4 Ways to Protect Yourself When Purchasing A European Classic
Buying a European collector car is an exciting process. Most people have dreamt of owning a certain make or model for their entire lives, and when they can finally call one their own it's both invigorating and terrifying. But as pleasant as we try to make the buying experience, there can be a very dark side to purchasing a vehicle over the internet. Especially when it comes to wiring money.
Over the course of the past year, we've witnessed 3 incidences where a customer has wired funds, and we have never received them. These are incredibly difficult situations where nobody wins. We never wish this upon any of our customers, so we hope to extend some advice to our buyers thinking of wiring funds for a vehicle, especially if you're abroad.
We want buying one of these beautiful vehicles to be a great experience. And we want our customers to be protected. It's important to us that a customer feels confident and secure shopping with Frazier Motorcar Company. We hope that these tips can help you navigate the waters of internet sales, whether you're buying from us, or anywhere else on the web.
1. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!
Do your market research! If you are searching for a 1988 Porsche 911 and all of the examples you have seen are roughly around $42,000, but you found one on Craigslist for $18,000...RUN AWAY! This is quite common when it comes to Craigslist or other free classified sites. Our pictures have been stolen many times and the vehicle will be offered for sale on Craigslist for half of our asking price in a different town. These are complete scams.
When you come across ads like this, ask a lot of questions. Ask for more pictures, or video of the vehicle running. Google the car. If the VIN number isn't offered, ask for it, and then google the VIN. Ask for service records, and see if they can scan any documentation to you. If the seller stumbles or can't provide what you're asking for, go elsewhere. If you see it listed somewhere else for more money, call on it. Chances are the photos have been stolen and the ad isn't real.
2. Be wary of "intermediary" buyers
Many times, buyers across the pond will reach out to "brokers" in the United States to buy the car for them. This can be very dangerous. The process usually involves the buyer hiring the broker to arrange all the details with the dealership or seller, and then wires the money to the broker rather than the seller.
Unfortunately, the intermediary broker often takes the money and runs, leaving both buyer and seller completely dumbfounded and heartbroken. Unless one is certain of the broker's reputation, it's a good idea to avoid a middleman. This isn't true of all brokers. Every day we do business with wonderful buyers all across the world who are buying for someone else. But it is usually their job to do just that. They have been buying cars for many years, and know the process well. And there are many who can vouch for them.
If you feel more comfortable with a broker, do some serious research. Look for reviews, and social media postings. If you heard of them via word of mouth, make sure those recommending the broker are people in whom you trust. If they have a business address, google map it. This is a good idea for brokers, dealers, etc... We always run an address search before buying cars. It has saved us many times from scams!
3. Look for reviews
Those Google and Facebook stars are great indicators of the people you are working with. There will always be one person who wasn't happy with something, but if the majority of reviews are complimentary, it's a very good sign.
Alternately, if you feel like you're getting a great deal, but the company you're purchasing from has a less than stellar reputation, tread carefully before sending money.
Customers tend to only write reviews or give ratings when they're extremely happy with their experience or if they have a truly awful story to tell. A mediocre process rarely warrants a review. Excellent ratings from many different sources, like eBay, Google, and Facebook, can help to provide some peace of mind when sending money to a seller.
4. Know Your Seller
Getting to know your seller can reveal a lot! Do they know these cars well? Are they willing to admit that they don't know the answer to something, but will find out for you? Do they suggest Prepurchase inspections? Can they provide a carfax on later model vehicles, and service history on older ones? Can you find more than a few search results when you google them?
A true seller will go the distance for you. If they have a real car, they should be able to provide more photographs, direct you to service shops, and show documentation on the vehicle. They'll also keep you updated on the process should you decide to send funds. They'll let you know the funds have arrived, help you arrange shipping, and provide you with signed paperwork and a title. If your seller isn't working for you, it's time to move along.
These cars are rare, beautiful, quirky, and legendary. Buying one should be fun! But it's important to keep a wise and wary head about you when you begin the buying process. Do your research, keep an eye open for red flags, and ask questions!