ONLINE AUCTIONS: Would You (Have You)?

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
I'd like to know how many of you would actually
buy a classic car in an online auction, or if you
have actually done so.

Please let me know your concerns or experiences
with this!



  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That's when I'll buy a car sight unseen. It's not just larceny I'm afraid of. When I see the butchered crap that gets shown at club meets by proud owners, I know we're not all on the same page.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I am sometimes hired to inspect cars for buyers out of state, and I must say I am sometimes truly shocked at the difference between the ad and the car. And who said car dealers were dishonest?

    Of course, I've seen nice cars, too, but I can't say I ever saw a car that was BETTER than the ad!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Awhile back, I saw an ad for a 1962 PV 544 Volvo.

    Dumb, I guess, but I had one at a young age and maintain a mis guided soft spot for them.

    If you've ever owned one or driven a nice one, you might understand.

    I called the guy, and was impressed both by him and his graphic discription of the car.

    Since he was 100 miles away, I asked a lot of intense questions that he was happy to answer.

    Well, I guess the condition of the car to be a seven on a scale of ten. I went to the bank, got green cash, and headed north.

    The car turned out to be a TOTAL P.O.S.!!!

    In fact, when I pulled up to his house, I saw the thing and figured that this was a parts car for the one advertised!

    It was all I could do to bite my tongue and remain polite...

    But here is the real problem...He HONESTLY thought it was a nice car! The "minor surface rust" was so bad the car was probably unrepairable. The interior that had been redone "As close to original as possible" looked like garbage! The engine was incorrect for the car, and the "new wiring harness" looked like it had been installed by The Three Stooges!

    I left slowly shaking my head..." Make an offer" He yelled at me as I drove away!

    Still, I was nice to him as he truly thought he had "almost" a show car!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Yes, the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

    I like 544s A LOT! Great car, tough as nails and really fun to drive, too. Semi-collectible these days, you can usually find a beauty for $4k-$5K.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    This doesn't just apply to auctions either. As someone who doesn't live close to a major urban centre I have found the growth of the internet a real benefit when it comes to buying - online auctions, classified ads, retailers etc.

    When we are talking about a major purchase however it is a different ballgame. Would I buy a car online - no, but I would (and do) use the internet as a valuable resource to reduce costs of research.

    If I want to view a car in California then I don't really want to fly from Ontario on the off chance that it might be worth it, what I can do is get lots and lots of photographs, etc before I ever think about viewing in person. This really is the only option unless there is someone who you know to be reputable who can view the car for you.
  • sgaines1sgaines1 Member Posts: 44
    I got my '73 Mk. IV from the web. I know this is a question about auctions, but it seems like most people are talking about online classifieds. I would say my experience was just about as good as buying from anywhere else. I guess I paid more than the car was worth ($2500), but it was cheaper than anything else but the parts cars, and probably in better shape than a lot of the ones going for $4K . It wasn't falsely advertised, although the seller made a minor misrepresentation, which could have been an honest mistake, when I went to look at it. Of course, it was almost 9 hours driving out to OH and back, and I would have had to eat a huge cash advance fee if I had decided not to get it. One last thing, which could serve as advice to sellers. I only considered it because there were pictures. I know a lot of people who won't even look at anything on eBay, etc. if there isn't at least one picture.
  • chris396chris396 Member Posts: 53
    Andy that's what I did when I bought my '69 RS SS L78 Camaro convertible. I was able to get all the info I needed to check out the car online. But I still flew down to look at the car before I bought it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    The pictures are a help but they also can hide a multitude of problems.

    I also love the word "restored". That word has a lot of different meanings to diffeent people!
  • sgaines1sgaines1 Member Posts: 44
    Sometimes anyway. It does give you a good idea of what you'll see. You know, like what you'd see from the street when you got there, but then it would be too late to run, because the guy would be out front to meet you. For instance, when I was shopping, I discovered that someone's idea of a 'nice' '76 Mk. IV was that it had been pimped out with stupid mag wheels and dark tint on the windows. Oh well, I guess the tint hides the incense crowns on the rear window shelf.
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    On e-bay and similar sites can't you escrow the purchase price pending inspection?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Yep. Costs to do that, though.

    Another thing.... I never found public auctions to be a very good deal. People start bidding and bidding and often pay over retail for just about everything. I'm not so sure there are that many "good deals" online when it comes to cars at least. You remember our discussion in Sportscars about the guy who offered a 1993 I think it was Mazda RX7 with very low miles. Well, somebody bid it up to $25,000, which shocked me, and THEN HE TURNED IT DOWN! I almost fell off my chair.
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390

    It's hard for the average amateur to keep track of numbers and connect them with other key numbers, like their gross annual salary for example.

    I look at so many ads, but I don't really grasp anything till I make a chart, to compare apples and apples. Every time I do it, I find some things that surprise me.

    And yet when I finally make a purchase (or a sale), what do you wanna bet it'll be an impulse; not something I've studied?

    I should have majored in psych and minored in business, or the other way around.
  • andy_jordanandy_jordan Member Posts: 764
    I have been a regular auction goer form many years (all types), and never go with a certain item in mind - that way the heart doesn't rule the head.

    With cars it isn't so easy though, so I always make sure wife has the credit cards !!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Best way to approach an auction is to have a spending limit in mind and stick to it no matter what! If you want an MGB and you won't spend more than say $4,000, well, that's it then.

    I don't like to rush a car purchase. You have to remember the old saying "every car at auction has been abandoned by its owner".
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Watch out for shills! Quite often, there are shills in the audience bidding along with you. These people know that emotion has a LOT to do with the bidding.

    Thse people might even be bidding on their own cars!

    The BEST thing that can happen (for the seller) is when a couple of egos get involved!

    The bidders aren't about to lose the car and give the other bidder the satisfaction of the win!

    Lots of cars sell for more than their worth that way!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Ah, yes, the "financial pole vault" I call it in real-life auctions. How high can you jump with your checkbook in front of all those people. A deadly business!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    Sounds like you've seen the same thing. It's funny and sad at the same time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Hey, it's their money. Buyers are generally pretty savvy at the collector car auctions, but I don't think they are online. Great cars bring great money in the big auctions, but cars needing work go begging for buyers.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That true of real estate, too. I think there's a great truth here.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    At least with real estate you have a *chance* of getting your money back! :)
  • bubukittybubukitty Member Posts: 96
    I think that motto still holds very true. I have looked at the cars for auction on EBay and I don't think I would buy one without having it inspected by someone you hire or going to look at it personally.

    I have bought a couple of cars at auction (bank repos)where you get to see the cars, and got good deals on both cars, one which turned out to be a great car (an XR4TI--kept it 4 years-a record for me) and one (an XJ6) which was a lemon. I was able to look at both cars in the flesh and start them, though a drive was not allowed. I bid low on both cars (thousands below low book), factoring in the "risk factor" of buying a car at auction without being able to do a detailed mechanical inspection. Overall, I came out OK with my auction experiences, though I do not know if the same would be true with an online auction. Unless you were able to get a car for a total bargain, and inspect it or have it inspected, it may not be worth it.

    Here's a related story about looking before you buy. I saw a Triumph Stag (yes,I am a glutton for punishment but I really like these cars) for sale at a collector car dealer in San Diego. Found it on their web site--lots of nice pictures of it. It looked to be in great shape, had low miles. Called the dealer. He said the car was owned by a local Navy officer, and that it was in perfect shape and had documentation of the low miles. Sounds good so far. Paid for them to video the car and it looked and sounded fantastic in the tape. The price was fair so I thought that this might be the one. Paid to have a local shop do a pre-purchase inspection (they recommended the shop). The report came back good and the mechanic said it was in great shape, it had good compression and in great mechanical shape, yet he was a little evasive on some questions I asked about it which I found odd. I decided to go look at the car myself, though the dealer was trying to get me to buy it and he would ship it to me.

    Boy, that would have been a mistake! I knew within a minute of seeing the car in person that it was a piece of junk. The paint was shiny, but pretty thick and sloppy and not the original color either--could not tell this from the video. The door gaps were poor, there was rust in the rockers that they conveniently did not show in the video, and my magnet indicated that there was likely more bondo in the body now than metal! The car was owned by a Navy officer (he showed me papers), but the guy was stationed on the East Coast until a recent move to San Diego. They misrepresented the car. What a disappointment, and I drove quite a ways to get there to see the car. Needless to say, the dealer is scum and I walked out of his showroom.

    Sorry for the long story, but thought it would illustrate what you are up against in dealing with internet car dealers, let alone an online auction!
  • billy9billy9 Member Posts: 19
    I wanted to sell my 56 Mercury. I was thinking of putting it on Ebay with lots of pictures and maybe a motion picture clip of engine starting and car under power. I recently looked at Kruse which will be in Phoenix in Jan. They get 12% for reserve price under 10K, 8% no reserve and probably a listing fee of some sort. Seems to me Ebay would be worth a try for $26 for a lower end model someone on a budget can actually afford to enjoy. What do you all think, can the big auctions really bring more? Is there something better than Kruse? Thanks for any info. car can be seen at:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think the Hot August Nights Auction in Reno is the one for you, but I don't know if registration is still open on that.

    Auctions can bring good prices but really these days people who attend classic car auctions are pretty savvy and won't overpay; however your car looks nice and seems worth the money. It has good options such an o/d and a/c and the color, while not great, is pretty neutral to a buyer, so that shouldn't hurt too much.

    Sure, I'd give Ebay a try, especially if you have plenty of photos and info, which it seems you do.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    I think it's the first week of August. Silver Auctions out of Spokane, WA will conduct an auction.

    Mitch Silver is a great guy and if you call him, he will give you good advise. I don't have the number but they are listed.

    And, he doesn't charge as much as the big guys do.

    Your Merc looks good. Enjoyed the photos!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    But, oh was still fun.

    Since my very first car was a '52 Chevy (35.00 in 1965) I've always had a soft spot for old Chevys.

    And, I've been on a causal lookout for a 49-54.

    Well, right here in my hometown, there is one advertised... A "black beauty" 1950 Chevy!

    Only 2500.00!

    The nice lady did her best to accurately describe it to me and, excited, I headed over to see it!

    She wasn't home when I got there but the Chevy was!

    From 50 feet away, it looked pretty good...but alas...It was a TOTAL P.O.S.!

    It was badly rusted, had an incorrect engine, a Rube Goldberg 12 volt conversion...the interior stank of mildew...Even as an organ donor, there wasn't much left.

    Oh, I's 50 years old!

    Guess I'll keep looking...anybody wanna trade one for a BMW?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Sounds like about 2250 over priced!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    But, if someone had shot a photo of that Chevy and posted it on E-bay, it would have looked pretty good!

    And, the lady REALLY thinks it's in nice shape and would have described it that way.

    That's why I would neve buy a car sight unseen unless I had a pro like yourself who lived locally inspect it for me. that would be money very well spent!
  • billy9billy9 Member Posts: 19
    That is a good point. Which leads me to my question. Once I was surfing the web and came across a site for classifieds of classics and at the bottom of each ad said "can't get there" or something to that effect and what it was was a link to a listing of people (you could list yourself) who are willing to go inspect cars and shoot photos and videos etc and listed their fee. Has anyone seen this site or know of another such listing where we can find people by city or state to look at classics?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    That's a great idea, but I don't know of any clearing house for that. I've done on-site inspections for people, and they've worked out great, but it isn't a cheap thing to do. My minimum is $250 with traveling, photos and a full report. The inspector has to be very thorough, because there are liability issues here.

    At any rate, you have to make sure the inspector is IMPARTIAL, not someone sitting in the seller's back pocket.
  • billy9billy9 Member Posts: 19
    but this list you would get would be over 1000 people from all over, not just people willing to do the car in the specific ad. In other words there might be 20 people listed there w/ prices, email phone #s etc from the S.F. bay area. Pickingthe one guy who is in kahoots (sp?) with the advertiser would be almost impossible I hope.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    If the car is popular enough there may be a local club that recognizes that make. Sometimes, those clubs have a couple of people who would be willing to go take a look at it and give an honest opinion.

    Or...they might buy it out from under you! :)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482 members are very knowledgable but most liekly not terribly impartial...since they are in love with a particular car, they will overlook a lot of things. This isn't to say that they can't do a good job, but often there are problems with a diagnosis from a club member. Remember, the more they think their cars are worth, the happier they are, so they often give an inflated view of the car's present and future worth. I've seen that a lot. Also, they tend to take on restoration projects because they think there is this certain value at the end.

    You can learn a lot from club members (I do) but I myself never rely on their word regarding value or potential collectibility, etc. It's often distorted info, as befits human nature.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    They know, or should know the problem areas on the various years and models. Hopefully they can check for rust or hear the rods knocking.

    Probably better than nothing anyway?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, surely better than nothing, but club members are not always as good mechanics as they think they are. They're hobbyists, remember. Depends on the type of car really...old British cars or VWs or most American cars, sure, they'd probably be fine. But for high priced exotics, I'd go to an expert. You think the average club member is going to be able to spot cylinder head studs pulling on a 911 Porsche? I doubt it. Or able to do a cylinder leakdown test in the driveway?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonMember Posts: 20,338
    I agree, but even the worst "expert" would have taken one look at that 1950 Chevy and would have suggest a priest be called in for it's last rites.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, no arguing that!
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    I think that there's a fair amount of risk for the seller as well as the buyer when using an online site.
    At the present time, I'm considering selling my 1977 Trans Am. I'm trying to figure out what a fair price is, but wherever I look, the prices are all over the map.
    You get the people that are mentioned in postings above, who feel that their car is a real "beauty", and want top dollar for something that's really rough. On the other hand, you get cars that people inherit, lose interest in, where money isn't the issue, and just want a few bucks to unload themselves of it.
    If you have a car that's decent, what can you do? I've spoken to a few people in my town, and they swear by the Internet auctions. I'm just afraid that somehow I'd be the 1 out of 10,000 who ran into some sort of money glitch, and wound up losing my car to a dishonest buyer.
    On the other hand, if I advertise it locally, I run the risk of wasting a lot of time with a bunch of "tire kickers" and "test drivers", who might actually damage the car. I don't see it as being easy on either side of the coin.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I had pretty good luck advertising musclecars in Hemmings in the '80s. As long as the car is something someone wants (yours is, but some of mine weren't), and it's priced in the ballpark (might take some trial and error) and you're not in a big hurry (long lead time for placing an ad) it is (or was) the best around.

    If you live in a rust-free area, or the car is from that kind of area, you'll draw from a national market, generally of higher caliber than the local gearheads and dreamers.

    You might also think about advertising in a club publication, but the ones I used usually required that you join the club first. I never had any luck with them but it's worth a try, especially if you already belong to the club.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    The prices aren't "all of the map"....only the ASKING prices are all over the map, because asking prices are fantasies. But if you gave us a good description of the car, I could tell you pretty closely what it is likely to bring on the open market. Prices for collectible cars are very well researched and documented...there is no mystery about it, really.

    ONLINE AUCTIONS---oh, I think the risk for the SELLER is much less than for the BUYER.
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    Mr. Shiftright, if I read your post correctly, are you offering to give me an idea what I should be asking for the car ??
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, yes, we are here to help!
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    Thanks for your offer. The car is a 1977 Pontiac T/A. It has the optional 400 Pontiac engine, 4 speed manual transmission, 3.23:1 limited slip rear, power windows, tinted glass and rear defogger.
    I'm the original owner, and although I live in the "rust belt", the car has never been driven in the winter. It has 44,000 miles on the clock, and the interior and mechanicals are excellent. Over the years, I've added some aftermarket parts to the car but I've kept all of the OE parts.
    Keeping in mind that the car will be 25 years old in October, and the paint is original, it still looks pretty good. In all honesty, there is a little surface rust in a couple of spots, but overall the body is solid.
    Once again, thanks for your help, and I'm anxiously awaiting your reply.
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