11 March 2004

Hagerty 2nd Annual Hobby Survey Results

Hobby Survey: On Buying And Selling Collector Cars

The collector car market is in mint condition, according to Hagerty's Second Annual Collector Car Hobby Survey. Results revealed nearly half of the 3,500 respondents purchased a collector car in the past five years. Of those purchases, 46 percent were direct-from-the-owner sales and about 21 percent were online transactions. Clearly, while people like to see the car up close before shelling over their hard-earned cash, few will travel great distances for the privilege. Only 10 percent said they would travel 250 miles to buy a collector car.

While online sales have been gaining in popularity, many respondents stick to the tried and true: hands-on inspection. More than 34 percent agreed the best advice they could offer another hobbyist looking to buy a collector car is to have it inspected.

Based on the experiences our respondents had buying a collector car, here is some advice they would offer to other hobbyists.

  • Bought my vehicle from a California classic car dealer. Relied on an appraiser and the car was not what they said it was. I would never buy another car, no matter where it was geographically, without first inspecting it myself.
  • Believe what you see, not what you're told.
  • Be willing to travel to find what you want. Make the search as much a part of the adventure as the actual purchase and don't buy until you find the one you really want.

When it comes to evaluating a collector car for sale, many respondents had some sound advice: inspect it, have a mechanic check it and do your homework.

Others offered these tips on evaluating the condition of a car for sale:

  • If the owner has a comprehensive folder filled with all maintenance and restoration records, it's a good indication that the car has been cared for. No records? No deal, period.
  • In buying from a private owner, it would seem the appearance of the seller's home, their personal appearance and the outward cleanliness would indicate the type of care went into the vehicle.
  • "Google" the model on the Web and see what comes up. When I was shopping there were tons of sites with enthusiasts offering free advice on what to look for and what to look out for.
  • In general, there is no such thing as a little rust. There is most often a lot of rust that you cannot see. So pay extra for the solid car instead of pouring money into a marginal car. You'll be better off.
  • Take along a cheap refrigerator magnet and check for adhesion to the body surfaces (of course this doesn't apply to non-metallic or aluminum bodies). If the magnet fails to stick, then either there isn't metal beneath or the filler is too thick, which would warrant additional investigation.

When it comes to selling collector cars, it's no surprise that many respondents sold their cars directly (32 percent). While newspaper and magazine classifieds rounded out the top three, 17 and 10 percent respectively.

Apparently, it's difficult for most car collectors to part with their babies. More than half of those who sold their cars held onto them at least 10 years or more before letting it go The best advice respondents had for other hobbyists selling their collector car: Be honest and describe the vehicle accurately.

Tips for preparing a car for sale include:

  • It's a small world, so tell the truth.
  • No matter what the overall condition, clean and detail what you have. You can make every part of the car look as good as possible while spending almost no money. It never ceases to amaze me how an owner will produce a bill from a chrome plater for $5,000, but couldn't be bothered to remove dust, grime, and dead bugs from and otherwise decent dashboard.

And on getting the best price for a vehicle being sold, they offered:

  • Price it realistically. If the price is too high, then you will attract buyers who are expecting a perfect car and won't want yours. Give yourself a little slack for dickering because everyone wants some kind of discount.
  • Document everything. The more documentation you have to support the history and uniqueness of the car, the less room there is for a potential buyer to try to reduce the price.  

...On Storing A Collector Vehicle

Most collector car owners choose to store their vehicles at home. Almost 80 percent of those who responded to Hagerty's Annual Hobby Survey said they store their cars in a structure at home, while 12 percent store their cars off site and 8 percent simply store them outside.

Something to keep in mind: if you're storing your vehicle in a garage that other cars use throughout the winter, then consider bagging it. Road salt used in many states can get under a car cover and do damage.

Survey respondents also offered these safe storage tips to ensure a smooth ride when warmer weather rolls around. For instance:

  • Drive or start the car occasionally
  • Put Sta-Bil gasoline stabilizer in the gas tank
  • Place the car on jack stands to reduce the weight on the tires
  • Use a trickle charger or battery saver
  • Place plastic sheeting under the car as a vapor barrier
  • Fill the gas tank to prevent condensation
  • Disconnect the negative battery terminal or use a battery cut-off to prevent short circuits and potential fires

And finally some tips on keeping the mice and rodents out while storing your collector car:

  • Use fabric softener sheets
  • Put crumpled aluminum foil in exhaust pipes
  • Shave Irish Spring soap into small pieces
  • Surround the car with moth balls 

...On Theft Prevention

When asked about theft prevention, respondents to the Hagerty Hobby Survey were in agreement: Safe, secure storage is the way to go. In fact, more than 93 percent reported they felt secure by locking or alarming their storage units.

Here are a few other suggestions offered regarding vehicle security:

  • If you don't feel comfortable walking alone or having your daughter walk in the area, don't leave your car there.
  • If traveling, leave the car in a well-lit area
  • Lock your car and leave nothing in sight
  • Use a battery cut-off switch
  • Buy a large guard dog 

...A Few Extra Tidbits

How To Get Away With Buying Another Car?

When asked, "What's the best excuse to give your spouse for adding another vehicle to your collection?" the top response given was: it's an investment. This confirms that a large majority of hobbyists are not only into collector cars for the pleasure and fun, but recognize their cars are financial investments. On the lighter side, just over one percent told their spouse, "It followed me home, can I keep it?"

Stay Away From My Car

Known for his death-defying stunts, Evil Kneivel was voted the most likely person to be excluded from one's collector policy, followed by a son or daughter.

Favorite TV Show

Taking a trip down memory lane, what old TV show would you like to see back on the air? Our respondents requested Miami Vice first, then Dukes of Hazard, followed by Happy Days.

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