I often tell people that they need to get used cars inspected before they buy, since so many used cars are sold without warranties. However, many people don’t realize this advice extends to classic car purchases as well.
Let’s say you’ve got a couple grand in your pocket and decide to buy the muscle car of your dreams. You know: The one you could have bought for a fraction of that when you were 16, if only you’d had that kind of money back then.
You look around and find a “numbers matching” example. A rare early Corvette? A Hemi Mopar? One of the rarer early Mustangs? Pick one—they can all get you ripped off.
I’ve written before about a client who bought a “numbers matching” Z-28 only to find out it was a good fake. I’ve seen it happen with a Ruf Porsche as well. And I get emails and phone calls from others who have had this happen with all manner of high-performance and collector cars.
For some odd reason, many buyers throw caution to the wind when they are shopping for that dream car from their youth. Even though the car they are buying costs many times more than a typical used car. In these cases, it is MORE important that you get the vehicle inspected by an expert.
You cannot rely on the seller’s expertise (which might be more in how to build a clone than it is in being truthful). And you cannot rely on an auctioneer’s expertise. Among other things, they might even disclaim any liability for anything they tell you about the car.
Will it cost you a few bucks to get an expert to vouch for the car’s authenticity? Yes. But when this kind of money is at stake, it makes even more sense. And there are people who do this for a living. When I finally have the money to throw at a Charger Daytona, I am going to call Galen Govier to confirm that it is correct. If he hasn’t seen and signed off on that particular car yet, I will pay him to look at it. There are guys like him for each worthwhile car out there.
But wait! Can’t we sue the seller for fraud? Yes, we can. But it is costly and you can never guarantee that you will win a case, no matter how righteous it is. And the cost of the litigation might be cumbersome and may come out of your pocket. Best to avoid the problem altogether.
In 24 years of practicing automobile warranty law, I have gotten quite a few calls from people who have been ripped off when buying a classic car that was touted as “all original,” “authentic,” and/or “numbers matching.”
Not a single one of those callers had the vehicle inspected before purchase. I believe there is a correlation.
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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 24 years, almost exclusively in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation.
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