The hazards of buying a car without seeing it in person


When I took driver’s education in high school, they were still showing the 1956 film, The Smith System of Driving. One of Mr. Smith’s five rules was “Always leave yourself an out.” I try to apply that to buying needy cars. No matter how good a deal sounds, odds are that when you see the car in person, you’ll be disappointed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/10/22/hazards-of-buying-a-car-without-seeing-it-in-person


Rob, your life is basically my own, except for all my stuff is '50s-'70s American. Our viewpoints on car collecting are basically the same; the only difference is that I can never sell anything. When Peter Egan retired, I doubted that I’d find an author I liked as well as I liked him, but you’ve filled the role. Thanks!


Doesn’t sound so bad to me. I never make money on cars, and I can pretty much do all the work myself. The clean undercarriage to me means avoiding a ton of work. Everything is just finding parts and replacing them, including that door. I would find a rust free door with matching paint. Now you have a great story on top of it all. Nice article.


The picture of your 535 caught my eye because last week, I purchased a one-owner, 1986 BMW 528e in the same champagne color, sight-unseen. Fortunately, the car is near-mint with under 70k miles and almost everything works perfectly. I’ll sell you my passenger door for $3000!


Reminds me of the time that I sold a guy from New Orleans a “Petty Street Kit Car” (Volare coupe with big 43 decals on it and the police 360 and 15"x8" wheels from the factory).
I was living near Williamsburg VA and had advertised the car in a magazine and the guy asked me to mail (before E-mail!) him some photos. We talked about the car on the phone for about an hour and I answered some of of his questions with “Well, I don’t know since I only bought the car and drove it home and it’s been sitting in my back yard ever since”. Especially when he asked if I thought that it’d make it all the way back from Williamsburg to New Orleans! He got on a bus and rode for 26 hours to get to my house, only to walk around the car twice and to pack up all of the spare parts that I had agreed to throw in with the sale (mostly interior and cosmetic parts and NO extra mechanical parts or electrical parts!) and he hit the road an hour later back to New Orleans! Fortunately for both of us, he phoned me late the next day and said that other than the car having a healthy appetite for fuel he had no other problems with it at all, and that the car cruised at 70 mph all day and all night.