I belong to several groups online that specialize in various makes and models of vehicles that I either own, have owned or want to own someday. These are like virtual car clubs and are great resources for buying and selling everything from ephemera — or what we used to call literature or brochures — to parts or complete vehicles in various stages of repair. An abundance of knowledge and information also is available along with photos and illustrations.
Occasionally, like any gathering of divergent personalities, conflicts arise. This was the case recently in a group of normally like-minded Studebaker aficionados. Remarkably, this internet-based feud did not arise from political discourse but a rather more organic disagreement.
The conflict involved an individual representing the seller of an old truck and the buyer of the subject vehicle.
A 1950s vintage pickup was listed for sale, and the listing disclosed that the seller was computer illiterate so the vehicle was being represented by a different individual as a favor to the seller. Conditions were unknown, including mechanical, physical and cosmetic, but several decent photos accompanied the ad.
The price was very reasonable for a complete truck despite some obvious shortcomings. A prospective buyer stepped up via email and made a deal with the seller’s rep, below asking price, and arranged payment and shipping to his location.
It should be noted that the asking price seemed fair, but negotiations are usually as much a part of a car sale as the car itself. All this took place privately between the parties involved.
But after taking delivery of the truck, the new owner was less than enamored. Thus began a series of strongly worded texts to the seller’s rep demanding full reimbursement including shipping.
The rep, feeling badly but also that he was in the right based on his description and correspondence, refused to comply with the buyer’s demands. As the situation escalated, the seller’s rep brought the melee to the public sector of the group, asking for guidance, opinions or support in his quest to resolve the matter.
I bring this scenario to your attention as a way of possibly avoiding potential mishaps and misunderstandings regarding purchases of this nature, not to pass judgment.
However, as someone who has been on both sides of that fence, I do have to side with the seller. I don’t necessarily agree with bringing all the sordid details to the masses via social media, but from a moral, ethical and (probably) legal standpoint, the seller’s rep is right to stand his ground. The buyer has every right to be disappointed and maybe even feels justified (albeit unreasonably) in asking to work something out monetarily with the seller, but the basic tenets of buying prevails: caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.
For those of you unfamiliar with old trucks, there are many issues to consider especially when purchasing one sight unseen: Will this be a project? Fix it up as you drive? Turn-key show truck? Rust? Mechanical condition? Of course, the value will be dependent on the market and condition, but the expectation should be in line with the asking price.
The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies here.
At the other end of the spectrum, a little knowledge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing, and too many sellers think that rotting hulk in their dooryard that is slowly being reclaimed by the earth is worth the same as the hammer price of a pristine example rolling through at Barrett-Jackson.
The buyer has options to mitigate the risk. The most obvious one is to ask more detailed questions and ask for current, high-resolution photos to back up the seller’s claims.
Going to view the vehicle in person is the best way to gauge its condition and eliminate subjectivity, but the next best thing might be for a friend with some knowledge of the specific vehicle to put eyes on it on your behalf.
Be sure the seller is the owner or legal representative and know the status of the title, if any. It’s not the seller’s responsibility to jump through hoops after the sale so you can register your car.
In the end, if you, the buyer, aren’t comfortable with the deal, feel free to walk away. But once the deal is done, and you become the new owner, you should take responsibility for your actions, provided there wasn’t any criminal fraud involved.
The seller can also help protect himself or herself by keeping any correspondence involving the sale, backing up any verbal communication with an email confirmation and distributing detailed photos of the good, and more important, the bad aspects of the vehicle.
Buyers should insist on a visual inspection before the sale or have a written denial of the offer; and spell out the deal in detail, including everything involved from spare parts to paperwork and accepted forms of payment.
Have a date for removal of the vehicle, especially when a third-party shipper is involved, or you might get stuck storing the car for a long time.
Be sure everyone knows who is responsible for damage once the deal is done regardless of the vehicle’s location.
Whether buyer or seller, this isn’t about trust; it’s a business deal, and anything can happen. Making a handshake deal is the way of honorable men and women, but without paperwork it’s going to be difficult explaining to the seller’s widow that you did pay for the car and you want to collect.
A good deal is one where the buyer and seller feel good about the transaction. Take some steps to ensure the final outcome is a happy one.
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.