How to Sell Your Car

Setting Up The Sale, Closing The Deal

In our last article, we reviewed an essential checklist of steps to prepare a car for private sale. But as we alluded to at the time, for many individuals, the hardest part of selling a car is, well… the selling part.

You see, having the car in top-notch condition is just the first phase; lining up potential buyers and converting the sale is the second. As we promised in the last article, we’re confident that if you’ve followed our preparation steps carefully, the car is going to do the hard work, but it’s still a good idea to do some homework with regards to sales techniques, too.

Now, before you reach for the mobile phone to call the car yard and abandon private selling altogether: don’t worry, we’re not trying to groom you to become the next Wolf of Wallstreet. Instead, think of this as adding another string to your bow; a continuation of our “maximizing the car’s appeal” philosophy that we touched on last time.

Ultimately, giving the car its best opportunity to sell also means preparing yourself to answer buyer questions and have the confidence to negotiate closing the deal.

 

War on All Fronts

Now that your car is looking great and running well, it's time to advertise it for sale. In the days gone by, expensive newspaper classified ads were the only way to list cars. But now, on-line classified ads are the preferred method, not only for convenience but also because they have a wider geographical reach.

Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of advertisements. It is worth marketing your car every way that you can.

Popular websites for selling cars include:

AutoTrader.com, Cars.com, Craigslist.com, eBay Classifieds and BestCarFinder.com are the most popular.

Craigslist and BestCarFinder.com are free.

Don’t be shy to use Social media to let your circle know you are selling your car. Ask your contacts to spread the word.

Message boards/forums:

Many online car forums have classified sections in which you can list your car. If your car is an enthusiast car, such as an old fast-back coupe or Japanese import, you might find those individuals are more willing to pay a higher price.

Don’t write off old-fashioned techniques: Word of mouth still goes a long way. As does the tried and tested message board stuck to the window of the car.

 

The Art of the Online Advert

Overview

When drafting your advert, there are two types of information you’ll want to make sure you include in: Facts about the car and features that will appeal to your target buyer.

Facts include make, model, year, body type (sedan/coupe/hatchback etc.), engine capacity, transmission (manual/automatic), fuel type (gasoline/diesel), mileage (miles travelled), general condition and color. Whether the car was imported or assembled in the US, and whether it requires updated registration are also important details, too.

Features such as new tires, regular service by a notable garage, a tow bar or roof rack, particularly good condition paintwork etc.

Make sure your advert formatting is tidy and concise. Double check your facts and figures and list them clearly in bullet point. It is certainly worth including a few sentences as a personal testimony regarding its condition and lifespan under your ownership, too. There’s merit in trying to connect with your buyers through a measured emotional pitch, stating your positive impressions of the car and its accomplishment at whatever its design sets out to achieve. Eg, if it is an SUV, describe how its size has been an invaluable asset for moving around your big family, or that its size offers superior stability - important for keeping a family safe.

One last word of advice about advertising: if you run a classified ad, be sure you are available to take phone calls — and texts — from possible buyers. Many people won't leave a message for a return call. So answer the phone or reply quickly to a text — and be polite. Creating a good first impression is the first step in getting buyers to see the car in person.

Most importantly, be honest about the car. The last thing you want is to overstate your car's condition or underplay issues that you know might cause future issues for the buyer. Always include information that a buyer will consider important so if there's some damage or scratches describe them and illustrate with a photo.

 

The Lingo

A few words can go a long way, so remember the following key phrases that should be included with your advert. Not only are these key indicators of certain information but they also help to create an appealing advert.

Must Sell!: This often means the seller is leaving town and needs to dump the car at a fire sale price.

OBO: This stands for "or best offer" and it indicates that you are somewhat flexible with offers below your asking price. OBO suggests to the buyer that you are eager to sell.

Asking price: This is your suggested price. It insinuates that you are only willing to accept offers close to this price, but are still somewhat open to offers.

Firm: This means that you are not willing to negotiate on price. Firm indicates that you are in no hurry to sell the car and that you are confident in its value.

 

Top Tip

Here’s a little trick that has served me well in the past: If the car has a unique feature (or an extra that you’re willing to part with), leave it off the advert. By doing so, you’ll have a trump card to impress your potential buyer when they arrive to view the car. Often, an unexpected surprise adds a new value to the car that can make the difference between an individual purchasing the car on the day or deferring to view other cars first.

Of course, we’re not talking a major feature here. If your car has 18-inch gold plated rims: don’t be leaving that out of the advert! But if you’ve got a GPS unit you’re happy to include, if the car has an upgraded audio system, seat covers, tool kit, or anything similar, consider leaving that off the advert and surprising the buyer with that bonus feature.

 

Screen Buyers

Unfortunately, not all traders are bona fide. From time to time various scams are in operation.
It is common for fraudsters to ask for contact via another email address and ask for payment for goods by non-traceable means. So, you'll want to beware of fraud and to protect yourself by laying out guidelines to determine legitimate candidates. Before setting your appointment:

  • Ask the buyer for their full name.
  • Make sure the buyer understands what forms of payment are accepted.
  • Checks and money orders are a riskier option, so if you accept these methods make sure you have the funds in hand before you sign over the title.
  • Stipulate that monthly payments are not acceptable. There's no way for you to collect if a buyer decides to stop payment.

 

Make Your Pitch

Once the buyer has made the effort to come and view your car, the floor is yours and it’s time to demonstrate to that individual why your car is worth their money.

It may sound fairly obvious, but be friendly, polite, and show try to show a genuine interest in the purpose for them buying your car. By building rapport with your buyer, you’re only increasing the chances that they will choose your car over a similar one. People will often find it more difficult to say no to someone that they find amicable, for fear of “letting them down”. Again, don’t get too caught up on making a great impression: you aren’t asking them out on a date! But one sure way to repel buyers interest is by being difficult, secretive, or not especially polite.

By speaking with the buyer, you should be able to size them up to some extent and then demonstrate how your car is tailored to their needs. Some Key things to establish:

  • Find out what they currently drive.
  • What they're looking for in their next car.

Use this information to ease their concerns.

You will then want to pitch the benefits of your car. Put more emphasis on certain features of the car that you think will be most appealing to them, based on the enquiries you have already made (above).

Think about:

  • Fuel economy.
  • Affordability of replacement parts.
  • Performance specification of the engine.
  • Reliability and safety features.

 

Close the Deal

OK. The buyer’s seen it, driven it and had it inspected and now wants to negotiate with you to buy it.

If you have set an asking price or an OBO, you’re inviting them to make a lower offer. And, in fact, you’re probably listing the car for a slightly higher price than you believe is realistic.

A popular tactic used by many buyers is to start with a “low-ball” offer, which you will want to retort with a “counter-offer”. From the buyer’s perspective, the idea is to meet somewhere in the middle between the low-ball and your counter-offer, thereby scoring the best possible price. There is nothing particularly dubious about this, but just remember that their first offer is likely to be well under value.

For example: If the OBO/Asking price is $10,000, do not be surprised if the buyer suggests $9000. A sensible course of action would have a bottom-line price already in mind - let us say $9200, in this case - and then counter-offer by saying something like:

“That is much too low, I wouldn’t be comfortable going lower than $9500.”

The buyer will undoubtedly re-offer a lower price, but hopefully somewhere more closely aligned with your bottom-line price. If you accept that price, the buyer will feel they have scored a decent discount, but you will be quietly happy that you’ve achieved an appropriate price, too. Everybody wins.

 

Deposit

If you agree to a price then usually the buyer might offer a deposit of several hundred dollars if they cannot come up with the full amount at that time.

If this occurs, you should write out two identical receipts that describe the car, specify the agreed sale price, the amount accepted as a deposit, the date by which full payment must be made and any other conditions that you may have agreed. Both buyer and seller should sign both receipts.

When the amount has been paid in full, make sure you’ve been paid before handing over the keys. The buyer could directly deposit the money into your bank account, or for small transactions pay by cash.

DO NOT accept a personal check from the buyer. They may not have adequate funds so that when you attempt to cash the check it bounces.

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