Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How To Sell Your Car Like A Pro

Selling your car privately can be time consuming and painful. However if you are determined enough you will achieve a better price than if you sell to the trade and most importantly learn a skill that will save you thousands over a life time.

So what do you need to do?

Well be realistic first and foremost. Like stock market investing most amateurs have far too much emotional weighting attached to their car. I am sorry to tell you this, but even if you think you don’t, you probably do. No big deal it is a human thing, and if you become aware of this predisposition you can do something about it.

First things first, the most sensitive issue, price. If you over value your car you will simply never sell it. Please trust me on this, ask anyone in the retail motor trade, there is simply too much competition, you are not special and neither is your car, just get over yourself. (Extremely rare cars excepted)

Do research (go to http://www.autotrader.co.uk) chose advance search options and establish the highest and lowest price for a car of your age and mileage;then include

transmission, fuel type, car shape and no.of doors. As you play with different searches you will start to find what the pros already know.

The subtle differences that exist between each make and model, auto and manual, saloon, hatch and estates, petrol and diesel, high and low mileage (and where the punctuated equilibrium occurs in petrol and diesel with age), 3 dr and 5dr, 1300cc, 1600cc and 2000cc and importantly colour. Now narrow your search to 60 miles from your postcode or if you live in the sticks the nearest major town. Search private only and trade only, then private and trade together, know your competition.

Ignore the mis-priced cars (easy said than done) by reading the adverts carefully, if the car looks way to cheap you will probably find the correct price somewhere in the text, or Sold but have this for sale etc..

Finally exclude all cars that are Category C and D write offs, non runners, broken gearboxes, blown head gaskets etc.. as these will skew the figures. You must open the adverts up and read them to do this! There is no big sign and it is usually the very last thing mentioned. Only trade ads must disclose Category C and D write offs by law.

Auto Trader is a huge resource of price information so unless you have a very rare car you should have a good range of values. Unless you have a very small sample (in which case widen the local search back to nationwide) ignore the top and bottom car from your data.

For cars under 5000 pounds for which I specialise the general rule of thumb is this.

Route 1: If you price very close to the bottom range make sure you put in ovno (or very near offer not ono or no offers).You will likely receive dozen of phone calls mostly from traders asking for your ‘best price boss’ and offering even lower than the lowest range you have found in your research. They are trying to find out how low you will go, how desperate you are. They are like vultures/hyenas circling a victim, however if you have researched properly you know pretty much what your car is worth. Make it clear that you will not drop your price on the phone, that if they want to make an offer they first must come to view the car and then and only then will you consider a very near offer and do not be drawn on what this is. This will get rid of 99% of the scavengers. Eventually you will get a call from a private person they will come round and happily pay very near offer and take the risks associated with buying privately.

This way is not for the fainthearted, you will be hounded, every type of mental disintegration will be attempted, you will have doubts, which is why the research and preparation is so important. You will likely sell your car in a frantic and breathless 24-48 hours and will have learnt one of the most important life skills you can.

This route is particularly effective for cars with no or short MOT’s and/or tax or small problems like cracked windscreens, exhaust blows,broken electrics, central locking. The buyer will not be expecting a perfect car for the money offered and will accept these but make sure they are detailed in your advert or the vultures/hyenas will tear your fragile confidence to pieces (before your private buyer saviour arrives) and your potential bank balance will be picked clean as you tearfully admit to the hyenas that you strayed into their territory and deserve to be eaten for your folly.

Route 2:The middle route of pricing your car at the median of your high and low is a waiting game. 95% of the time it will take between a week and four weeks.(approx 30-50 pounds a week with Auto Trader).

If you are one of the 5% left ask yourself this, Do other people find the dogshit brown colour of your car as attractive as you do? Answer no they don’t, did you research the prices for colour? No probably not, because you knew that just like you, everyone else doesn’t mind driving around in a big brown turdmobile.

But seriously, if you are trying to get a median price for your car dodgy colours will not help. Basic models also suffer in this way, no electrics, no alloys, no cd player, no air con, no top price either.

If you get no luck after 4 weeks, check your research (honestly this time it’s costing you money 150 pounds plus so far) and try again. If you get no luck for another 4 weeks it’s Route 1 for you, be brave and don’t let the last 8 weeks play on your mind, you are in a totally different market now and your car will be gone in 48 hours.

The middle route is for cars that have something going for them. However if you are going to make the sale, you and your car will need to be prepared for visits, especially at the weekends and evenings.

Every phone call should be answered as if you were at work and this was a business call. Every reasonable detail of your car should either be in memory or written down in an accessable place. e.g by the home telephone and/or in your pocket at work. If the husband/wife/partner or kids answer the phone they should know the score too. Try and make it is easy as possible for someone who is ‘interested’ to become a potential buyer.

I cannot stress the importance of this approach enough. In the trade we have a saying ‘there is someone for every car’. Indeed on most occasions this is true and if you wait long enough it is just about always the case. However the motor trade will sit on a car for a year waiting for this one person before taking their profit. At 30 to 50 pounds a week advertising in Auto Trader it is not economical for you to do this.

You cannot afford to miss the one person who may be looking to buy your car at your median price, if you do you will probably and usually have an agonising wait for another buyer. Each week passing costing you more money and your mood becoming more desperate and likely to lead you taking a lower offer than you would have even possibly considered at outset.

You may even become a potential victim of the vultures and hyenas as they notice your car has not sold and are now circling waiting for a moment of weakness or madness, picking away at your assertiveness until you finally break and give it away. You end up making less money after costs than if you had gone down route one.

If you want to make the extra cash of median price the following list should be considered.

* Keep you car advertised without fail, get it advertised in as many places as possible for free as well.

* Less than 6 months MOT? Get a new one, too expensive go Route 1

* Physically prepare your car for sale, wash including roof and tyres and wax/polish, replace broken wheel trims, bulbs and hover and clean upholstery and plastics, put in air fresheners, don’t smoke in it or put dogs in it. Check water and oil, replace if necessary, top up windscreen wash.

* Keep your car prepared for sale, do not eat your lunch in it, litter it, smoke in it, put dogs in, if you do clean up afterwards. If you get splashed with dirt/mud wash it again.

* Answer the phone at all hours, you may be making yourself 500 quid and to do so requires effort.

* You will have to hang around for appointments, give directions etc..Try and be cheerful even though you may have said the same thing 20 times already. You want to keep your potential buyer in a positive mood.

* Timewasters - some people will say they are coming, book an appointment and then not turn up. Forget about it, as Thomas Edison would say you have just found ‘one less person who won’t buy your car’. Don’t chase them and waste more of your time, these people are known as ‘timewasters’ in the trade, and they are in fact the ‘time burglars’ from seven habits of highly effective people.

* Tyre kickers - will at least actually turn up and you won’t even suspect they are tyre kickers until the actual kicking starts. They are mostly harmless but they will not buy your car because they know absolutely nothing about cars and will not buy without ‘their mechanic friend’ who they will not have brought along because they are just looking (and kicking) at the moment.

* Dreamers - just when you think you may be closing in on the deal new details will emerge. The dreamer will want the 3 door not the 5 door, they wanted the SRi version not the XSi, they wanted the 16inch alloys not the 15inch and they want a red one not black. Dreamers are hard to take (why are you here looking at completely the wrong car?) but where would the world be without those who dare to dream?

* Just because someone says they have insurance doesn’t mean they have. Ask to see it, if they don’t have any ask them to sign something stating they have insurance or it will be you up for the manslaughter charge when something goes wrong.

* Do not release you car on account of a bankers draft. Even after it has allegedly ‘cleared’ (no such thing in banking) it can still be found fraudulent so do not release your car until you have had it confirmed both the clearing procedure and fraud procedure have run their course. Then pray the bank don’t just change their minds. To be certain you will need it in writing from your bank that the monies in your account are completely safe. Which of course you will not get. It takes a minimum of 10 working days to be safe.

* If you are used to handling money then you will know that counterfeits can be impossible to tell from the real thing even for bank staff, and yes even under the UV lights. If it is impossible for banks with UV scanner to tell the difference then what hope do you have. The answer is none whatsoever. Top end counterfeits are almost perfect only the Bank of England can spot them.

Lower end counterfeits can be spotted by feel of paper, print quality, watermarks, silver dotted line etc... It is unlikely that all of the notes given to you will be counterfeits just some mixed in with the real thing. Always ask for ID (and note the details down) from your buyer when paying cash and check that the ID doesn’t look fake too!

Route 3: Top end price. When doing the research you find that only 6 people in the country have your specific car (e.g auto, 3dr, diesel, 2.0L less than 40,000 miles, etc) you clearly have a rare car.

Remember it could be rare because everyone hated it when it was new and no one bought it (except you) and maybe nothing has changed. However assuming that this is not the case why not chance you arm?

I see it all the time, those who believe that they can sell their car privately for 500 pounds more than the maximum the motor trade can achieve. It’s whats known in the trade as a ‘keeper’, as in you can keep that and indeed they usually do.

There are exceptions and rare criteria cars sold privately can achieve an equivalent price to the motor trade. All the same guidelines as Route 2 apply but you must be even stricter; husband/wife/partner/kids are banned from the telephone for incoming or outgoing calls, each call could be worth 1000 pounds! Every last detail of you car must be committed to memory, every call could be the money maker. Your patter must be perfect. If you have spare holiday from work take it and sit and wait for the phone to ring.

Remember they are buying from you rather than a dealer, they are forgoing all the huge legal comeback they can have with a dealer, the 3 month parts and labour warranty and instead doing business with you. The individuals who do buy privately at price equal or higher than the trade price are a rare breed and usually expert mechanics will accompany them. They are so rare that if you miss your chance another may never come along.

Eventually your teenagers/partner will rebel and start using the phone again and you will be forced to take Route 2. Licking your wounds the futility of 50 per week advertising for the last 10 weeks starts to sting as you realise it will never be recovered.

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