Classic Car Buyer Beware – The importance of due diligence

The past few weeks have been interesting for the classic car market. Challenging times are upon us, and a UK wide lockdown has meant an inevitable increase in Internet activity. Buyers and sellers are suddenly spending more time in front of computer screens, and car sales websites across classic and modern vehicles are seeing a huge increase in traffic. The financial implications of the Coronavirus outbreak have also meant there are many cars available right now, as cash strapped sellers look to liquidate valuable assets. We’ve had conversations with people saying things like ‘great time to buy’ and ‘plenty of choice’, and to some degree this is correct, however we wanted to share a word of caution.

A Mercedes-Benz SL, or rather, a GOOD Mercedes-Benz SL is generally worth less than the sum of its parts. What does that mean? It means with a good quality car, the retail price to acquire the vehicle is lower than buying a sub-standard car and paying to improve the quality. The old saying goes buy cheap, buy twice, but with an R107 SL if buying cheap can result in spending 20 times as much – you can say we are exaggerating, but we’ve seen it happen. At this time, we really must stress that buyers should be careful.

We pride ourselves on supplying excellent calibre cars, cars that have passed our strict quality tests and cars that we stand behind. Our cars are presented with a 24-month warranty. We are the only dealer that offers such a comprehensive package of after sales support.

To share a recent ‘buyer beware’ story, we thought we’d publish this anecdote.

An SL came to the SLSHOP, inherited by a customer who wanted to understand the condition of the car. They weren’t particularly attached to the vehicle, but were interested to see if there was any value in this strange old car that had fallen into their possession. We followed our usual procedure, and the car underwent a complete health check. This 300-point check gives a comprehensive report on the quality of the vehicle, inside, outside and underneath. After spending a day reviewing the car, we sat down with the customer to have a rather awkward conversation – the car was condemned.

The extent of the rust and rot, along with an impressive list of mechanical issues meant the car was nowhere near safe for the road. Our technicians found one hole big enough to put a fist through. From our point of view, this was a donor car, useful only in keeping other SLs on the road. We made an offer to purchase the vehicle on that basis, but the customer decided to take the car away and spend some time deciding what to do next.

The customer left us with the full knowledge of our opinion; we shook hands and parted ways on good terms.

This is not an unusual occurrence – many people inherit or discover SLs and want to know exactly what they have. What made this particular case memorable is what happened next.

Some weeks after the health check we noticed a familiar looking R107 SL listed on a dealer website. There was no doubt that it was the same car we had condemned in the weeks prior, but it now had shining paint and a superb set of photographs. This didn’t sit well with us. We’d seen the car; we’d seen the rust, the rot, and we’d seen all the problems that made this car unsafe in every way. We’d valued it as a scrap car fit for parts, and now, just a few short weeks later, here it was for sale at retail money.

After the car left us, we’d had no further contact or discussion with the customer, so we did a bit of digging. The car had languished for a short while, before going through an auction. Just a few days after the auction finished, the car was listed on the dealers website.

For obvious reasons we can’t share anything about the car, the colour or the dealer. But we can use this lesson as part of our ‘buyer beware’ story. What scares us about this situation is this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen.

Be careful what you buy.

Do your checks, do your due diligence, check, check and check again.

There is a reason SLSHOP stands on the shoulders of others when it comes to quality, and there is a reason we stand behind our cars with a 24-month warranty.

As the old saying goes, buy cheap, buy twice… or when it comes to the R107 SL, the phrase is a little less catchy but it’s definitely true.

Buy cheap; spend more than you’d have spent in the first place turning the car you’ve got into the car you intended to buy.

If you are looking for a high quality SL that wears the SLSHOP seal of approval, please get in touch.