“I thought it might be helpful to share my experience that I recently had in buying my first Beetle. Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve done a ton of research — not only on the Beetles themselves, but on the process of buying a nearly 50-year old car from across the country, sight-unseen; the process of “making the deal”; and the process of transporting the Bug back to me. Since Eric was instrumental in my initial learning about Bugs and helping me find what became “the one”, he knew about what I went through in this and asked me to write a brief guest post for his blog. The word “brief” got lost somewhere along the way, but hopefully the information is useful to others that find themselves in my scenario!
About two months ago, my wife & I decided it was time to fill her life-long dream of owning a Bug. We’re not new to the Volkswagen scene (we own a ’88 Vanagon Westy — Otto the Vanagon), but this would be our first air-cooled. It’ll also be our first manual transmission, but that’s another story. Early on, I bought two books that were pretty helpful in understanding the Beetle: How to Restore Volkswagen Beetle (by Jim Tyler) and How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (by John Muir et al).
I ended up doing research at TheSamba, reading posts from the various Beetle forums, and got a bit baffled. I looked at the year-over-year changes to bugs, and one of my first decisions was that I really wanted a 12V bug. We live in Seattle, and for 6 months of the year it gets dark really early – bright headlights are important, as is the two-speed windshield wiper. When we bought our Westy, the mantra was “the later model year, the better”, and so I thought it would be with the Bug. However, I got so fascinated by the plethora of one-year-only parts on the ’67, I got hooked.
It was about then that I got in touch with Eric, and we started corresponding. The classifieds on TheSamba weren’t turning up perfect results for what I wanted. I turned to Craigslist, using SearchTempest.com to find any reference to 1967 within 800 miles of me. I initially wanted to buy and drive a car home.
After a few weeks, I was seeing lots of 67s on Craigslist and TheSamba. I would email them to Eric and ask him what was wrong with each one; as we went on, I started telling Eric what I saw that was wrong and asked him to pile on. Perhaps in the future someone will write up a definitive series of articles on identifying a correct and stock ’67 Bug. Big things that kept coming up were non-67 or reproduction body parts, interior components (tall seats instead of short seats, steering wheels, stereos), and engine components (missing vacuum advance distributors, wrong oil bath cleaners, etc.). Nothing was coming up just right, and Eric reminded me about one sitting for sale in North Carolina on 1967beetle.com.
Buying Cross Country
I emailed the owner back and forth, looked at the photos he had available, and finally decided that this might be the one. I’ve never bought a vehicle that wasn’t local to me, so a bit of research was needed. My original plan was to try and find a friend that lived in the area that could look at it, tell me if it was a decent ride or not, and then fly out and look at it myself. The lack of friends in the area and the expensive plane tickets made me rethink my approach.
I found an independent VW restoration shop in the area, and paid to have an inspection done on the car. Luckily, the seller was more than willing to accommodate this and brought the Bug over to the shop the day after I coordinated the inspection. With inspection results in hand, the deal was done a few days later.
I decided that a bank wire transfer would be the quickest and least painful way to make the deal happen. This turns out to not be true. I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to wire transfer money from my bank, and it took 3 days for the transfer to be initiated. Had I known this, I would’ve just gotten a cashier’s check/money order and had it FedEx/UPS overnighted.
Getting it Home
This turned out to be the most time-consuming aspect of it all. There’s a great thread on TheSamba (here) that covers shipping information. I pulled out a few recommended shippers from that thread, and started submitting for quotes online. Some required that I call them as soon as I type in “1967” into the year field — guess they want to talk about classic cars. I quickly recognized that there are two major types of transport companies: operators and brokers. I think this is worth a brief aside.
Brokers operate by giving you a quote that they think is reasonable, and then they’ll basically float it out there…hoping that some trucker thinks the price is right and will pick up your car. You’re basically paying someone to find someone to move your car for you, with the hope of a cheaper price since they do this in bulk.
Operators operate by giving you a quote that they think is profitable for them, and they have their truck go get your car. You’re paying a premium since they have actual overhead rather than just acting as middlemen.
In addition, everyone will quote you a price that is for what the industry calls “open” transport. If you’ve ever seen 10 cars on the back of a semi on the highway, that’s open transport. You can pay extra for enclosed transport – it’s just like it sounds, the car rides in the back of an enclosed carrier system, not exposed to rocks, debris, the weather, etc. If what you’re buying is coming a long way and has a good body and paint job, pay extra for enclosed. I found it was between 1.5x to 2x more expensive for enclosed.
I quickly decided to cut brokers out. Frankly, I got weird vibes from most of them. One, uhh, “set” of companies especially sketched me out, even though they were very well reviewed on some Transport Review sites. I’m convinced that they astroturf the review sites, but I’ve got no real evidence other than my gut. I’ll leave it at that. I found a local mom & pop shop (literally, the receptionist’s stepmom & dad drove my Bug!) that could haul the car for me. I had it within 3 weeks of making the deal.
Finally, on May 26, the Beetle made it to its new home in the Seattle area. The haulers called us, and we determined a good meeting point (a Sears store with a massive parking lot near our home), and we cruised over. As we pulled up, they were setting up the trailer to unload the Bug. After it was pulled out and a quick inspection, we drove it home.
We had talked a lot about car names, as naming cars seems to be something of a tradition in our house, and fits right into the VW mindset. We had a few options, but after parking in the garage, we both knew that our newest member would be called Felix. Moments later he had his own Facebook page – the world has changed a lot since he rolled off the assembly line in January 1967!”
Thanks Marius for sharing your story with 1967beetle.com.