You have certainly heard the adage, “Come for the cars, but stay for the people.” Our hobby is full of personalities, which often make it enjoyable. But the transactional nature of car collecting means it is unique compared to other pastimes. Nothing is so revealing of a person’s traits — for better or worse — as parting with large sums of money after butting heads in negotiation.

Most of us have encountered many different types of people through our own sales and acquisitions, especially when we offer a car for sale. For some, part of the motivation for choosing to sell a car at auction is grounded in minimizing these personal interactions. Others love the chase, sometimes more than the car itself.

As you consider the following observations, ask yourself which of these types of car buyers you most resemble. Has that changed with time and experience? What can we learn from this discussion that may influence how we buy and sell?

The Newbie

We’ll start with everyone’s favorite, the first-time buyer. He or she is so excited by the prospect of fulfilling a lifelong dream that all nuances, flaws and details of the car go unnoticed. Put the convertible top down on the test drive and it’s money in the bank.

I’ve often found myself walking around a car with this buyer, pointing out all the issues he’s missing. You don’t want any remorse when you sell, because one day this buyer will wake up from the dream and realize he did not buy a brand-new car. Hold his hand and treat him like you wish you’d been treated your first time.

Mr. Excitable

This type may bear resemblance to the newbie, and may even be one, but his persona is more aggressive. Countless phone calls, text messages and emails before, during and after the transaction are his M.O. Mr. Excitable can actually come in one of two subsets: positive or negative. Either way, it’s exhausting.

During a recent transaction, the driver of the transporter, while picking up the vehicle from me to deliver to Mr. Excitable, proclaimed, “Boy, this guy’s really excited to get this car, isn’t he?” Both our phones went off, multiple times, in the 10 minutes it took to load the car. I think one text message was about tire pressure and the other related to which brand of wax I used. Keep your phone charged.

The Big Easy

I’d like to think this is where I fall on the spectrum. Simply put, we know what we’re looking for, at, and getting ourselves into. We’ve accepted the responsibility of our decisions and actions, and are willing to endure, without threats of recourse, whatever we get. When the vehicle reaches our driveway, as long as it comes with a title, we’re good.

Some may describe us as “reckless,” as we may fail to heed even basic advice, foregoing a pre-purchase inspection and not grinding the seller over the last few dollars in negotiation. We trust our experience and instincts after reviewing a dozen pictures and having a single phone conversation. Our only hope is that the seller, even if not entirely forthcoming, is not a blatant liar.

I recently “lost” a purchase because the seller didn’t quite trust me. I’d probably offered to make the sale way too easy for him. “Who’d part with their money this carelessly?” he must have thought. Because when he bought the car, he was undoubtedly ...

The Thinker

More often than not, this type tends to be an accountant or some type of analyst. They are bred to study and scrutinize. While they are not as bound to their communication devices as Mr. Excitable, many conversations must take place before and after the requisite pre-purchase inspection. Text messages and Facetime will usually not suffice.

A strong market is not the friend of The Thinker, as they will often lose a car (to a Newbie?!) during their due-diligence process. But unlike The Big Easy, Thinkers are often unfazed by this. They will keep on looking. And thinking. They won’t be rushed, but will pay up for the right example.

The Know-It-All

Why is it that the ones in life who think they know the most usually know the least? (This is actually a psychological phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.) In the car world, this means they’ve read lots of stuff on the internet, in inverse proportion to actually owning any cars. Obviously they will know more about your car than you do, and they are going to tell you about it.

The Know-It-All has a tendency to beat the car to a pulp, until you contemplate just handing over the keys to shut him up. Know-It-Alls rarely actually buy cars, but have found splendid habitats in enthusiast chat forums and popular online-auction comment sections.

Mr. Standoffish

He is a relative of the Know-It-All, with the distinction that he will buy. You just have to beat him at his game, which starts by offering a no-excuses car. He is not here to make friends. My most successful approach with this type is to, upon his scrutinization of each and every flaw of the car, simply state, “I don’t think this is the car for you.” Mr. Standoffish will almost always return, ready to buy.

If your car turns out to be better than described, you may (rarely) win him over. In which case you will be the lucky recipient of emails and calls for years — every time something goes wrong with the 35-year-old car you “overcharged” him for. He didn’t buy it, you sold it to him.

Who are you?

Most of us are likely some hybrid of each of these types, and with time our personalities evolve. Our experiences as sellers will inform our actions as buyers, and around we go. Yet no matter which type of buyer we are, we are eventually all destined to be sellers. So perhaps “Mr. Golden Rule” is the type to which we should all aspire. ♦

One Comment

  1. This is a weird picture.