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Seeking advice on arranging car inspection via agent


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Have any of you requested a professional car inspector to act as your representative in evaluating a car prior to making an offer to purchase? How does one go about arranging this? Must be a trusted/secure list of experienced inspectors for each region or state out there somewhere? Any advice and cautions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance. John Bergan AACA member

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While I think it’s a good idea to have someone experienced look at a car, you should also go. Most people only have one collector car......so be sure to get a good one. Spending money up front is worth ten times in return. The most expensive car you will ever buy is a good deal. Find the best, and pay for it at current market rate. Go home and drive it. Projects and cars that need work are almost always disappointing. It’s easier to make more money than it is to find a good restoration shop. 

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I think it's too broad a range for "professionals" to exist. Not enough transactions to have a profitable company structure. To pay someone what it's worth for them to be a subject matter expert on any given car would be cost prohibitive, and to pay for less wouldn't be a good value for you.

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Check your club rosters and find a person near the car who has something similar. They will usually outperform the "professional". I have done it a few times in the 1990's through early 200's and got more value than expected. I have sent from $50 to $150. Today I would send $200 to $300 if I did it. Actually, today, I would look myself or just buy it. Over the past few decades I have bought stuff that didn't meet my expectations and, maybe, made a little selling them.

 

A lot depends on what you are looking for beyond the presentation in hand and a conversation with the owner. Digital pictures and language are hard to beat. Little things like "Serious only. Don't waste my time", $1 price in the ad title, and 100 miles for 100,000 speak volumes.

 

Make a list of the things you don't see that you think an agent may find.

 

Bernie

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I've been off the grid for several days so didn't get the chance to reply until now. Thanks to all of you who were kind enough to respond with advice. It's really a pretty common sense & logical approach to finding a trustworthy & experienced car enthusiast to assist. I'll do my homework. Thanks again, JohnB

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I would think with a 3 day drive one could reach most parts of the country. I dont think I would buy a car sight unseen unless it is  really a good deal.  Getting in touch with someone that knows the brand and model would be the best way to go. I have never used an independent inspector but would be a bit suspect. Like home inspectors, I would imagine in the fine print they have no accountability (nor should they, I suppose). 

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Every time I hear of "appraisers" I think of a local guy, a car dealer who specialized in older cars, some original but a lot of rodded cars.

 

Every insurance agent in town gave his name to get an appraisal for insurance on a collector car.  His charge was something like $40 per appraisal, so not outrageous.

 

His first question was always "what do you want the car to be worth for your insurance company"....then he'd do a cursory inspection of the car, and lo and behold, the value was what one stated to him.....

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32 minutes ago, trimacar said:

Every time I hear of "appraisers" I think of a local guy, a car dealer who specialized in older cars, some original but a lot of rodded cars.

 

Every insurance agent in town gave his name to get an appraisal for insurance on a collector car.  His charge was something like $40 per appraisal, so not outrageous.

 

His first question was always "what do you want the car to be worth for your insurance company"....then he'd do a cursory inspection of the car, and lo and behold, the value was what one stated to him.....

 

40 bucks????   I needed my stuff appraised for the insurance company and it was 350 bucks.  The report was a dozen pages and pretty well done, but he still asked me what the values were.   And this was a knowledgeable guy who had been around forever.    I made the appraisals for that I thought was about 75% retail value.   Ended up I was at 100%  when I got around to selling stuff.

 

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This was 20 years ago for the 40 bucks, and he was just a local, you took car to his dealership, he walked around it and had a form he used, handed you the appraisal in about 5 minutes....as implied by me, it was a joke...but the local insurance companies took it as gospel...

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10 minutes ago, trimacar said:

This was 20 years ago for the 40 bucks, and he was just a local, you took car to his dealership, he walked around it and had a form he used, handed you the appraisal in about 5 minutes....as implied by me, it was a joke...but the local insurance companies took it as gospel...

 

The 350 was twenty years ago too!   Haven't had a car done in a while so I don't know what the current rates are.  My guy retired.

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2 hours ago, trimacar said:

Every time I hear of "appraisers" I think of a local guy, a car dealer who specialized in older cars, some original but a lot of rodded cars.

 

Every insurance agent in town gave his name to get an appraisal for insurance on a collector car.  His charge was something like $40 per appraisal, so not outrageous.

 

His first question was always "what do you want the car to be worth for your insurance company"....then he'd do a cursory inspection of the car, and lo and behold, the value was what one stated to him.....

  After 30 years in the Insurance business and 25 years as an agent (Who sold collector car plans too) I'm

  always upset by appraisers that say "For Insurance purposes, insure it for"  (some astronomical figure).  To

  me that figure for insurance should be what you would take for the car if you wanted to sell it, or better yet,

  what you would be willing to pay for it if you were buying it as a replacement.

  Question should be, "If yours was stolen and you could by it as a replacement for the one you lost, what

  would you pay for it with your dollars?"

  I always shied away from insuring vehicles that make the insurance company the best buyer.

  Example:  I bought this car for $3500, but after watching Barrett Jackson, I think it's worth $35,000.

  P. S.  I may be a little jaundice because the 5 years in the business when I was not an agent, I was a

  Claim Investigator.

Edited by Paul Dobbin
Spill Check and line spacing (see edit history)
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For a couple of years, more than a decade ago, I worked with one of the inspection/appraisal groups that advertise a lot in some of the publications we all get. They sent me on runs for pre purchase inspections, insurance appraisals, post accident appraisals (what was it worth before it was totaled).  Generally, on the pre-purchase inspections, an assessment of condition... both in general (how does the car present), authenticity (this was tricky but they always managed to get me on the phone with someone to tell me what to look for... and got me on the phone with the guy on site if it was something more in my wheelhouse than his), and finally nitpicking every detail. Usually around 250 pictures and a several pages of written description, including driving notes. We never got into value on those. If requested, I would even call the prospective buyer while I was with the car. I suspect I killed more sales than I helped. 
 

insurance appraisals went very much so like what you guys are describing. 
 

On one of the pre purchase inspections I was sent to a good friends house to look at a Packard 180 limo, when I took the call I told the company I have known the car for ten years and I can tell you it’s a great car right now. Then I went and did the inspection, incorrect this, incorrect that, serious rust issues present and some less than perfect repairs. 
 

Any company that is going to charge you 350-1000 bucks to look at a car will gladly send you a copy or two of past reports, or even reports done by the person actually going to see the car. At least then you will know the quality of the information you can expect for your money. If they won’t give you that... keep dialing!  There are lots of inspection companies. 

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At one time I thought about getting in the appraisal business. Found out quickly what people really wanted was not what I thought they wanted. Now I just avoid discussion of prices (though amazed at the number of interesting cars from the 80s that need nothing for $5k and need something for $3k.

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If you don’t go see the car yourself you have no one to blame for buying a bad car than yourself. An appraiser is going to tell you he gave you an honest appraisal in his opinion. You may not have understood what he was saying. That’s not his problem. 
I really wanted a Jag MK IX for a long time. Just liked the style. Found one in the¬†northwest, talked to the seller multiple times and he sent hundreds of pics. We decided to take a short vacation and also see the car. It was junk, the pics had to be 10-15 years old. In person the seller said (I‚Äôll never forget this) ‚ÄúI was showing you what you could make it look like‚ÄĚ. I found a second one on the east coast and it was just as bad but at least that seller only sent some pics that gave a hint at it not being all he was saying it was. Those plane tickets were the best car money I ever spent. ¬†I never got the Jag but found the 38 instead. But I went and saw it twice before buying it.¬†
Go see any car you are thinking of buying it is the best way to at least see on the surface you are getting what you think you are getting. 
dave s 

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A few years ago I had my sites set on a motorcycle that was to be auctioned. I had always bought on site, but this particular time I wasnt going to be there and was going to bid online. I had my price figured and was ready to roll. At the last minute I found a way to get to the auction. The bike I wanted was a total dog. The pictures on the web were the BEST pics that could have ever been taken of it. Glad I dodged the bullet on that one.

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Nice that my comment vanished. Everyone's OK with calling dealers liars and thieves but mention that one of the inspection companies is a scam and everything gets wiped. 

 

Yeah, why protect the members from being taken when you might hurt a crook's feelings?

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If IMNSHO it takes at least 4 hours to properly judge a car, why would an inspection take less and at least $150/hr for a real expert, whadayawant ?

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Nice that my comment vanished. Everyone's OK with calling dealers liars and thieves but mention that one of the inspection companies is a scam and everything gets wiped.  Yeah, why protect the members from being taken when you might hurt a crook's feelings?

Matt,

You know the truth, I know the truth, lots of guys here know the truth.

When someone gives you money it is not polite to kick them in the chops.

Same for P and R.

 

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OP, I would say it is a very good idea to hire third party inspection when purchasing a vintage car, especially if/when the buyer is not well versed in the specific make/model they’re considering. The problem is to find an inspector who is.
Like any other ‚Äúprofession‚ÄĚ, there¬†are tons of appraisers and inspectors, but probably not many that are worth very much, if anything.

 

Couple of suggestions to hopefully assist finding (a good) one:

 

First, worthy inspector is likely someone who actually has an extensive experience working on cars, preferably on various aspects of their restorations.
Those with more "academic" knowledge tend to have theoretical understanding, but often lack practical ability to assess issues or concerns of condition of things.

 

Second, ideally the worthy inspector is or should be very experienced with given make/model.

 

Third, I personally don’t perform PPIs often, but if/when I do or provide consulting, I’ve always found it helpful to try and learn as much as possible about the buyers expectations and plans with the car are, along with their overall knowledge of model and vintage cars in general.

Edited by TTR (see edit history)
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