You want a car. Not just any car, you want the car. What you may be less clear on is which car will be the one. It’s a little like deciding whether to purchase a home or build your dream home. Purchasing a home has many advantages; you can move in quickly, the difficult decisions have been made already, and your home has an established value. Building a new home has very different advantages; you have time to plan your move, you have the ability to customize your home to your specifications, and your home may be valued at more than it cost to build.


Alas, as with choosing a home, it’s never as easy or as straightforward as it may first appear. There are some advantages to not being able to pick every single feature of your home or your car. But let’s be honest, it could also be a lot of fun to delve into what would make you happy and make it a reality. Let’s look at some of the benefits, and, of course, disadvantages, to the conundrum of buying vs. building your next car.

Instant Gratification and Other Benefits to Buying

This is clearly a major selling point for all of the single cars waiting to be matched to their dream owner. You walk by, and it’s love at first sight. You know without a doubt this care is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. You don’t have to wait or wonder; you can sign and drive off into the sunset.

Have you ever walked in with the most beautiful girl in the room on your arm? That’s the other advantage of buying. You get to walk away with the perfect ten that everyone is dreaming about. The energy of an auction will already have most buyers feeling a slight high, and when you combine that with the sheer elation of winning you’ll be celebrating for days.

2016 Acura NSX – VIN #1 for auction at Barrett Jackson Scottsdale 2016 (Image via

Now for the most practical side of things. Buying a car at auction provides a certain level of safety. For the more popular cars, you will have ample history and information to help make an informed decision. For the cars that are less in demand, but which are perfect for you, you can walk away with an amazing deal. Once you make the purchase, you get documentation of the sales price. This will follow your car, and is an important consideration if you are making the purchase as an investment.

Finally, one of the nice things about buying a car is you don’t know everything about it right away. You might have a general idea based on reviews and research, but until you are behind the wheel and have spent time learning how it handles, you don’t know. That’s part of the excitement of buying a car. The getting to know you phase is a rush, whether it’s with your new car or another person.

Lack of Time and Other Disadvantages to Buying

Now it’s time to talk about the disadvantages of buying your car at an auction. You really won’t have time to get to know the details of the car before you bid. You might get to look it over once, but typically that will be the only contact before you have to decide how much you’re willing to spend. Yes, auctions have numerous cars to choose from, but only a handful will be something you’d even consider. Deciding to buy at an auction significantly reduces your ability to be selective.

Back to spending, you’re not really in control. You won’t be able to negotiate with anyone to bring the price down. You will pay what the owner wants at the minimum, and if the auction is active, you will likely end up paying far more. You might even forget you were going to be fiscally responsible due to the excitement of the auction atmosphere and end up paying far more than you intended initially. I say initially because the price you bid isn’t all you will be paying. More on that in a moment.

There are many fees associated with purchasing through an auction house, such as Barret Jackson. To attend you must buy a ticket, which will cost between $350 and $600, depending on when you purchase it and what level of amenities you want while at the auction. Then there’s the buyer’s premium to be considered. In addition to the price of your winning bid, you will have to pay a set percentage of that bid directly to the auction house. This is called a buyer’s premium, and the percentage ranges between 10% and 17% depending on exactly what you’re buying and how you plan to bid. Of course, all of these prices fluctuate depending on the location of the auction and the items being auctioned. The registration and the buyer’s premium could be more.

Have you ever heard the saying, all that glitters is not gold? This is very true for cars you buy, for a variety of reasons. First, the quality of the restoration or care the car has received is entirely unknown. You won’t have long to inspect, and while it may look good on the surface, once you drive it away you may find numerous problems. This leads to buyers needing to spend additional money on the car, just in repairs.

What we found inside one particular car from an auction. All that rust = no good.

Even if you don’t necessarily have to fix anything, you’re still going to want to make it more distinctly yours. This means customization, and depending on how much you need to do, it can add up quickly. Finally, you will spend a lot of your glittery gold on the auction fees, in addition to what you spend on the car and later enhancements.

We started with a lack of quality time, and now it’s time to talk about another quality issue, dealers. While some auction houses are legitimate and go to extraordinary lengths with their due diligence, others are more like the stereotypical used car dealer. They are far more interested in moving from state to state flipping cars, than in building a trusting relationship with car enthusiasts. This can result in shoddy research that leaves the history of the vehicle in doubt. If all they have done is verify the VIN numbers match the titles, you are in for even more trouble.

Dealers are invested in making the sale, much like auction houses. They will take pictures that make the vehicle look amazing and even style a car or truck to make it look more attractive to prospective buyers. They may leave out details like the fact the vehicle once had a salvage title due to a rollover accident. You think the car looks perfect, take it home, and wonder what happened when your Sunday drive with the kids turns into an afternoon of tow trucks and frantic calls to friends. Is it possible to find the car of your dreams at an auction? Yes, it is. It’s also possible to find out just how willing people are to lie.

One of a Kind Love and Other Benefits to Building

When you buy a car, somewhere in the back of your mind, you know that yours isn’t truly one of a kind. However, when you have a car built, you are assured that it is. Every curve, every detail, every specification down to the stitching can be exactly what you want it to be. It will be a true one of a kind love, comparable to no other.

The thing about true love is, you never have to compete with anyone else. Your car will be yours, and you won’t have to worry about if someone else wants it or thinks it should be theirs. There will be no bidding wars that push your dream out of financial range. Which leads us to yet another benefit, you control the price. This is not to suggest that you can have everything you’ve ever wanted and get away with paying half price for it. However, you can set your budget and then work with a builder to blend what you can afford with what you want. This is a powerful advantage.

File Dec 01, 10 09 55 AM
This is a $200,000+ car. That’s what it takes to build a truly beautiful pro touring car.

Finally, you get to choose who gets your money and your time. You have the time you need to learn more about the builders you are considering. You can spend time getting to know them and find out if your visions are similar if your personalities mesh well together, and if you can easily communicate your ideas to them. You can request references and ensure that past clients were satisfied with their work and even see exactly what they are capable of.

The Need for Patience and Other Disadvantages to Building

Speaking of time, this is potentially one of the bigger disadvantages. This is especially true for those people who like instant gratification. Don’t kid yourself, this is a lengthy process. You are building the car of your dreams, and it will take up to 1 year to bring your vision to life. As far as patience lessons go, this is a graduate level course.

There will always be ups and downs in any long term project; this is also going to be true with your car. There will be issues along the way, plans will get canceled, there will be miscommunications. That’s just how major projects are, they require dedication and work.

Then there are the decisions to be made. You will need to make a seemingly infinite number of choices every step of the way. What parts do you want? What color for the body, trim, interior, accents, wheels, and lights? How much horsepower do you need? If these questions seem overwhelming, you’ll need to multiply the anxiety level by a factor of ten because it’s just the tip of the decision-making iceberg. The only silver lining with this particular disadvantage is, you get to make all the decisions for yourself. Unless that thought makes the process, even more, nerve-wracking, in which case it’s more of a dark grey lining.

Want a supercharged LS9 in a Bel Air? No problem…

Finally, about those decisions, you might have to adjust them based on what you can afford. You will see options that will blow you away and make you wonder if selling internal organs is a viable option for financing. It isn’t, in case you’re already wondering. You will have to make compromises based on what you can afford. This can be heartbreaking for some people and totally ruin the fantasy experience. However, for most people, budget constraints are a serious concern, and you will need to work with your builder to find viable, and satisfying, alternatives when you run into this problem. You get to pick your budget, but that also means you are stuck with your budget.

The question of buying a car versus building a car comes down to personal preference. Take your time and look at your options and figure out what makes your heart race, what wakes you up in the middle of the night, and what do you spend all your free time daydreaming about? This is how you’ll know which car is right for you.

If you found this content useful or entertaining, be sure to share it with your friends on social media, via the links below. Thanks!

Also, be sure to check out our parts for your DIY builds!