Hagerty Insurance and John Gunnell
Cross-Country Car Buying
/ John Gunnell
When you buy a collector car, you’re purchasing a
piece of automotive history, but the process often
involves links to your own past as well. That ’53
Corvette might be the neighbor’s car you envied when you
were a kid, or that totally stock ’70 ‘Cuda may match
one you saw coming off the car hauler at the local Dodge
dealership more than 30 years ago. That car is finally
within your financial reach but is no longer parked
close by. How do you buy a car that’s out of reach?
This question is asked more these days, with people
buying vintage vehicles via the Internet. But even
before we had cyberspace, collectors were buying cars
long distance through national hobby publications. As a
result of the broadness of the hobby marketplace, there
are many places that offer help when buying a car
located in another state.
Let’s assume that you found the car you’re interested in
through a reputable magazine or well-known website. This
gives you some degree of protection to start with. The
established hobby magazines “police” their advertisers
with a complaint system. If a certain number of negative
comments are received, advertising privileges are
revoked. This helps to keep things on the straight and
narrow. When buying on Internet auctions like eBay, you
can look up a seller’s history of positive and negative
comments. In both cases, you’re protected when dealing
with regular sellers. But that one-time deal could still
be a problem if you aren’t able to inspect the car in
That’s why it pays to get some local talent to look for
you. This could be a friend, a member of your car club
or a professional appraiser who lives near the car. If
you ask a friend to inspect the car, make sure he or she
has specialized knowledge. They may be willing to help,
but if they don’t know much about the type of vehicle
you’re buying, they won’t be able to spot the flaws.
Using a club member might be a better option, if you
belong to a club for that type of car. Check the club
roster to see if a member lives near the car. Look for a
member who owns the same kind of car – or even better,
several of them.
Hiring a professional appraiser is another option. Make
sure he/she has specialized knowledge of collector cars.
If you need additional help choosing an appraiser, there
are two options. First, contact the hobby magazines that
appraisers advertise in to see if any complaints have
been registered. Second, find a vendor or company that
sells parts for the specific type of car and ask them if
they can recommend an appraiser. They usually know
top-notch restoration shop owners who can handle
appraisals because they’ve worked on such cars.
When buying a car from another state, different laws
apply. In Wisconsin, for instance, you’re allowed to
operate a vehicle purchased in another state for 48
hours before registering it. Therefore you can purchase
the vehicle, arrange insurance by phone and legally
drive it home as long as you get temporary tags within
two days. In other states, the vehicle must be
registered immediately. Others offer temporary tags for
moving the car between states. The NADA (National
Automobile Dealers Association) publishes guides on
state vehicle laws. These guides can be used to research
the rules that apply in your particular case.
Hobby publications are filled with advertisements from
individuals and companies offering vehicle-transport
services. To select a reputable transporter, check with
the magazine’s advertising department. Do they have any
recommendations? Do they have a history of complaints
against any transporters? They may prefer to tell you
which advertisers have never had a complaint, which will
work for you too.
Rates for vehicle transportation can vary depending on
the load, miles and other traffic going in the same
direction. Some services haul cars on small
single-vehicle trailers, some use enclosed car haulers,
and others use large trailers pulled by semi trucks.
Whichever way you go, make sure the hauler has a
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), an Interstate
Commerce Commission (ICC) license and good insurance
coverage. Accidents happen, so make sure the transporter
is well insured. And read the fine print of any contract
you sign to verify you don’t inadvertently release
anyone from normal liabilities.
Make sure to check the car over carefully before taking
delivery. If you weren’t there when the car was loaded,
it may be hard to spot damage incurred during transport.
Hopefully, your friend, club member or appraiser can
document any nicks or scratches and to take dated
photos. For more on transportation tips, see the
Choosing the Right Transport Company Insurance.
After purchasing a collector car, insure it immediately
under a collector car policy. Most companies can be
contacted before you make the final purchase to initiate
a policy upon concluding the sale. You’ll have to report
the type of car, how you plan to use it and provide an
“agreed value” for that type of vehicle. Later, you’ll
probably be required to send pictures of the car.
With a reputable firm, you shouldn’t encounter any
pitfalls when securing insurance coverage. You’ll most
likely be asked to informally certify that the car is in
“stock” condition and that you plan on driving it on an
“occasional use” basis. (Some cars, such as modified
ones, are insurable but some of the details differ.)
Naturally, you won’t be insuring the vehicle for
everyday use or for competitive events such as racing.
Some dealers will offer a verbal or written
warranty on a collector car sale. This can come in
handy. A friend of mine purchased a Falcon sedan
delivery from a nationally known collector car dealer.
Soon after he bought it, the automatic transmission went
out. The dealer told him to have it repaired near his
home and send in the bill. It was promptly paid. In this
case, there was no written warranty, but it was well
worth buying from a professional who stood behind his
John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor
at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor
of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price