How to buy a classic car at auction
Anybody with any interest in classic cars has tuned into the Barrett-Jackson auctions carried live on television to witness the excitement and high drama of some of the most beautiful vehicles from our past, changing hands.
Classic vehicles selling in less than five minutes on the auction block represents an instant appraisal of what that car, truck or motorcycle is really worth
It’s what the vendor will sell the car for and what the most motivated purchaser will pay. Sometimes there are incredible bargains for alert bidders. But few of those viewing this apparent free for all spending extravaganza would consider buying a car this way.
I wonder why because there are a number of great classic car auctions in Canada featuring wonderful vehicles. The spring and fall Collector Car Productions auctions held at Toronto’s International Centre are the largest in the country with Harold Henninger’s Car Crazy spring and fall auctions coming in second.
The auctions held at Abbotsford’s Tradex Centre hold third place. So what should you do to buy a car at a collector car auction?
“Do your homework, that’s the number one thing,” says Dan Spendick who heads up Toronto’s Collector Car Productions.
Spendick, a 16-year veteran classic vehicle auctioneer, encourages buyers to carefully research everything about the vehicle they want to buy, know in advance exactly what they’re looking for and what they should pay.
The Internet is a primary tool for research. Just paste the year make and model of the car, truck or motorcycle that you are looking for and see what’s offered for sale by vendors all over North America. You can also check the websites of auction companies like Spendick’s Classic Car Productions, Car Crazy Classic Car Auctions in Calgary, Barrett- Jackson, Mecum’s and others to see what similar cars have sold for. Auction results are typically posted on these websites immediately after sales.
The N.A.D.A. (National Automobile Dealers Association) classic car value book is a very handy reference tool and classic vehicle values can be checked online on the N.A.D.A website.
Harold Henninger, who has done a total of 19 classic car auctions in Calgary averaging 225 vehicles going across the auction block in his spring and fall sales, urges people to spend as much time as necessary to carefully check out all aspects of a potential purchase before waving their bidder’s card at an auction.
“Buy quality. You can always resell a quality vehicle because there will always be a market for it,” Henninger says. Henninger also suggests people invest in convertibles and he actively recruits drop top vehicles for his sale.
“Convertibles have always been a blue chip investment. They can be worth three times as much as a hardtop but don’t cost much more to restore. When the top goes down, the price goes up,” he says. When buying at auctions. You must add the buyers’ fee that is usually 10 per cent of the ‘hammered’ price and five per cent GST.
If you live in a province where there is sales tax, that is paid when you register the vehicle. Also factor in transportation costs. If you buy a car at an auction in Toronto and live in Vancouver, the cost of transporting the vehicle can range from $1,000 to $2,000. Art Carty and Peter Fawcett operate Canada’s oldest classic car dealership and restoration shop called Fawcett Motor Carriage in Whitby – 30 minutes east of Toronto. The company has been buying and selling cars at auctions since the business began in 1964. They urge buyers to be very prudent in deciding what kind of classic vehicle they want.
“Find the kind of classic vehicle you think you want to own and drive it. You may change your mind after you’ve been behind the wheel or that may reinforce your decision to acquire that type of classic vehicle” Peter Fawcett says.
Art Carty says it’s a matter of buyers getting completely educated before they make the purchase. They may own the vehicle a long time and it should be a good experience. Fawcett Motor Carriage sells all its classic cars with a full six-month mechanical warranty so buyers of classic vehicles won’t be hit with bills to repair unforeseen mechanical problems.
The best way to get into the hobby and buy the classic vehicle you always wanted is to start by attending auctions, seeing what’s being offered, doing research on the vehicle of your choice and then get a bidder’s card.
There may be a great classic car at a bargain price waiting for you right now.
Alyn Edwards is a partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company.
Photograph by: Alyn Edwards