Thursday, July 21, 2011



MIAMI, Florida - Good advice for long-distance buyers of antique, custom, exotic or otherwise modified cars in Florida - hire an appraiser, a mechanic, a body shop, a towing company, auto detailer, glass installer or other automobile-related person to at least inspect the car before you make that purchase. Buying a car sight-unseen is a tentative proposition at best. When the vehicle is twenty or more years old with potential for unseen damages, improper repairs and modifications, etc., it can turn into a horrible nightmare.

Yesterday, I was given an assignment to perform a condition inspection on an antique Thunderbird convertible. The classic car was located at a Florida auto dealer that specializes in fine antique and custom cars. Over the last few years I've had the pleasure of inspecting and/or appraising numerous dream cars at their location. So, naturally, I expected to see a real nice survivor-type piece.

This condition report was being done on behalf of a fellow from Chicago who later told me that he made the decision to hire an appraiser at the last minute. The T-Bird was all but loaded onto the car carrier when he made the call. To make a long story short, I'm certain that the buyer would have had a heart attack when he took delivery of this absolute disaster of an antique car. While I was making my notes I realized that this sort of thing happens every day.

Getting back to my sage advice regarding having someone - anyone - look at a classic, exotic or custom car before buying and costly shipping, even a non-expert would have noticed three inches of water in the trunk, inner door panels attached via Swingline staples, that most of the lamps and signals didn't work, the dead battery, the A/C not working, dry rot in the six-year old tires, the pitted interior trim, broken seat handles and the surface rust. An expert would find many more deficiencies but by this time the buyer's decision had already been made so my work was done. Disappointed at not finding his dream car and perhaps angry at the seller for misleading advertising, his most overwhelming emotion, nonetheless was joy. Because spending $225 for an appraiser beats spending $18,000 for a piece of junk any day.

The salesman explained that the Thunderbird was a consignment and that he was unaware of the extensive problems the car had. Seems unlikely because they photographed the car from every conceivable angle for their eBay advertisement. The ad contained close-ups of everything with the exception of the funky stuff! Small consolation for the guy in Chicago who might have bought the car sight-unseen.

A last word about purchasing antique and custom cars and trucks in Florida. Private sellers have also become adept at photographing and describing vehicles to their best advantage. One selling point I commonly see being used is a quotation of the insured value. Very reassuring to know that an insurance company has such a high regard for the car. However, and this has become a typical theme, antique cars covered by specialty insurors like Hagerty, Grundy, Condon & Skelly and American Collectors who operate on the honor system, over-insure most of their cars. Antique car owners simply tell these specialty insurors what they feel the car is worth and, as long as book values bear them out, policies are written on that basis alone. More than half of the appraisals of antique and custom cars insured by these companies aren't worth near their insured value. Buying a car that's covered by a small specialty insuror? Caveat Emptor.....

The St. Lucie Appraisal Company
P.O. Box 2700
Fort Pierce, FL 34954
Phone: (772) 359-4300
Fax: (772) 466-8400


Our service area includes St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, Brevard, Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties. Cities include Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Stuart, Palm City, Jensen Beach, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Coral Springs, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach, Tamarac, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Plantation, Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Hollywood, Hallandale, Miami, Opa Locka, Hialeah, Coral Gables, Kendall and Homestead.

Diminished Value Appraisals throughout Florida including, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Clearwater, Kissimmee, Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Gainsville, Bradenton, Titusville, Panama City, Bonita Springs, Naples, St. Petersburg and Tallahassee.

Our rates for services are as follows:

Auto Appraisals (Donations, Bankruptcy, Divorce, Insurance Disputes) $175.00

Stated Value Appraisals (Antique & Classic Cars, Street Rods, Motorcycles, RVs, Trucks) $175.00

Auto/Truck/RV Condition Reports $275.00 and Up

Diminished Value Appraisals (Determines how much less your car is worth after accident repairs) $275.00

Personal Property Appraisals (Contents, Collectibles, Art, Antiques) $225.00 and Up

All other services and additional time when necessary $75/Hr.

You may obtain appraisals for Financing, Charitable Donation Tax Credits, Collateral, Damage Claims, Equitable Distribution, Bankruptcy, Estates, Insurance Stated Value, Purchase & Sale and Diminished Value.

Appraisals of Personal Property, Art, Boats, Classic & Custom Autos, Collectibles and Memorabilia, Electronics, Machinery, Motorcycles & Choppers, Furnishings, RVs, Trucks & Heavy Equipment. Business Valuations specializing in all types of small businesses.

Revised 08-29-2012