The collector car hobby can become a grim battle zone when buyer meets seller in an ad.

The rules of engagement in 2023 are typically initiated in a free-fire online exchange between the two parties because buyer and seller may have radically different viewpoints about the sales item.

Jim Sutherland

I am not a curber or flipper, but I have dabbled in vehicle sales for many decades, usually when my vehicles have outlived their usefulness and buried me under a deep pile of nickels and dimes–or headed to the great garage in the sky in some cases.

For me, the entire sales experience has always been dominated by tire-kickers, dreamers and schemers, so I am a little gun shy these days. However, the sales game gave me deep insight into the world of amateur automotive peddling, including several vintage vehicle sales misadventures that became more complicated than a run-of-the-mill sales transaction.

Consequently, I feel qualified to discuss vintage vehicle sales and offer my opinion about them from both sides of the buyer and seller fence. Here are my five observations from the car guy sales trenches.

My first observation is today’s vintage ride sales begin in the cyberworld of internet buy/sell websites where an electronic barrier ensures either party can remain in the shadows. As a result, the seller could be a scam artist who is qualified to teach classes in the fine art of the grift, while the buyer may be a like-minded lowlife who wants to separate a legitimate seller from their classic vehicle and/or their cash via very sleazy means.

The crooked and fake buyer’s hook is usually an oddly worded pitch to instantly buy your vintage car–without even getting into the deep end of the vehicle’s history. A seller’s Spidey senses should be screaming at this point but, if they are not, the ensuing series of events will be a grim life lesson.

My second observation relates to basic rules of civility during the sales process. For example, a seller who injects hostile language that would offend a junkyard dog in his ad will put off many potential buyers. Every ad will attract a sizable herd of tire-kickers, but one of them may kick the tires before he buys the rest of the ride. However, an angry outburst in a seller’s ad may slam the door shut for a potential buyer who was not looking for the surly option in his seller’s pitch.

My third observation is a numbers issue. A seller who bases his vintage vehicle price tag on an upscale TV auction’s vehicle price tag may have missed the point that his pile of rust and heartbreak is nowhere close to the condition of the vintage ride on the stage. But the seller will have a front row seat for the rusty relic’s final death scene in his pasture. Reality is not just a concept in vintage vehicle sales.

My fourth observation is also a numbers issue. A buyer who throws out a low-ball offer that would make the Grand Canyon seem like a shallow drainage ditch is a highly irritating part of a sale, but the woods are full of these clueless clods. The seller will simply ignore them and continue to pitch the vehicle to serious buyers.

Which brings me to my fifth and final observation about vintage vehicle sales: Do not insult the seller with a ridiculously low offer and a relentless volley of criticism while hiding behind a keyboard or phone. The seller will not appreciate a drive-by smear campaign while the “buyer” hides from view.

I recommend seller and buyer meet in person to keep things civilized and prevent any outbursts of stupidity when alleged buyers cower behind a cloak of anonymity. The likelihood of an impromptu buyer/seller war zone is unlikely when they are face to face because the seller may be a former pro football lineman who dabbled in the UFC as a post-retirement career to better manage his anger issues.

Nothing brings basic courtesy back to sales negotiations better than a desire to avoid sudden bodily harm when buyer and seller meet in person.

Thus ends my article from the car guy trenches.    

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.