Quentin Willson’s guide to buying a classic car at auction
Classic Car Auctions have put a lot of effort into making auctions more accessible with low fees, an easy to understand online catalogue and last but by no means least some effective marketing. If you wondered why Classic Car Show presenter Quentin Willson was given the honour of hammering away the new auction house’s first ever lot it looks like we now have the answer – Mr Willson was making a video for them.
CCA have tried to stick with plain English on their website and they have also produced an informative video – featuring the former Top Gear presenter giving advice – titled “How to buy a classic car at auction….” It’s nicely produced and is definitely worth watching but there are some important points that need a little more explanation.
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As you would expect the focus is on the many benefits of buying from auction and how easy, straightforward and secure the process is. Quentin begins his video guide by enthusing that classic car auctions save you time because:
“….you don’t have to go round the country looking at over-described cars”
CCA aren’t generally guilty of this so in many ways he is right – but rest assured that many classics at auction most certainly are! He then goes on to talk about “certain legal safeguards” that are in place when it comes to descriptions:
“…old cars at these auctions have to be described honestly and transparently…..if there is an issue over the car’s past, it’s ownership, the auction company checks all this stuff out so you don’t have to.”
Well, this is certainly true but the question he doesn’t answer is what happens if they get it wrong? Quentin’s smooth tones certainly sound reassuring enough – almost like a guarantee – but it is important to remember that there are no guarantees at auction ( and we’d be delighted for someone to tell us we’re wrong).
A quick glance at CCA’s own terms and conditions reveal the following small print:
In bidding for any Lot, the Buyer acknowledges that he does not rely on any representation made to him by CCA, its employees or agents.
CCA acts solely for and in the interests of the Seller. CCA’s job is to sell the Lot at the highest price obtainable at the Auction to a Buyer. CCA does not act for Buyers in this role and does not give advice to Buyers. When CCA or its employees makes statements about a Lot or it is doing that on behalf of the Seller of the Lot. Buyers who are themselves not expert in the Lots are strongly advised to seek and obtain independent advice on the Lots and their value before bidding for them.
The Contract for the sale of a Lot is between the Seller and the Buyer. CCA shall not be liable for any act or default by the Seller (except where selling as principal) or the Buyer.
The Catalogue contains details about each Lot. The description printed in the Catalogue is given on behalf of the Seller, and may contain CCA’s opinion about the Lot, but in any event is not a contractual representation or warranty by CCA.
Photographs, Illustrations and diagrams contained in the Catalogue are for identification purposes only. They may not show the true condition and colour, (which may be inaccurately reproduced) of the Lot.
….it is for any potential bidder to satisfy themselves as to each and every aspect of a Lot, including its authorship, condition, provenance, history, background, authenticity, style, period, age, suitability, quality, roadworthiness (if relevant), origin, value and estimated selling price (including the Hammer Price).
The description of the Lot in the Catalogue is to the best of the Seller’s knowledge accurate and not misleading
The Seller shall compensate CCA and the Buyer in full for all losses, expenses and other costs which are caused by the Seller’s breach of any obligation of the Seller under the Terms.
So in other words – just as it is at any other auction – there really are no guarantees and if you have any issues you are going to have to speak to the previous owner, not the auction house. Ultimately you are relying on the description given by the owner although CCA do use a handy scale to help you translate it.
All this is worth knowing – auctions are certainly not a place for the inexperienced or faint-hearted – but every classic car enthusiast should try buying at auction at some point and fair play to Classic Car Auctions for making them more accessible.