Safety Tips for Buying a Classic Car Online

When the Internet was new, buying any kind of car online was pretty risky. You never knew for sure what you were purchasing, or how honest the seller was. The average auto insurance policy can cover you against many things, after all, but it offers no protection from scam artists.

Today, even if we ultimately drive to someone's home, or visit a dealer's lot, much of our car buying is at least begun online: we use the 'net to compare prices, check vehicle histories, and even research sellers. This is true of new cars, and to a degree it applies to the purchase of classic cars as well, however, when you buy a classic car online, there are a few things you should do to ensure you're getting a good value, from a reputable seller.

· Research the Seller: This is especially important if you are buying from an individual, and not through an auction site where feedback scores are readily available. Fire up your favorite search engine and do a search on the seller's name. If they've mentioned an affiliation with an enthusiasts club, check to be sure they're a member in good standing. You don't want to pry into every aspect of the seller's life – just enough to assure yourself that they are a reliable person.

· Ask Questions: Make a list of questions to ask the seller. Ask for detailed photos of the car and have the seller send or fax a copy of the title. If the seller is unwilling to provide the information you request, do not continue with the process.

· Research the Car: Most classic cars have clubs that can provide you with information on what to look for in the particular car you are interested in. Research classic car values through clubs and websites like and

· Inspect the Car: Never buy a car sight unseen. If you can’t view the car yourself, use a classic car inspection service. Inspection services generally cost between $150 and $300 and are well worth the cost.

· Use an Escrow Service: An escrow service – and almost all of the reputable online auction houses offer one – acts as a holding account for the money being exchanged. Instead of going directly to the seller, the money you pay for your new car will be held in escrow until you take delivery of the car. This is your insurance that the car you chose online is really coming to you, but it's also the seller's insurance that your money is good. If you're dealing with an individual, you can still do some kind of escrow, but you may have to pay for the service. Since classic cars do not come with warranties, this is an extremely important thing to consider: it may be the only way you can get your money back, if the car you receive is not what was promised.

If all of these points have caused some alarm, take a moment and relax. The vast majority of people selling their cars online, whether directly or through an auction service, are honest, reliable sellers. They know that one negative comment can destroy their own business, and are not likely to do anything to part you and your money unfairly. Nevertheless, it is always wise to be prepared.