Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1

Click Here to Begin Slideshow It’s not very often a writer gets to pen things that happened personally (and as a consequence, write in the first person). But in this case, there are a lot of personal experiences that prove interesting and worthwhile, so bear with me! True story: A few years ago, I was in the market for a nice clean, super low mileage Buick T-Type. I found one in Texas. I live north of Seattle - distance was an issue, but for what I was searching for, I was more than willing to travel. I called the dealer who advertised the car for sale and asked the appropriate questions. The main thing I cared about was that the mileage was exact and that the car had original paint, and those were things I emphasized. I asked for a plethora of pictures. I got them (digital images). The T-Type looked good enough for me to send a deposit by way of credit card and to buy a plane ticket. So far so good, but the moment I stepped out of the rental car, it was over. I didn't need to look much further. The car that was advertised (and the one in all of those digital photos) had at least 100,000 more miles on the odometer than promised and it was definitely a repaint, although a pretty good one. To make matters worse, twenty years or so years ago, I owned an appraisal company contracted to a pretty big insurance company with a bit more than 1,000,000 clients, and they only contracted to myself and one other company for the majority of their "specialty" appraisal needs (muscle cars, collectables, hot rods, anything non-stock, etc.). It was a busy place, and I had the opportunity to inspect scores of cars, good and bad. Even with that background it shows I can get burned. And so can you. So how do you get around long distance purchases and wasted long distance trips? Simple: Hire a qualified, knowledgeable appraiser to examine the car firsthand. But there’s a big question: What’s the background on the appraiser? Certainly industry affiliations are a big bonus, but the truth is, some of those affiliations come from scenarios where the appraiser pays the yearly membership dues and in return, acquires “accreditation.” That means in plenty of cases, Bubba down the street can become an accredited appraiser. At least in my opinion, the best appraiser is the one with experience, particularly with the cars we’re dealing with. Let’s face it: An expert on Duesenbergs isn’t going to be much help if you’re looking for a Regal T-Type. The other thing that makes for a good appraiser is one who has done a volume of cars. You’ll find folks with an insurance background likely see scores of cars weekly in comparison to those who frequent one or two per week (or in some cases, one or two per month). Where do you find appraisers? Sure, many advertise in the big automotive “for sale” publications, but an equal number are simply listed in the telephone directory yellow pages. Some have websites. I’d recommend making a short list of folks close to the car in question, then call each one and interview them. Ask about their background along with their affiliations (societies, club affiliations and so on). Ask if they personally buy and sell cars – that should be a big red flag. You’ll quickly get a feel for who has the knowledge (and the background) and who doesn’t. What if the car is in your neighborhood (or at least within striking distance) and you want to go over it yourself? Remember, saving money is a big part of what this is all about. Simple: Follow along. You can pretty much do what the appraiser does. Paperwork… A big thing the appraiser wants to see right off the bat is paperwork. In many cases, a good appraiser won’t even begin the process without the title and, in some cases, insurance paperwork in hand. If the title and the VIN don’t match, then there is no need to go any further. Here’s another personal vignette: I once tried to buy a damaged ’67 Corvette (again, long distance). The seller and I had it all arranged and I was about to pick up a rental trailer when copies of the paperwork arrived. I was crestfallen. The title and the VIN didn’t exactly match. Something was amiss and after doing a little bit more homework, I tucked my tail behind my legs and called it a day. Good appraisers also have keen eyes for messed up VIN tags and VIN tag rivets. On later cars, they will double check things like trim tags, door decals and broadcast (or option) decals. I’ll consider this a wrap for this segment. Watch for a follow-up next week. That issue will include a detailed checklist on what to look for. After that we'll discuss dos and don'ts when transporting your project car. Don’t miss it!

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

It’s not very often a writer gets to pen things that happened personally (and as a consequence, write in the first person). But in this case, there are a lot of personal experiences that prove interesting and worthwhile, so bear with me!

True story: A few years ago, I was in the market for a nice clean, super low mileage Buick T-Type. I found one in Texas. I live north of Seattle - distance was an issue, but for what I was searching for, I was more than willing to travel. I called the dealer who advertised the car for sale and asked the appropriate questions. The main thing I cared about was that the mileage was exact and that the car had original paint, and those were things I emphasized. I asked for a plethora of pictures. I got them (digital images). The T-Type looked good enough for me to send a deposit by way of credit card and to buy a plane ticket. So far so good, but the moment I stepped out of the rental car, it was over. I didn't need to look much further. The car that was advertised (and the one in all of those digital photos) had at least 100,000 more miles on the odometer than promised and it was definitely a repaint, although a pretty good one.

To make matters worse, twenty years or so years ago, I owned an appraisal company contracted to a pretty big insurance company with a bit more than 1,000,000 clients, and they only contracted to myself and one other company for the majority of their "specialty" appraisal needs (muscle cars, collectables, hot rods, anything non-stock, etc.). It was a busy place, and I had the opportunity to inspect scores of cars, good and bad. Even with that background it shows I can get burned. And so can you.

So how do you get around long distance purchases and wasted long distance trips? Simple: Hire a qualified, knowledgeable appraiser to examine the car firsthand. But there’s a big question: What’s the background on the appraiser? Certainly industry affiliations are a big bonus, but the truth is, some of those affiliations come from scenarios where the appraiser pays the yearly membership dues and in return, acquires “accreditation.” That means in plenty of cases, Bubba down the street can become an accredited appraiser. At least in my opinion, the best appraiser is the one with experience, particularly with the cars we’re dealing with. Let’s face it: An expert on Duesenbergs isn’t going to be much help if you’re looking for a Regal T-Type. The other thing that makes for a good appraiser is one who has done a volume of cars. You’ll find folks with an insurance background likely see scores of cars weekly in comparison to those who frequent one or two per week (or in some cases, one or two per month).

Where do you find appraisers? Sure, many advertise in the big automotive “for sale” publications, but an equal number are simply listed in the telephone directory yellow pages. Some have websites. I’d recommend making a short list of folks close to the car in question, then call each one and interview them. Ask about their background along with their affiliations (societies, club affiliations and so on). Ask if they personally buy and sell cars – that should be a big red flag. You’ll quickly get a feel for who has the knowledge (and the background) and who doesn’t.

What if the car is in your neighborhood (or at least within striking distance) and you want to go over it yourself? Remember, saving money is a big part of what this is all about. Simple: Follow along. You can pretty much do what the appraiser does.

Paperwork…

A big thing the appraiser wants to see right off the bat is paperwork. In many cases, a good appraiser won’t even begin the process without the title and, in some cases, insurance paperwork in hand. If the title and the VIN don’t match, then there is no need to go any further. Here’s another personal vignette: I once tried to buy a damaged ’67 Corvette (again, long distance). The seller and I had it all arranged and I was about to pick up a rental trailer when copies of the paperwork arrived. I was crestfallen. The title and the VIN didn’t exactly match. Something was amiss and after doing a little bit more homework, I tucked my tail behind my legs and called it a day. Good appraisers also have keen eyes for messed up VIN tags and VIN tag rivets. On later cars, they will double check things like trim tags, door decals and broadcast (or option) decals.

I’ll consider this a wrap for this segment. Watch for a follow-up next week. That issue will include a detailed checklist on what to look for. After that we'll discuss dos and don'ts when transporting your project car. Don’t miss it!

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1 1

Making a deal long distance can prove to be good or bad experience. I’ve had both. For example, the green Nova shown in the first photo turned out to be better than anticipated. Others I either examined or purchased weren’t exactly nice.

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1 2

Getting an appraiser to look at a car when buying long distance is like having money in the bank. Just be sure your appraiser has experience in the type of car you’re buying.

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1 3

Sometimes it’s possible to find the right car in the right neighborhood (that didn’t happen to me, but this is an appropriate photo!). If that’s the case, you can easily check it out yourself. Stay tuned, because we have a lot more next issue.

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1 4

When an appraiser checks out a car, the VIN tag is critical. You certainly don’t want to see a VIN that was obviously tampered with and you do want it to match the paperwork.

Evaluating Your Project Car Part 1 5

This is good paperwork. Not only is the title in order, the car even had an original GM warranty Protect-O-Plate and other documentation. Be certain the paperwork and the VIN match!

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