One car sold, two more to take care of

DSC_0114 In preparation for our relocation, we wanted to sell the `98 Honda Accord (the same one referred to as “too fast, too furious” in this article on Microsoft’s site).  It was my first car so it had sentimental value.  But alas, we weren’t driving it much, and the insurance alone cost over $500 a year.

I considered selling it on eBay and on craigslist, and in the end went with craigslist because it was free.  The whole transaction took all of two days to complete, from listing the ad all the way to signing the title over to the new owners.

Tips for a quick, well-priced sale:

  1. DSC_0111 Get the car detailed.  I spent $200 at Derek’s Detail in Seattle,  and even met Derek himself.  The important part is to get absolutely everything cleaned.  I got not only a wash and wax, but alsoDSC_0106 the interior shampooed and the engine touched up.  This makes a ten-year-old car show like new.  Remember that most people in the used market are seeing several cars a weekend, all about theDSC_0109 same age (and perhaps even the same make and model) as your own.  Appearances make a huge difference.
  2. List with additional high-res photos.  Craigslist only DSC_0107 supports four very low resolution, low quality images with each ad.  It continually surprises me that such a poor user experience can become the dominant classifieds site on the Internet, but never mind.  I uploaded nine DSC_0112 high-res photos to another hosting site, and linked to it directly from the ad.  This no doubt set my listing apart from the many other Accords being sold at the same time.  I was contacted by at least six people within 24 hours.
  3. Pay your loan off.  Buyers don’t want to deal with the bank.  If you still have a loan on your car, you won’t be able to complete the sale directly with a buyer.  Instead, the bank has to get involved in order to get the title transferred.  You can lose a buyer this way.  The guy who ended up buying my Accord came straight from dropping out of a deal where the seller still had an outstanding loan on the car.
  4. Check your competition.  There are probably several similar or nearly identical cars to yours being sold at around the same time.  You should price yours accordingly.  People seem to espouse one of two strategies when your car is nearly identical to others being listed:  price low, or price high.  The Price Low camp believes that by doing so, you’ll generate more initial interest and close the sale faster.  The Price High camp believes that Craigslist is full of low-ballers, such that you should start your price high in order to be in a better negotiating position.  I’m in the Price High camp.  By standing out above the competition with a great listing (including photos) as well as a detailed car that showed a lot better, I made a sale at a price that was better than I expected.  Since you can always adjust your price down later, I think it can’t hurt to start high.
  5. List strategically.  Say enough (like the critical points), but don’t say too much.  You want a chance to interact with potential buyers, to form a connection and to get them to feel invested in the transaction.  For this reason, someone recommended omitting the VIN from my listing, which turned out to be a great way to start a conversation with potential buyers.  If you are the first and only owner, definitely state that.  Many buyers find that appealing.
  6. Maintain a strong bargaining position.  If you’re in a rush to sell, the best thing is to have both the cleanest car and the best listing in the bunch.  Don’t let your time crunch negatively impact your bargaining position.  You always want to maintain more than one live lead so that you can let potential buyers know that others are in line.  Schedule aggressively by being available to show the car, but also by stacking up potential buyers on the same day so that you’re in a position to walk away from a bad deal.
  7. State all known issues.  Here’s where I’d differ from many sellers.  I believe that a 100% disclosure policy actually sells better and faster.  When showing the car to a potential buyer, I point out absolutely everything:  tiny dings on the door, a small crack that’s been patched in the windshield, low tire treads, etc.  By doing so, you’re not only being high-integrity, you’re also quickly building trust with the buyer.  That trust is what closes a sale quickly and at a good price.

Remember that certified check fraud is becoming more common.  So a bubble-jetted check that looks like it’s from Wells Fargo doesn’t actually mean anything.  I’d recommend cash, PayPal, or going with the buyer to his bank to witness the certified check being withdrawn.

Lastly, once the car is sold, you’ll need to register the sale with your department of motor vehicles as well as with your insurance.

2 Responses to “One car sold, two more to take care of”

  1. […] The World As Best As I Remember It Philip Su Rings In « One car sold, two more to take care of […]

  2. Great Site. Keep up the great work.

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