Every January, the automotive world converges on Scottsdale, Arizona, for an event that ignites the passions of car collectors and enthusiasts worldwide – the Scottsdale Car Week. With its renowned auctions, it’s the perfect place to find the collector car of your dreams. However, in recent years, the automotive world has witnessed a digital revolution in the auction arena. Waving paddles in crowded rooms is now just one way to purchase; today, collectors can participate in the excitement from the comfort of their own homes.

In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for shopping for a collector car – whether you’re in Scottsdale or Sarasota – through a digital auction.

1. Research Extensively: Know What You Want

Before entering a digital auction, you must have a clear vision of the collector car you desire. The range of options can be overwhelming, and without a specific focus, you might find yourself lost in a sea of classic and exotic cars. Do your research, understand the make and model you’re interested in, and set a budget. Consider factors such as year, condition, mileage and provenance.

Tip: Make sure you don’t get burned on price. Cruise to the Hagerty Valuation Tools to do some research.

2. Select a Reputable Auction Platform

The digital auction space has seen significant growth, and multiple platforms now host collector car auctions. However, not all are created equal. It’s crucial to choose a reputable and established platform. Look for sites with a track record of hosting successful auctions and transparent processes. Some well-known platforms include Bring a Trailer, RM Sotheby’s, and Hagerty Marketplace.

3. Register and Familiarize Yourself With the Platform

Once you’ve selected a platform, register well in advance of the auction. Make sure you understand the registration process and any fees associated with it. Familiarize yourself with the platform’s interface, as different sites may have varying layouts and features. Being comfortable with the digital environment will make your auction experience smoother on hammer day.

4. Set a Realistic Budget

Before the auction begins, set a budget that you’re comfortable with. This includes not only the purchase price but also fees, taxes and any additional expenses. Stick to your budget to avoid overextending yourself. Remember, the allure of collector cars can be strong, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of bidding (and winning).

5. Inspect the Cars Thoroughly

While digital auctions lack the opportunity for physical inspection, many reputable platforms provide detailed descriptions, high-quality photographs and even videos of the cars on offer. Take the time to study these materials carefully. Pay attention to any imperfections or details that could affect the car’s value. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact the auction house or current owner for additional information.

6. Review the Auction Terms and Conditions

Each digital auction platform has its own set of terms and conditions. It’s crucial to review these thoroughly to understand the rules of the auction, including bidding increments, deposit requirements and payment terms. Failure to comply with these terms could result in penalties or disqualification from future auctions.

7. Attend the Auction Preview

Some digital auctions offer a preview period where you can see the cars in person or online before the auction begins. If possible, view these previews to get a firsthand look at the cars you’re interested in. This can provide valuable insights and help you make more informed decisions.

8. Watch the Auction Progress

During the auction, it’s essential to stay engaged and monitor the progress of the cars you’re interested in. Digital auctions often have a countdown timer for each lot, allowing you to see when bidding is about to close. Most sites also have alerts you can set when bids are made on cars you’re watching. Keep in mind that bidding can be fast-paced, so be prepared to act quickly if you want to place a bid.

9. Set a Bidding Strategy

Before the auction starts, decide on your bidding strategy. Will you enter the bidding early, or will you wait until the last moment? Many bidders employ sniping tactics, placing their highest bid just before the timer runs out to avoid driving up the price prematurely. Be disciplined and stick to your budget to avoid overpaying.

10. Beware of Hidden Costs

In addition to the purchase price, there may be hidden costs associated with buying a collector car through a digital auction. These can include buyer’s premiums, taxes, shipping fees and import/export charges if the car is in a different state or country. Factor these costs into your budget to avoid surprises.

11. Ask Questions and Seek Expert Advice

If you have any questions or uncertainties about a specific car, don’t hesitate to reach out to the auction house. They often have experts on hand who can provide additional information and guidance. Seeking advice from knowledgeable collectors or automotive specialists can also be valuable in making an informed decision.

Tip: Members of Hagerty Drivers Club get access to Ask Hagerty, your personal support team offering expert advice, guidance, and answers.

12. Don’t Get Caught in the Hype

Scottsdale Car Week auctions are known for their electric atmosphere and competitive bidding. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and place bids beyond your budget. Stay disciplined and remember your limits. It’s better to walk away from a car that exceeds your budget than to regret an impulsive purchase.

13. Conduct Due Diligence After Winning

Once you’ve successfully won a collector car at auction, your responsibilities aren’t over. Perform due diligence by thoroughly reviewing the paperwork, including the title, ownership history and any maintenance records. Arrange for a professional inspection, if possible, to ensure the car meets your expectations.

14. Shop for Insurance in Advance

Once you have an idea on the type of vehicle you’re shopping for, it’s the perfect time to consider your collector car insurance coverage. It’s important to understand the importance of securing specialty insurance tailored to the unique needs of classic and collector automobiles. Unlike standard auto insurance policies, specialty insurance accounts for the higher value, limited use and collectible nature of these vehicles. Look for providers, like The Hartford, that offer specialized programs in collector car coverage, and ensure that your investment is adequately protected against damage, theft and depreciation. Proper insurance coverage can provide peace of mind, allowing you to fully enjoy your prized collector car.

Tip: You can get a quote today to estimate the annual insurance cost of your new classic car.

15. Understand the Payment Process

After winning a car at auction, you’ll need to complete the payment process promptly. Familiarize yourself with the accepted payment methods and deadlines outlined in the auction’s terms and conditions. Failure to meet payment deadlines could result in penalties or loss of the car.

Scottsdale Car Week is an exhilarating experience for collectors and enthusiasts alike, and the digital auction landscape has made buying and selling collector cars more accessible than ever. By following these best practices, you can navigate the digital auction world with confidence, secure the collector car of your dreams, and make the most of this iconic automotive event. Happy bidding!