Jim’s Blog: Will You Buy Online?

The car of your dreams is for sale and you’ve got the cash in hand. Only one problem. You can’t see it in person first.

That’s the challenge in front of a lot of buyers right now, and auctions are working to make that challenge less of a concern by being as forthcoming and helpful as possible. Still, how do you really feel about buying something like an LS6 Chevelle or Boss 302 without laying hands on it first?

What if it’s just a basic ’67 Camaro with no frills?

For me, high-res photos are key — and not just any high-res photos. I’d want to see as many as possible, taken by someone who really knows how to use a DSLR and has the proper equipment to produce good results. Show me the ins and outs of the car — even the parts others might consider redundant. I’d rather see five different angles on a quarter panel than to miss it entirely. But even that only takes you so far.

Maybe it’s dependent on the company hosting the car. eBay Motors has been doing this for years — and as a buyer, you know what to expect and what’s required of you and the seller to make sure everything goes smoothly. Do you feel less concerned about dealing with a smaller, high-end auction house like RM Sotheby’s or Bonhams that takes more time to vet the cars being offered? Do their descriptions hold more clout in your mind than something a seller posts about his or her car on eBay?

If you’re on the fence, what would it take, short of seeing the car yourself, to be less worried about the process?

Let’s talk about it below. 

4 comments

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  1. I’d rather not buy online. My last three collector cars were bought without physical examination (two were examined by a friend or shop), so next time I’d like to see it, just to be different.

    Still, I’d be tempted if the absolute right car came along.

  2. As we are moving more and more to this platform, it is hard for me to see how we will not find ourselves in the position not to. I have brought 5 (1 seen then communicated on-line) cars online over the last four years. Three at the help of good friends, which made it extremely easy.
    One over Ebay, that real communication did not take place until after the sale. It was a great buy and feel that I only got it due how it was presented (a gamble itself).
    One Internet/Phone from Mecum and I must say they were pretty great in communicating with me trouble areas of the car. It was a 61 Buick so they took the time to send me pics of trouble areas and call and discuss to make I felt good about the bidding.
    Last was another 61 Buick I saw at the Pomona swap meet. I was really taken back by the car, but was not in the market so did not take the time to really study it. However, I could not get it out of my mind and ended up contacting the seller and went back and forth for over a month trying to get enough info to finally make the purchase.
    So, yes for me it has become standard and although I have been lucky, this last one reminded of the work needed for the investment.

  3. tHE SHORT ANSWER IS YES

    The short answer is yes I’ll bid on-line but I’ll still probably attend live auctions. The challenge with many on-line auctions is that they don’t supply enough information or photos. Bring A Trailer has set a new standard for on-line auctions. The comments on certain vehicles allow you to learn about many details you wouldn’t know otherwise. I’ve been to Mecum in Kissimmee a number of times and love the event but I can’t spend 10 days there waiting for a vehicle to come up. In closing there is room for both types of auctions

  4. I bought my ’68 BMW 2002 on eBay 12 years ago for 5k. I wasn’t concerned that I hadn’t seen the car first, so long as it ran, wasn’t missing any pieces, and was rust free. For the price, I couldn’t have asked for more.