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Finding and Buying Your Dream Car

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Do you like cars? By that I mean, do you view your vehicle as something more than mere transportation? If so, then you probably have that “dream car” that you’d own if you won the lottery or suddenly came into a stow of cash.

Of course, then there are the serious car enthusiasts. They’re the ones who wait all year for events like Monterey Car Week —a week-long extravaganza of car exhibitions, rallies and social events.

The entire week takes place in and around Pebble Beach, California, and features many of the world’s finest and most expensive exotic and vintage cars, rare motorcycles and muscle cars. Then, there is the Concours d’Elegance, which is the crème de la crème of the exhibition circuit, where the 200 best collector cars in the world make their way onto the legendary 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Here, a handful are recognized for style, technical merit and historical accuracy.

Monterey is just one of several events for collectors, enthusiasts and, yes — even tire kickers. Whether you decide to make it to Monterey, other prestigious national car shows or a local auction closer to home, there are a few key tips that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Mitch Katz

NOLN was pleased to have the chance to speak with Mitch Katz, a Monterey veteran, before he flew out for the week-long festivities at the end of August.

I asked Katz about attending an event like Monterey. Are these just for “experts” and car aficionados?

Katz, the founder and CEO of Premier Financial Services, the nation’s leading provider of lease financing for exotic, vintage and luxury cars, has been attending Monterey auctions for more than 20 years. He indicated that Monterey, along with Scottsdale Week (in Arizona) and Amelia Island (Florida), are the three premier events/auctions that car enthusiasts want to highlight on their calendars.

“There are really only a few auction-related do’s and don’ts that people need to know, whether they’re at Monterey or any other auto auction,” Katz said.

While this year’s premier vehicle at Monterey — the Ferrari GTO — may fetch $40 million, Katz was quick to mention that there are plenty of options for much less than that. In fact, you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to attend places like Monterey (or other high-end auto shows). If all goes according to Monterey previews, the Ferrari 250 GTO may sell for more than $45 million, which would surpass another 250 GTO, which sold at Bonhams in 2014 for $36.65 million.

Katz indicated that there are plenty of buys in the $25,000 to $50,000 range in most categories. Because his specialty is financing these cars, he stressed that leasing is usually a viable option, as well as mentioning the tax advantages of financing a vintage automobile.

Drawing on his experience, Katz offered the following tips for first-timers and for those more familiar with elite car shows, or local auctions, too.

For Katz, perhaps the most important point: know the car you’re bidding on.

“Too often, people buy a car that looks great, but they didn’t do their due diligence,” he said. “Make sure you have your mechanic go over the car.”

He mentioned that the restoration might not have been done right.

“At an auction, it’s buyer beware,” he stressed.

At places like Monterey (in particular), there are plenty of people there who will (for a fee) go over the car and make sure things are on the up-and-up. Failure to do that means “when you go to resell the car, you’ll take a hit.”

Beyond that, Katz warned about getting caught up in the “bidding drama.”

“It helps to be able to be dispassionate. It’s too easy to get hooked,” he said.

Attending Monterey with someone experienced is a plus.

“It’s okay to go and simply watch,” he said.

If you are serious about finding your dream car, Katz shared these additional tips:

  • Get pre-approved before showing up — at most auctions, you’ll need to apply for credentials prior to bidding. The auction company will need to review your financial situation. You can get this pre-approval from firms, like Premier, who specialize in exotic and vintage cars.
  • Set a maximum bid price and don’t go over it — pros will often write this number on their hand as a reminder to not go over it! There are additional fees beyond the bid, too. These include the auction house commission, taxes, title, insurance and transportation.
Katz shared that staffers who manage the auction process from the floor are often helpful resources. Let them know beforehand that you are planning to bid on a car, so they can help direct the auctioneer’s attention your way. Additionally, these people are great contacts to make during the walk-through, as well as the owners of vehicles you are interested in.

“Owners often have the story on the car, which can be helpful to learn,” Katz said.

With these tips, your own due diligence and your dream car in mind, it’s time to head out: whether you’re planning on Monterey, or another vintage car show or auto auction. Happy bidding!

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