Ten Sacred rules to Safely Buying a Car Long-Distance
The top ten things every buyer should do before contemplating a long-distance purchase.
10) Understand your needs and curb your expectations! Take time to think about your intended use for the vehicle. Is it to be a daily driver, a sunny day 2nd car, or an investment? Be realistic about your needs, your budget and your restoration skills. Hope for the best deal but expect the worst. Be sure to leave yourself some ‘wiggle’ room for surprises and adjust your offer accordingly. This is one of the best ways to avoid ‘buyer’s remorse’ by having clear expectations ahead of time. It’s just like buying a house. No one existing property is going to perfect in every way, they’ll be some things you love, some things you don’t but can live with and some things that you know you will have to get taken care of right away. Understand that the same holds true when buying a used car (even a restored one).
9) DON’T RUSH! It never ceases to amaze me when I hear a buyer tell me that he’s in a crazy rush to get a car inspected. He’s all jammed up because he has a truck lined up tomorrow to go pick the car up or he’s got a plane ticket booked. He’s just impatient, ‘putting the cart before the horse’ (as my dad would say). I can all but guarantee you that this buyer will get himself burned. Not only do you completely diminish any leverage you may have to negotiate because the seller is calling the shots and has you eating out of his hand, you stress yourself out (and everybody else) for no reason. Be diligent, work methodically through the acquisition and remember (with VERY few exceptions), THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER CAR!
8) Make certain you are dealing with the car’s owner! Ask to see a copy of the title and be wary of vehicles whose owner of record is not the person you are dealing with. If the sellers name is not on the
the title, he should be able to produce a signed Bill of Sale from the previous owner showing that he legally acquired the car. Note that you still may encounter problems when you go to register such a car with a ‘skip title’ at the DMV if the seller is not a legitimate auto dealer.
7) Don’t shop for trucking companies by price! When it comes to transporting your new multi-thousand dollar purchase, now is NOT the time to skimp to save a couple of hundred bucks. You WILL live to regret it. Don’t use a back-street broker. These are typically people working from home that take your order and promptly post it to an internet message board that’s read by independent truckers, asking for the cheapest quote. They then add $100 to the truckers quote and put you in touch with them directly, washing their hands of you. Your new prized possession is now in the hands of some random stranger of no fixed abode, with your only means of contact being a pay-as-you-go cell phone number. (Scary huh?) Find an established trucking company with offices, who own their own trucks. It should be one that will go collect the car and keep it on the same truck until it reaches your door. Remember, the more folks that touch your car in transit the more chance there is of it getting damaged. Oh, and don’t let the seller be the one to arrange the trucking because if the car turns up at your door damaged you will have no recourse with the trucking company as they weren’t hired by you. Your grievance will have to go through the seller – which just adds to your problems.
6) GET IT INSURED! From the moment you cut the check for the car it should be insured by YOUR insurer. There was a story a while back about a guy who bought a 6-figure Ferrari long-distance. The car showed up alright, but when he went to register it he found out that the car had in fact been reported stolen! Because the owner had the presence of mind to insure the car as soon as he sent the money, his insurance company compensated him for his loss. (Phew!)
5) Pay attention to your gut! There are a lot of weird and eccentric people out there and many collect old cars. While it’s true that you don’t have to like the seller to do a deal, if he/she is making you jump through hoops and generally being uncooperative, or indirect. Be prepared to walk away. If you feel like you are swimming upstream trying to make the deal come together, go with your gut instinct and leave that one to burn somebody who’s less savvy.
4) Do your Homework! Take time to do research on the car you are thinking of buying. Check out the seller too. You want to be certain, that as you compare prices, you are comparing apples with apples. Whether it’s a collector car, an exotic or just a daily driver, options, receipts, service maintenance history and ownership history can make a big difference to the cars value. So what may initially seem like a great deal, upon closer inspection may turn out to be not so good. Almost everyone has a camera phone these days, so it’s easy to ask the seller to send you a photo of the VIN, the engine number, body tag etc. and the corresponding number on the title to ensure the car IS correct ahead of time. The internet makes this research so easy. Run the sellers name to check his address corresponds to his phone number. You can even check his home address from space with something like Google Maps to make sure it’s not an empty lot. Check the CURRENT market prices especially when it comes to buying collector cars as the market has changed so dramatically. Many traditional value guides are published every two or three months and they take a two to three month period prior to that to compile the data that goes into the latest issue before going to press. This means that the information can be 4-6 months out of date! Use eBay.com to see what folks are REALLY paying for similar cars, don’t just look at what actually sold for, but look at what similar cars are getting bid up to. Classic car buyers can use a resource like www.Hi-Bid.com which has up-to-the-minute results from every major collector car auction in the world!
3) ALWAYS get it inspected! Even if the car is a project, get it checked out. The value of a project is in what parts are there, what is salvageable and what will have to be replaced. An inspection can document pretty much exactly what you are agreeing to purchase in the deal. Of course if the car runs and drives, no matter who the seller is, it’s simply stupidity if you don’t get the car pre-inspected BEFORE you begin negotiations. www.AutomobileInspections.com can inspect any car, anywhere in the USA or Canada and have a completed thorough report and photos in your hands in a little as 72 hours for about $350!
2) Get everything in writing! It would be nice is everyone was trustworthy, but they are not and as there is no way to tell the honest seller and the con man apart the best advice (sad as it is) is; Don’t accept the seller at his word, (it won’t hold up in court without witnesses anyway) Get a proper legal ‘Purchase Agreement’ drawn up outlining the precise terms of the deal. Have the seller sign and return it to you along with a copy of the title. If you need help with this contact a company like www.BuyerServicesInternational.com who can do it for just $50 and in fact help you with everything on the buying side of the process.
1) Never pay for the car before you are ready to remove it from the seller’s property. Wiring money directly to the seller is very risky. Once you pay for the car it, you own it. If something happens to it before you can get it picked up, don’t expect the sellers insurance to protect you, it only protects HIS property. It is possible to arrange the transaction so that at no time one party has the car, the title and the money (again, contact www.BuyerServicesInternational.com if you need help).
Written by Jeff Webster / CEO
Buyer Services International, LLC