This guide explains some of the pitfalls of buying a classic (or for that matter any) car unseen. It is done through an example of a purchase I made of a Triumph GT6. I have done another guide with the actual check list in it as it made the file to long.
I bid on a Triumph GT6 which had a long MOT and was described as being in good usable condition with no rust in wheel arches and new sills. The final bid was £3800 so not an insignificant amount of money.
I drove over 100 miles to collect the car having set up insurance so I could drive it back.
Because I am a careful type I drew up a check list using the restoration manual for the car and worked through it checking each of the likely problem areas for the car. ( I can recomend this technique). The seller seemed to think this was unnecessary as I had in his words already bought the car. I pointed out this was only true if the description he gave matched the car. It did not.
The wheel arches were mostly clear of rust because there was no metal only filler and there was a small section rusted though and falling off. The buyer said it only needs a small weld - true but this did not reflect the description. So I became very suspicious. The general condition of the car was "tarted up" rather than maintained but this wouldn't have made me walk away as I had entered a contract.
However despite having an almost full MOT this car had the following dangerous faults.
Steering rack was loose. (MOT failure- I don't know how they missed this)
One front disk was rusted so badly on the brake surface that only half of the pad was effective. (brake balance must have been awful - I didn't drive the car as I didn't feel it was safe) (MOT failure - I don't know how they missed this)
Some cracking to brake pipe rubbers. (Probably not a failure but not good)
There was rust next to seat belt mounting. (MOT failure - but you have to remove the carpet to be able to see it and I guess they didn't bother)
The middle sill was rusted through, you can get to it via a hole in the inner sill, both inner and outer sills had been replaced. (this would be very expensive to fix as you have to remove the other sills to be able to replace the inner.) (MOT failure, but again you have to remove the carpet and know where to look to be able to see it)
The crank oil seal had failed and leaked so much oil there was oil in the footwells, all over the bottom of the car and presumably all over the clutch which did still work but I wouldn't like to guess for how long it would have held up. (you have to take the engine out and split the crank to fix this.) (Not an MOT failure but could be dangerous if rear tyres get oil on them or could strand you if the clutch fails)
At this point I decided not to continue the check as the car did not match its description and I had no intention of paying for it. The seller was very angry and I was livid but I managed to be civil and left without paying for the car. I ended up about £100 out of pocket after cancelling the insurance and paying for the petrol however this is a small amount compared to trying to drive an unsafe car on a wet day with the possibility of oil contaminating the rear tyres and then having to sort out some expensive problems. To be fair to the seller, I don't think he was aware of some of the problems as he had only had the car for about 8 months and seemed to know nothing about cars, however the rust in the wheel arch was very clear and a direct lie and the oil leak was much more than the usual old English car oil problem. He said he had payed more for the car and spent money on new chrome parts, as I said "tarted up", this may be true but if it was he was stitched up and I didn't intend to let that happen to me.
So buyer beware. You can get bargains on ebay but you can get burnt. I left negative feedback and I got negative feedback. I said nothing abusive just the facts thats what other people want to know and your feedback won't be removed. Ebay has no process for dealing with this so you just have to live with the negative feedback, unless they have said anything abusive in which case you can ask for it to be removed. Better to have negative feedback than risk your life and end up with a car you will have to pay over the odds to fix.
NEVER NEVER pay for a car without checking it carefully, this car looked quite good from the top but needed alot of expensive work and was unsafe. I wouldn't bid on a car on ebay without at least talking to the seller and preferably seeing the car. If you do, be prepared to walk away if you have to and accept you may get negative feedback.