The Art and Science of Selling a Used Vehicle
Trying to sell your used car privately? Take the time to follow these 7 Essential Tips to make it as attractive to potential buyers as possible. Unless it is destined for the wreckers or parts only, it will probably bring you thousands of dollars for not much effort.
Clean the car.
It seems obvious, but I’ve seen pictures of filthy cars with rubbish scattered about inside the main cabin and boot. This comes across as if the vehicle has been mistreated, not cleaned for months, years or even ever, and that the seller is lazy and isn’t really keen to sell. If you haven’t got the time or inclination yourself, take it to a car detailer (but keep in mind it will cost you money before you’ve even taken photos, let alone listed it for sale).
Getting the Vehicle Roadworthy.
Unless you are selling your vehicle ‘as is’, you will need to get the car checked over and repair any problems before listing it for sale, or state in your listing that these problems will be done upon purchase.
Prepare ahead of time with all the paperwork needed for the big sale. Depending where you live, this will include the ‘Title’ deed that shows you own the car outright, ‘Bill of Sale’ or ‘Vehicle Transfer’ forms (available from your local state department of motor vehicles), ‘Log Books’ and ‘Receipts’ that show when services were done as well as any other work (or newly acquired tires, batteries, or the like), and any ‘Warranty’ documents if the car is still under warranty. You can already start filling in your name, address, and vehicle details where needed to reduce time when it comes to filling in the buyers information, price and date.
Then research and look at great photos other people have taken for their online advert. Notice what angles and features are being highlighted, including the speedo. Then apply the same method to your vehicle. Make sure all photos are focused and clear, and are facing the right way round (not sideways or upside down). Minimize distractions and choose a quiet place to take photos with a plain backdrop like a wall, or against the ocean or grass in the background to highlight the car.
Show off any aftermarket features or modifications such as:
- A Sunroof – show images of the car with the sunroof up or open as well as shut
- Alloy Wheels with larger tires
- Rally Seats
- A Rear Spoiler
- An Updated Stereo
- Roof Racks
- Tow Bar
- Body Kit
- Headlight Covers and/or Bonnet Protectors
Note: Take all seat covers off and remove any unsightly stickers before taking photographs so people know what they are getting.
By not taking and including any photos, you reduce the amount of potential buyers by up to 95%. It’s also a category potential buyers can click to see vehicles with photos only, so yours wouldn’t even be seen.
To ascertain the value of your car, type in your car’s details to at least 3 different used car sites to find out what it could be worth when matched against the same vehicle. Make sure you enter mileage grouping (for example cars under 100,000 km’s or cars under 80,000 miles), the year, make and model. Start with looking in your area, then widen the search to other areas around the country (especially if the vehicle is a rare model).
Make sure you focus and select the correct categories and state the correct mileage. The amount of times I’ve seen adverts with the wrong body shape or mileage (usually one less zero to make it sound appealing, but just annoying) makes me wonder if the person is serious about selling.
Always include a detailed description and keep it positive. Don’t patronize potential buyers or you will limit your market. Phrases like ‘ídeal for students’, ‘looking for your first car?’, ‘features first car buyers will love’, or ‘female driver only’. These suggest that people who have had cars before are not ideal, that working people are not going to enjoy a car as much as students, and that female drivers are the only drivers who know how to drive a car. None of these are relevant to the car itself.
Make sure to check grammar and spelling to avoid mixed messages or misunderstanding. Don’t put in initialed jargon you can only find in the urban dictionary. The average purchaser has no idea what it means. Read your description to make sure it sounds alright. People want to know why you’re selling. Are you upgrading to a newer vehicle or a larger car? Do you need a family car now instead of the 2 door sports car you’re selling? Moving overseas perhaps? Was the car bought as a project to do up, but you no longer have the time? These are all good reasons to use, but don’t put ‘I need the money’ or ‘need gone ASAP’, as this will get lots of low-ball offers.
Highlight the attributes:
- Garaged or undercover when at home or at work
- A detailed Service History
- Any new or near new tires, new battery or windscreen wipers, cam belt changed, air-con re-gassed, or any work done to the engine etc.
- How many airbags it has if it has a recommended safety rating. Check your vehicle out to see before putting this down.
- 2 or more sets of keys. I’ve seen a lot of cars with only one set, so promoting there are more is an advantage.
- Is the car economical on fuel? This is a great feature for the budget conscious buyer.
- Special features such as heated seats.
- Is the car one owner from new? List how many owners the car has had if only a few.
- Any new car warranty time left if the vehicle is less than the warranty period.
- If you have a ute or van for sale, put down the size of the usable space or list the largest item you have fitted in. Do this for the boot of your car or SUV as well to give buyers an estimate of what they can fit.
Also be honest about any problems so buyers know ahead of looking at it. It also lets them know that you have factored into the price these problems. It makes you appear an honest person to deal with. If the vehicle has been written off, list the reason why. I know of vehicles that have been written off for hail damage (not from an accident), not affecting the engine, stability, safety or interior at all. It just means the car has needed some body work to get the small dents out. So explaining the reason can actually be an advantage to get interest. Avoid negative phrases like ‘Fixed price. Serious buyer. No negotiations. No time wasters’, and leave out all SMS and urban dictionary slang. Not everyone knows what ‘1NAM’ means and are even less likely to look it up. By not putting a description at all, again shows a lack of wanting to sell your car and I would just scroll right past it as a potential buyer.
Seller beware: There are scammers out there saying they will pay the full asking price or even offer an extra incentive to get you to give bank details online first. They are usually ‘out of state’ so they can’t come to see the car. Don’t fall for it, plenty of my friends and even myself have had scammers message and follow a similar pattern. Make sure you are speaking with an authentic person, and don’t give out your banking details online.
If you want to go the extra mile, print out a few A4 color flyers to stick on noticeboards at local supermarkets, libraries, and universities. Once you’ve successfully handed over the keys and all the paperwork is in order, don’t forget to take the car off your insurance policy and count the money.
Follow these simple, but effective methods, and you should be on your way to selling your car quicker than the opposition.