have-bought" regrets. A number of years ago, when my son was in High School, he was interested in a mini-bike. A friend gave me the name of a fellow he knew with one for sale. This fine old gentleman was once the owner of a hobby shop I had gone to. We went to look at the mini-bike and ended up buying it. That's not the story, however, I want to relate. This man had 6 Corvettes of the various generations that he had begun to divest himself of. The last remaining was a black on red 1963 split-window, it had a 4-spd stick along with the original transmission; it had newer wheels and radial tires, along with the original wheels and red-stripe tires. All that he offered to me for $20k, I believe this was in 2003. I gave it considerable thought, but because we had a young family, the decision to forgo this purchase was the right thing to do. Not a day goes by that I think back and wish I had bought this one. The moral of both stories is to make the decision that is right for you at the time.
Pit Crew

Wow, you probably couldn't have struck more chords if you were holding a 12 string! It seems I bought my 911 cab about the same time you did but managed to pay nearly twice as much. That may have been offset by me finding an E30 M3 fully functional and running well for near exactly the same price you mention but in this century!

My only barn find to date was a 72 T/A found some 30 years ago in Vermont. Long since sold and would represent a near 10 bagger if still owned. I've lucky to have bought a number of buggies, fixed, driven and sold. While not a barn find, 2 years back, I pulled an 86 E24 out of slumber, refreshed it, drove it for a year and moved it on. While gorgeous, it didn't move me as much driving it as it did just looking at it. I've had a few regrets but often months or longer later something comes along to fill the void or make the past regret a good one.

I sheepishly admit to a nagging regret of a 1970 Torino 429CJ, 4spd, with 11K miles in NH for high teens back in the day. I was between jobs and not bankable so that too was a "good regret" as I really had no chance.

Back to the Germans I mentioned earlier. I somewhat tritely have referred to them in the past as "freshman" and "sophomore" alluding to their possible/probable use as tuition for my daughter should she be able to attend college. Well Bean Town college said come on down and I find myself with nicely appreciated cars that might not even cover orientation! Should they be transformed from someone's dream cars, into someone else's dream cars, leading to another's actual dreams, no regrets.
Advanced Driver

Rob: I have mild regret on a sale. I sold a '73 340 Challenger Rallye a few years ago. I had sworn after I rescued it from a junkyard that I was going to restore it, and would NEVER sell it. I collected restoration parts and drove it for a few years; when the transmission developed a massive leaking problem, I parked it. Approximately 10 years later, with the restoration having not commenced, and the realization that time was against me, I started to downsize my collection. I sold the Challenger on eBay to a very appreciative buyer. Looking now, at how the selling price for that car has doubled, I should have held onto it for a few more years.....*SIGH*! Oh, well!! 🙂

My shouldn't-have-sold is a 77 Celica
Although to be completely honest, it was a cheap daily driver in the era that i had it, and it got driven through three engines and two transmissions. When i finally let it go, engine 3 had 10 psi of oil pressure and the strut towers had rot holes in them, and the car never really had the power level i craved. But i did like my baby mustang and they are virtually unobtainable now
My should-have-bought was a 73 Jensen Interceptor
I had never seen or heard of one before i encountered this particular example at a swap meet for 10K. paint was a little rough, but it was a whole running car and i loved the quirky english styling with the American V8 under the hood. I was in career transition at the time and could have probably scratched up the dough, but the consequences of doing so at the time would likely have been disastrous. I haven't seen one for any where near that price since
Oh well

I'm perfectly safe from the regret of "shouldn't-have-sold"; I seem to fall deeply in love with everything I buy so that I either drive it into the ground, or watch it rust back into the ground. I suffer the regret of "why didn't I cash that thing out before I ruined it".

The unfortunate truth is it is very easy to buy much harder to sell. A few years back I saw a Sprite, or more appropriately a half dozen boxes of Sprite parts in a loose congregation, but I just simply had to have it!
I call it a 3 year “sentence” because I buried myself in the garage for 3 years trying to get it together, became a frustrated old crab to the family, although when things did come together it was amazing. The British car community became my allies selling me cheap parts and at least offering emotional support, and I have no regrets.
Still I will think long and hard before jumping back into the next fixer for reasons way beyond spending the money!
Pit Crew

I got lucky on selling one of my cars and got it back 17 years later.  1992 Heritage Edition z28 with 59k original miles. 


I sold it in 2002 to a guy in Beaumont, Tx. He was the 4th owner.


Wife got a call 2 years ago from the 5th owner that he had all the paperwork the first 4 owners collected on all work done.  He said him and his son were going to be in Austin in March 2019 for a RadRod show.


We went to the car show and their she was with 57k miles. 


We invited him and his son for a homemade Mexican dinner.


After dinner we walked outside and I said " you know what I am going to ask you?". He said "I know, you got first dibs if I sell it.  He said his wanted a vette and he would sell it to get the vette. He said it might be a year or two and I said that is fine. Well , 3 months later, he calls me and said wife wants the vette. We made a deal and I asked if he can wait about 6 weeks, he said ok. 


August 2020, my dad, son and I drive to Jasper, TX to pick it up.


It has 59k miles now.


We got lucky.


Manny Duarte



A very enjoyable article. I have owned a few of the cars that Rob has owned. In 2008 I decided to buy an air cooled Porsche after decades of owning and restoring American V8/4 speed cars. My wife had purchased an E21 BMW years before which started my love of Germans from the 1980's. The 320IS is an undervalued car that can be set up to run turns faster than any other car that I've owned. I REGRET having to sell that car.

I had always loved 911s but never had enough money for one until the 21st Century. Back then, as Rob says, you could buy a sound car for under $15K. After shopping for months, I bid on a 1996 Polar Silver 993 with a 6 speed and won the auction for $23K. That was way more than I had planned to pay, but even then the 993 was a $30K car. After only six months, I realized that the 993 wasn't for me, so I traded it for a $19K Guards Red '87 G50 car. Those 993s are now selling for over $60K.....but I have NO REGRETS.

Six years later, after much restoration, I found two broken head bolts on the 911 and decided it was time to sell. By then a very solid G50 needing an upper engine rebuild still sold for $30K. That represents the only time in my life when I have broken even on a car that I've owned. And once again, I have NO REGRETS about selling it. I have a long list of reasons why those 911s weren't for me, but I found that my working class sensibilities couldn't adjust to driving cars that were climbing in value toward $50K.

After the sale of the G50, I purchased an '87 E30 325IS. Rob is right in saying that these cars do get under your skin. Mine was a very original 70K mile, one owner Florida car. In 2014, these cars were still inexpensive to buy. My car arrived in much worse condition than advertised, but was still an exciting restoration project. The owner had clearly loved the car, but wasn't mechanical, so the car had suffered some neglect. After 150 hours in my garage and another $9K in parts, it's a wonderful car to own. Silky smooth acceleration with nimble, predictable handling. The E30 has to be one of the last BMWs that's friendly to the home mechanic. By the '90's BMWs began their trend toward porky and gratuitousness complex luxury liners. The E30 seems to be rising in value, but not like 911s. Despite owning numerous BMW motorcycles and a few cars, I've never considered myself a BMW person. I plan to hold on to the 325is. It's almost the perfect street car.
Pit Crew

Hmm, maybe in process. I am a Jeep engineer, and my version of a "Classic" was a CJ 7

Have decided to sell my CJ 7 after 21 years of building and fun times with the kids. Reality is I built it to rock crawl, but rarely do that.. and my kids are no longer home. I used it mostly for eve rides to get ice cream with the family. 17k miles in 20 years... But now have FIVE Jeeps to enjoy.. so, one has to go.

Why? I am building my 77 Cherokee Chief, and resto mods are expensive.
The CJs are now worth a ton of money, and I will use the funds to update and paint the Chief for my wife and I to drive Rt 66 when I retire.
Will I miss it? Sure. Will I regret it? A bit, but PRACTICAL choices have to be made. And I did have 21 years of enjoyment and use out of the CJ. Can't really complain about that.

PS - I hate BMWs... lol. BUT - I do enjoy your writing very much. Good reading as usual.
Pit Crew

Good article. I have a long list of Seller's Regrets, from long-gone Land Rovers to just-sold BMWs. But I'm a buy-and-sell kind of guy, and most people don't expect to see me driving the same car for more than several months. I've even bought back the same car or bike a few years or even decades later.
I envy some of my car-guy friends, who have kept the same collector cars for decades and seem to remain passionate about them. Someday I'll find the perfect collection and keep them....someday.

Greatest regret selling was a 1972 GMC Sprint SP. It is the GMC version of an  El Camino SS.  They only made a couple hundred and few remain today with big blocks. 


The greatest regret not buying are two cars. 


One is a Pantera. Back in the 80's a friend had two and tried to talk me into buying one. He said the prices will be going up soon.  


The one I regret even more is the guy with a Ferrari Dino back in 1985. It was a blue metallic and like new. I had just bought a new car and was still in school. He was asking $15,000 for it and at the time they were really unloved cars. I considered it but the fact it would need to be a daily driver and the salt here would have eaten it alive. Also my experience with Fiats reminded me you just don't get parts down the street. 


But if I had bought it for $15,000 and with todays prices Hmmmmm! 


Now here is the odd one. The car I kept and no regrets. I bought a V6 Fiero in 1985. I have had an accident in it that may have saved my life. I rebuilt it and modified it to my own and have taken top awards at many Pontiac meets. Some cars I go up against have more in paint than I have in the car but yet I have been competitive. The car has given me a lot of fun and enjoyment and in the end that is what really matters. 


In the 1990’s I went to a small, out of the way, car show near my house, There were Camaros, Chevelles, Mustangs,..................and a BMW M1. I complement the owner, and the first thing he said was “wanna buy it?”. Asking price was $75,000. I think I was the only one at the show who knew what it was. In retrospect, I should have bought the M1 instead of the house I sunk way too much money into on a rehab.

Weep with me, LOL.