DEC 10th 2014

'Assumptions have been made that...' and other non‑committal classic car classified ads

I must spend far too much time reading descriptions of classic cars that are for sale or I wouldn’t have found myself Googling the phrase ‘investment potential classic cars’. It seems like every car that’s over 15 years old now has the potential to provide buyers with a pension fund – if the classifieds are anything to go by.

A quick search of one of the UK’s more popular car sales portals produced over two thousand results for cars described as investments or having investment potential. I have to be honest, I love reading some of these descriptions, particularly when the author is trying to convince me that an old Honda Civic is ‘a blue-chip investment’.

A classic car’s description is the key factor when it comes to converting interest into a sales enquiry – why else would we now use the Italian ‘vetroresina’ to describe fibreglass Ferraris? Photos are important but they can’t convey provenance and history and when was the last time you saw a photo of a classic for sale that didn’t look great? Amongst some of the descriptions I’ve read this year have been such wonderful phrases such as:

‘Everything is understood to work’

‘Cast-iron investment potential’

‘Probably a California car’

‘Assumptions have been made that…’

‘Believed to be a genuine low mileage example’

My personal favourite is ‘The previous gentleman owner…’ – particularly when the bounder hasn’t looked after his car nearly as well as he would have us all think…

Should a written description provide a buyer with all the information a buyer needs to know about the car they want to buy and how much due diligence should the author of said description exercise? According to motor trade legal experts Lawgistics, a trade vendor must be willing to stand by their description and that description should be objective, not subjective.

So ‘the best we have seen’ doesn’t necessarily mean the best and the use of terms such as ‘original’ should stand up to scrutiny. Ultimately a buyer should satisfy themselves that the information they have been given by the vendor is correct and ignore or at least investigate any hints or assumptions.

Caveat emptor, as the Romans used to say when selling a classic racing chariot, fully restored to original specification and believed to have been previously owned by Spartacus.

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