Matt Harwood

A window into the life of a car dealer

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4 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

I get that question a lot, but I have to say, responding with "What's the most you'll pay," never goes over well. 

One time, one car, that actually worked for me. Two real CASH buyers showed up at the same time on the same car and I sold it for more than advertised.

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3 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I have learned to bite my tongue to be in this business.

 

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism and tastes like blood to the silent."

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4 hours ago, Digger914 said:

One time, one car, that actually worked for me. Two real CASH buyers showed up at the same time on the same car and I sold it for more than advertised.

Now that was a “Perfect “ sale situation!  

Dave S 

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A friend of mine had a Porsche specialty repair shop, but all of this personal cars were '60's Lincolns.  I asked him why he had a Porsche shop when his love was Lincolns. He answered, "These guys are crazy.  The take their perfect cars out of here and trash them over the week and bring them back and want them perfect again as soon a possible.  It's a gold mind!"

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On 7/2/2018 at 12:46 PM, 1912Staver said:

In my experience Porsche people are  inclined to obsess about perfection. If that's your thing you will probably fit right in with the Porsche crowd . They often seem to think that the ideal is a 50 + year old car that is brand new. Patina is often seen as something to avoid at all costs. 

 My former supervisor at work was a 911 nut. Grew up in a high ranking European military family . Everything was about a polished like new appearance. Drove his Porsche quite a bit, but always back in the garage and a complete clean up before the next use.  

Pretty much the same at the workplace as well, drove the rest of us nuts fussing over details.

 

Greg in Canada

 Dealing with Porsche people is the worst for me. Most of them are not car people at all. They are the OCD type intenstified X 150% over Corvette people.

 I truly do wish I was a Porsche family member, raking in all that cash for a car that came out in late 1964 and is still just a variant of that.

 When I had a 1986.5 model 928, that was mind boggling to try and sell. I was disappointed with the performance of the so-called 300 hp V8 and the dead slow launching speed. I became very blunt with many Porsche fans. Surely I turned down at least 3 cash buyers because of their ego's and hubris.

 Sold for a signifigently less a year after I took it off the market to a decent guy. I have never even sat in one since and one of my best friend's has 2 very nice 911's.

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3 hours ago, SC38DLS said:

Now that was a “Perfect “ sale situation!  

Dave S 

Fun, but not perfect. Sure I made more for the store, but not enough to make up for letting a cash buyer off the lot without a car.

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There is no perfection this side of the grave.  None.  Nada.  Zero.

 

Nothing has changed really with mass produced automobiles - even with all the modern manufacturing techniques.  Orange peel in the paint?  Yup.  Inconsistent panel gap?  Yup.

 

I had a Lincoln Navigator once.  Even with a $74,000 price tag new, I could've laid down a more orange peel free paint job on it than it left the factory with.

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11 hours ago, 61polara said:

A friend of mine had a Porsche specialty repair shop, but all of this personal cars were '60's Lincolns.  I asked him why he had a Porsche shop when his love was Lincolns. He answered, "These guys are crazy.  The take their perfect cars out of here and trash them over the week and bring them back and want them perfect again as soon a possible.  It's a gold mind!"

 

Dave, I had exactly the same experience back in 1967-1968. My neighbor Willem in an apartment in Colonia, NJ was trained in Germany as a VW mechanic, but when he came to the states , he became a Porsche "wizzard". He and a British car guy opened a repair shop in Long Island City (a section of Queens - NYC) just across the 59th St Bridge from Manhattan. I was working in the Time & Life Building at 50th & Ave of the Americas.

 

He would commute back and forth from Colonia to his NYC shop in his customers' Porsches, and he'd drop me on his way. One customer had torn up the transmission in a 1963-1964 911-S by speed-shifting through the gears and somehow (unintentionally) trying to go directly into reverse. Willie rebuilt it and since it was early October we drove it to Watkins Glen to see the US Gran Prix. At that time it was about a 575-600 mile round trip, and I don't recall being below 100 mph much of the time except through towns. I wondered if his clients knew how he drove their cars, - or maybe they were thrilled to hear of the capabilities? 

 

When I asked him about his clients, he said he thought that they had more more money and higher self-opinion than love for the car, and he was there to let them continue. "I Fix - They Break - I Fix Again".

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18 hours ago, Digger914 said:

One time, one car, that actually worked for me. Two real CASH buyers showed up at the same time on the same car and I sold it for more than advertised.

Jeeze you should sell real estate.  The agents, it seems in some areas, always under price everything then when people are offering higher than the asking price the people they are selling for are amazed.  (I still can't believe this happens,  but I know it does) 

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1 hour ago, danleblanc said:

There is no perfection this side of the grave.  None.  Nada.  Zero.

 

Nothing has changed really with mass produced automobiles - even with all the modern manufacturing techniques.  Orange peel in the paint?  Yup.  Inconsistent panel gap?  Yup.

 

I had a Lincoln Navigator once.  Even with a $74,000 price tag new, I could've laid down a more orange peel free paint job on it than it left the factory with.

My new Buick LaCrosse has loads of orange-peel.  The 2013 Dodge Charger that I also bought new, not so much if any.  The difference the factory paint jobs is unbelievable. 

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19 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

I get that question a lot, but I have to say responding with, "What's the most you'll pay?" (which is an equally fair question, IMHO) never goes over well so I don't do it. Although I'm intrinsically a smart-alec to the core and sarcasm is my native tongue, I have learned to bite my tongue to be in this business.

 

 

And I do that all the time too, since every car I might want has a higher price than I "want' to pay.  That doesn't mean I won't buy it at the least negotiated price either.  Once the seller draws the line, then you know where you are.  Do you want it that bad, or not?  Conversely, if the seller says back, "what are you willing to pay?" I'm turned off and seldom in my 79  years have I responded in a positive manner.  I don't know where that puts me as a buyer.  I'm not rich, but I'm not poor.  I like my cars a certain way, and if I think I can get it there for a total amount I'm willing to lose, then I get serious.  Times have really changed and I've been in the hobby, buying selling for over 60 years.  When I started out a running car was $50, a nice car was $300 and a "cream puff" was $800 (and a Duesenberg was $2500-3,000 too).  So that is a lot of brain adjusting.  My first house was $10,750, the second "big new house" was $18,750 and this one was $80,000.  It's hard to assimilate all of this in your mind.  My Dad once gave me a quarter when he was about 93 and asked me to buy him a new comb....if you get the idea.  I've only bought one old car from a dealer, sight unseen in fact, and that was a very sad experience when it arrived.  So, I like to see the car myself.  Even then, they're never as good as my mind's eye sees them and I can't stop myself from "fixing and restoring" until I'm head-over-heels upside down.  Well, in two months I was head-over-heels upside down in my new Buick.  So, I've come to decide, "what the hay?" I might as well have what I want and be head-over-heels upside down in an old car.  I could do better if I bought convertibles, but my wife and I are not overly fond of convertibles and since I moved to south central Florida there is nobody to appreciate any old cars except street rods, so there is no satisfaction from the oooghs and awe's of fellow collectors.  Nobody, or almost nobody is going to put a car up for sale at the rock bottom price they'll take.  So, I want to know that figure and go from there, adding the cost of transport and fixup/restoration that I always underestimate and decide if I'm willing to dig that hole.  I recently overpaid for the car I wanted, and am now digging that proverbial hole to China.  No big deal to me as I know what my limits are.  Meanwhile, when I sell a car I always sell it too cheap, or, at least in my opinion.  I base that on what I see others getting.  Sure, it's nice to sell a car I feel is worth $800 for $25,000, but it not only boggles my mind, and when I look around somebody else is sell mine or some other one for more.  I need to disremember those $50, $100 and $800 numbers from my mind once and for all.  I always forget that I was making $3175 a year then too.  But, because I ask "what is the least  you will take" doesn't make me a tire kicker.  If I really want it, I'll pay more than I think it is worth.  If I sort of want it, I probably won't, and if, for whatever reason, it has a color or an interior I don't like, I just simply won't buy it, even if the price drops.  One other thing I've found is this:  If you know somebody with a near perfect car, don't ask him what he thinks of the car you've found.  He/She will look at it in "their" mind's eye and find so many things wrong they'll scare you off.  I just missed a great '41 Buick Limited in California because (1) I was afraid of the shipping cost (not as bad as I imagined), (2) I asked the opinion of somebody else and (3) I felt I had to sell a car and my car sold less than a week later after the dealer sold the Limited first.  So the bottom line is, as a buyer you win some and lose some and as a seller you catch the buyer at the right time or you don't, plus, of course, the car being sold has to match up to what the buyer is willing to accept and/or pay for.  In closing, I've met Matt and talked to him about a couple of cars and found him to be honest, helpful and forthright.

Edited by Dynaflash8 (see edit history)
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5 minutes ago, Dynaflash8 said:

And I do that all the time too, since every car I might want has a higher price than I "want' to pay.  That doesn't mean I won't buy it at be least negotiated price either.  Once the seller draws the line, then you know where you are.  Do you want it that bad, or not?  Conversely, if the seller says back, "what are you willing to pay?" I'm turned off and seldom in my 79  years have I responded in a positive manner.  I don't know where that puts me as a buyer.  I'm not rice, but I'm not poor.  I like my cars a certain way, and if I think I can get it there for a total amount I'm willing to lose, then I get serious.  Times have really changed and I've been in the hobby, buying selling for over 60 years.  When I started out a running car was $50, a nice car was $300 and a "cream puff" was $800 (and a Duesenberg was $2500-3,000 too).  So that is a lot of brain adjusting.  My first house was $10,750, the second "big new house" was $18,750 and this one was $80,000.  It's hard to assimilate all of this in your mind.  My Dad once gave me a quarter when he was about 93 and asked me to buy him a new comb....if you get the idea.  I've only bought one old car from a dealer, sight unseen in fact, and that was a very sad experience when it arrived.  So, I like to see the car myself.  Even then, they're never as good as my mind's eye sees them and I can't stop myself from "fixing and restoring" until I'm head-over-heels upside down.  Well, in two months I was head-over-heels upside down in my new Buick.  So, I've come to decide, "what the hay?" I might as well have what I want and be head-over-heels upside down in an old car.  I could do better if I bought convertibles, but my wife and I are not overly fond of convertibles and since I moved to south central Florida there is nobody to appreciate any old cars except street rods, so there is no satisfaction from the oooghs and awe's of fellow collectors.  Nobody, or almost nobody is going to put a car up for sale at the rock bottom price they'll take.  So, I want to know that figure and go from there, adding the cost of transport and fixup/restoration that I always underestimate and decide if I'm willing to dig that hole.  I recently overpaid for the car I wanted, and am now digging that proverbial hole to China.  No big deal to me as I know what my limits are.  Meanwhile, when I sell a car I always sell it too cheap, or, at least in my opinion.  I base that on what I see others getting.  Sure, it's nice to sell a car I feel is worth $800 for $25,000, but it not only boggles my mind, and when I look around somebody else is sell mine or some other one for more.  But, because I ask "what is the least  you will take" doesn't make me a tire kicker.  If I really want it, I'll pay more than I think it is worth.  If I sort of want it, I probably won't, and if, for whatever reason, it has color or an interior I don't like, I just simply won't buy it, even if the price drops.  One other thing I've found is this:  If you know somebody with a near perfect car, don't ask him what he thinks of the car you've found.  The will look at it in "his" mind's eye and find so many things wrong he'll scare you off.  I just missed a great '41 Buick Limited in California because (1) I was afraid of the shipping cost, (2) I asked the opinion of somebody else and (3) I felt I had to sell a car and my car sold less than a week later after the dealer sold the Limited first.  So the bottom line is, as a buyer you win some and lose some and as a seller you catch the buyer at the right time or you don't, plus, of course, the car being sold has to match up to what the buyer is willing to accept and/or pay for.  In closing, I've met Matt and talked to him about a couple of cars and found him to be honest, helpful and forthright.

So much of me in this. I am only 68 so my experiences are not quite that but I just cannot seem to see a way to justify $30,000 for any car.new or used. I know that certain cars sell for much more and a few for less but playing $3000 for my first new car in 1974 has influenced me ever since. I know about inflation and that it is good for the economy in moderate amount. The most I paid for a vehicle was about $17,500 for a one year old Astro in 2002(and I still have it). Even our Kia Soul was less that that in 2012. I have said before that it is a good thing I bought my two Plymouths when I did as I probably would have to sell both to get  one car today

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3 minutes ago, plymouthcranbrook said:

 I have said before that it is a good thing I bought my two Plymouths when I did as I probably would have to sell both to get  one car today 

I've told you before that my second car (in 11th grade during 1955) was a 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook Belvedere hardtop.  They are so very rare at car shows and tours today.  I''ve been in AACA since 1962 and I can count on less than 10 fingers the number of Belvedere's I've ever seen on an AACA Tour or at an AACA Meet......National or local.  I always loved the paint scheme of a 1952 Belvedere.  I liked the 1951 two-tones too, but I always felt the 1952 was "exotic".

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7 hours ago, auburnseeker said:

Jeeze you should sell real estate.  The agents, it seems in some areas, always under price everything then when people are offering higher than the asking price the people they are selling for are amazed.  (I still can't believe this happens,  but I know it does) 

Agents base prices on past sales. Homes still have to appraise out. When there is a bidding war, it is because of demand. The buyer has to come up with the difference between what the lender will loan on and the appraisal. It makes no sense for agents to price homes over market value for this and many other reasons. You’d probably be surprised at home many homes don’t appraise out in a hot market like this. Appraisers have to go by past sales not future estimates of demand, especially in light of the last bank crises when lenders loaned over the value of homes. 

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12 hours ago, Dynaflash8 said:

I've told you before that my second car (in 11th grade during 1955) was a 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook Belvedere hardtop.  They are so very rare at car shows and tours today.  I''ve been in AACA since 1962 and I can count on less than 10 fingers the number of Belvedere's I've ever seen on an AACA Tour or at an AACA Meet......National or local.  I always loved the paint scheme of a 1952 Belvedere.  I liked the 1951 two-tones too, but I always felt the 1952 was "exotic".

I do think that they are great looking cars.  i should go find my Standard Handbook for Chrysler and see if the production is broken out for Belvederes.  Like you I haven't seen very many at all. 

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Matt

 

Rather than become upset when dealing with this kind of "buyer", pretend that you are speaking with George on The Seinfeld Show, and have a good laugh.

 

 

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7 hours ago, plymouthcranbrook said:

i should go find my Standard Handbook for Chrysler and see if the production is broken out for Belvederes.  Like you I haven't seen very many at all. 

Do that.  I'd like to know.  I'm not in the market for one because of a few bad memories, but that doesn't take away from my opinion or interest in the cars.

 

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I have a very good idea of the market price for any car I am interested in. If a car is priced low I usually ignore it. If a car is priced high it has greater credibility to me. If I am serious I will take the time to look. I will either try to figure out how to get more money or offer what I have. With a dealer, the offer is "what I will pay, total, tax, fees, whatever". If it is not enough that's fine. I don't dance.

I will not offer less money if a car doesn't meet my expectation. I just don't want it. Others have trained the sellers "Thanks, see ya" is the beginning of negotiations. For me there is not hidden message, don't want it at any price is tough for them to swallow. When Reggie asks "If I offered you this pink, 4 cylinder, standard shift  Trail Blazer stickered at $30,000 for $10,000, today, would you take it?" Reggie expects me to say "Sure". "No, I don't want it." Poor old Reggie starts choking on a hairball and goes to sales lesson 102. Reggie tells me his dealership will marry me and be true for life if I buy the car. "Don't want it and already have a wife." "Reggie, if you have the car I want, I am here for a divorce. I'm taking the car and you will never see me again. I am a grown up and I know what I am buying." If I am still standing here and telling you this I am serious. It has worked.

 

Reggie tells me "We have more than you offered in this car." I am pretty fair with offers. "Really, is the buyer's job open? He can't still be working here."

 

I am not affected much by model year, mileage, payments, or the typical motivators. The CEO of Goldman Sachs would be proud of how I risk manage a car purchase. I recently spent two years picking out a daily driver to use through the decade of my 70's, starts in September. The next to the last stop was a national car rental with retail sales. I was entertained. After trying out a one year old luxury car and finding I did not care for the car in general, I had to leave the building. As a dealer, they subscribe to elevating the customer through successive layers of management before release. At one point I was at the conference table with four managers, all trying to find my trigger for buying a car I didn't want. I had to stop writing to laugh remembering that group. "No experience needed. Must have thorough knowledge of the standard Men's Warehouse floor plan and schedule of 2 for 1 sale days." I wished I had a car to sell them.

 

And my mind wandered.

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When buying anything from an individual it is only common courtesy to bargain. Even if the asking price is what you are willing to pay and will finally pay it is common courtesy to bargain. If you readily and happily pay the asking price the seller will forever feel he priced the item too low and was taken advantage of. Be courteous and bargain. If the seller does accept your lower price he will feel he did as good as possible and so will you................Bob

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6 minutes ago, Bhigdog said:

When buying anything from an individual it is only common courtesy to bargain. Even if the asking price is what you are willing to pay and will finally pay it is common courtesy to bargain. If you readily and happily pay the asking price the seller will forever feel he priced the item too low and was taken advantage of. Be courteous and bargain. If the seller does accept your lower price he will feel he did as good as possible and so will you................Bob

That's good advice and I agree with it.  So then, why doesn't it equally apply to a dealer?  Be careful on email though, because there is no voice inflection.  I had one dealer really tick me off, only to find out later he was kidding with me he said.  I knew him personally, so I accepted what he said.  That said, I still didn't like the car and let someone else buy it.

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I am not a desperation dealer. I don't need to make a sale today and I don't have a monthly quota to meet or a vacation to win at the end of the week. That seems incongruous to people who routinely use standard car dealer negotiating tactics on me. Buying today, "I know another guy who has the same car for less," "cash money," and "wouldn't you like to have it out of your way?" simply don't work on me. It's all cash, brother--nobody leaves on a check and just between you and me, if you're financing, I make a little extra, so that's OK with me. In fact, cash (as in a stack of $100s) is my least favorite way to get paid because I can't wire it instantly to someone else, I can't pay the rent with it, I can't pay my employees with it, and the bank makes me jump through hoops to deposit it (not to mention the fact that about 1% of all $100s are counterfeit). It's not like I'm sticking it under my mattress to hide it from the tax man. So none of those usual tactics work. 

 

Giving me a lowball offer is not a great way to open negotiations, even if you think you know more about the "right" price than I do. If you're so far away that I don't think we can find a middle ground, I'll simply reply with, "No, thank you," which seems to enrage some buyers. They're just in it because they like the haggling and think they are smart enough to work me over. Telling me I don't know what I'm doing is another way to get me to not sell it to you, no matter how much you offer (another perk of not being desperate--I don't have to sell to .... (edited by moderator) . no matter how much money they've got). I understand that haggling is part of the deal so I reluctantly do it, but if buyers didn't make me do it, I would price my cars lower and just sell them. I don't enjoy the process and I don't take any glee in getting one over on someone the way they seem to delight in getting one over on me (which doesn't really happen because I'm not desperate). 

 

Buy it or don't, it means nothing to me. Someone else will step up to the plate sooner or later. In the meantime, I have 95 other cars that someone else will buy. Be respectful, don't embarrass yourself with ridiculous offers on the off-chance that I'm desperate or not paying attention, and be honest with me when I'm being honest with you.

 

I'll also admit that I'm tired of guys making an offer, and when I accept it without additional haggling, they continue to haggle or disappear altogether. It's like the game is all that matters to them, not the car. I don't have time for that nonsense. Grow up.

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After having read Bhigdog's Post #69 and Matt's Post #71 above, I hope that Bhigdog never tries to buy a car from Matt.  As far as my particular philosophy is concerned when buying cars, I always bargain.  The bargaining process, however, must be conducted (by both sides) with a spirit of courtesy and honesty, not to mention a grasp of the realistic value of the car in question.  If a seller says that the price of a particular car is firm, then I either take it or leave it, with no further attempt at bargaining.

 

Just my opinion.

 

Cheers,

Grog

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Don't get me wrong, I understand haggling is part of the business and I accept it and don't even mind doing it with people that are serious about the purchase. If I'm asking $29,900 and you offer me $25,000, I think we can work together. But a lot of guys will offer $16,000. That's the "No thanks" buyer. Just a bottom-feeder looking for a bargain. I don't mind negotiating with someone who is like-minded and actually wants to own the car. I do mind haggling with someone who simply does it for amusement purposes. It's like the person who goes to a garage sale, picks up something small with a $1.00 price tag and asks if they'll take $0.25. At that point, it's just sport at someone else's expense, not a legitimate desire to own something of value. It's embarrassing--at least, I'm embarrassed for the guy even if he isn't.

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12 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

...If I'm asking $29,900 and you offer me $25,000, I think we can work together. But a lot of guys will offer $16,000... 

 

Matt, I'm not speaking to your pricing policies,

but rather in general.  Often, dealers will ask that

$29,900 for a $16,000 car.  How do you recommend

approaching those dealers while still being courteous--

or do you recommend just passing them by?

 

A friend of mine has been a classic-car dealer specializing

in Cadillacs.  And I've documented situations where a 

car was for sale, a dealer bought it, and immediately wanted

double the price.  My friend would say to wait until the 

dealer needed some liquidity (cash), and then the price is 

much more flexible--but who knows when he reaches that point?

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Let me ask you this: Are you sure it's a $16,000 car?

 

I don't believe most dealers are in this business to not sell cars. I also don't think that most dealers set their prices hoping a fool walks in and doesn't know anything about anything. Selling to suckers isn't a viable business plan. Are all their cars over-priced in your opinion? You (the general "you" not you specifically, John) need to look carefully at where your knowledge is and where your biases lie. 

 

I have had more than a few instances where "experts" have claimed that my price on a certain vehicle was too high. Yet the car still sells. Perhaps you remember that black 1972 Buick Electra that everyone said was an $11,000 car and I sold it for $22. Another case in point: the red 1972 Monte Carlo I just sold on this board earlier this week for almost $40,000, which is nearly twice book value. I cannot honestly find another first-gen Monte Carlo sale anywhere for more than $30,000, but this one was exceptional and I knew that an exceptional car could command a premium. There are even people in that thread saying it's four times its actual value. Nevertheless, there it is. It sold in a matter of days with multiple suitors. What am I to make of that? What do you make of that? To the layman, maybe my price seemed ridiculous. To guys who appreciate quality, it was acceptable. It all depends on perspective.

 

Prices are fluid. The moment you think you know, there's evidence that you don't. I sometimes get caught unawares by a movement or a trend, and I do this for a living. How can the average hobbyist who goes to car shows and reads Hemmings once a month know it all, either? 

 

If a price seems crazy, you should look closer and figure out why. Quality isn't always immediately evident, but it understandably costs more. Paying a premium for an excellent car, even above book value, is still cheaper than restoring a cheap car to perfection.

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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