Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Zane asks: Hope you don’t mind the asinine question, but I figured next year, wanna replace my Audi with an ’80s/’90s car. Curious if you have any advice on buying something without a chance to inspect it in person – or how to get it inspected. Thanks in advance!
My reply: You may have to buy it without inspecting it in person!
Cars from the ’80s – and even the ’90s – are getting harder to find; or rather, it’s getting harder to find the car from the ’80s or ’90s that you want. I had the same issue with my ’83 Honda. I wanted a GL650 Silverwing Interstate. They were made – or rather sold here – for just one year.
Not an easy bike to find.
When I finally found one, it was 2,000 miles away. I could have driven or even flown out to inspect it in person, but that would have taken at least a couple of days and the bike might have been sold before I could get there. So I prayed to the Motor Gods and bought it based on the pictures and some convo with the owner.
This sort of transaction is common with older stuff. It’s more risky, obviously, than physically going over a local car (or bike) or taking it to your trusted mechanic to have him do the same. But sometimes, you’ve just gotta take a chance.
I was – and have been – lucky. But luck is a function of what they call in financial circles due diligence.
While you may not be able to physically inspect the car yourself, you can still inspect it – via pictures – and you can question the seller. Careful use of both techniques can save you a lot of trouble.
While pictures can hide things, they can also show things – if you’re familiar with how the car/bike you’re looking at should look. I don’t mean fading paint or dimples. I mean things that shouldn’t be there, such as incorrect equipment or other evidence of modifications. You can also infer a hard life by looking – via close-up pics – very closely at wear items such as the steering wheel hub and pedals and arm rests, etc. Their overall appearance ought to jibe with the advertised mileage and year.
Ask the seller questions about the vehicle’s history; how long he has owned it, why he is selling it – and so on. Unless you’re dealing with an expert sociopath, it’s usually pretty easy to suss out cheesiness.
Once you have made arrangements about the vehicle, you’ll need to deal with getting title to the vehicle – ideally via some escrow arrangement – and then either schlepping out to get it or having it shipped.
This latter has been the greatest source of aggravation in my experience. Not so much damage to the vehicle but the wait for the vehicle. I once waited more than three months for a vehicle to show up. Be very careful about the shipper you select. Unless you aren’t in a hurry, be sure to select one that will agree in writing to a delivery date (plus or minus a couple of days).
Otherwise, you might be in for a long wait!
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