Obviously, you’ll normally achieve a higher price for your faithful outgoing used car by selling it privately. We would normally advocate the use of www.carsales.com.au to sell a vehicle in Australia, so much of what follows is geared towards that sales option, but of course there are others. This guide is here to help you make the most of what you have, and is offered free as general advice only. A lot of what follows will seem obvious to some readers, and to those people, I apologise.
Firstly – put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer, and search on www.carsales.com.au for cars that match as closely as possible what you have available. So – the same year / approximate kms / transmission / engine type, etc etc. What you are doing here is checking out the competition. This will give you a true idea of where you need to be in the market to get those valuable enquiries on your car.
Used car buyers normally have a budget in mind, at least notionally, and a lot of them will search for cars using price as the main criterion. What you need to do is take note of the price bands in the car sales site, and position your car accordingly. For example – you have a vehicle that, after looking at the market, you feel, on a good day COULD achieve $21,000, but realistically you’d accept $19,000. The best idea here would be to advertise the car at $19,990, as it will now show up in searches for cars up to $20,000. The price breaks are at $2,500 / $5,000 & $10,000 points, depending on the price level.
This is crucial. Again, put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and ask yourself if you would be “wowed” by your car if you’d never seen it before….if not, it needs preparation. It goes without saying that in an ideal world, everything should work on the car, the service history should be up to date and it should be clean, inside and out. But, is that enough ? – Sometimes, no. A professional detail costing say $200 can put at least $500 to $1000 on the value of a car. In any case, it just makes it easier to sell, as the potential buyer will be subconsciously reassured that the car has been looked after. Having said that, don’t go overboard with too much in the way of tyre shine and under bonnet shine, as this may be over the top for some buyers.
You don’t want to look like you are trying too hard, as this can adversely affect your negotiating position!
It sounds obvious, but this is one of the most important aspects of presenting your car and getting the potential buyer to pick up the phone and call you, to arrange a viewing.
After the car has been prepared, and is looking the best it can ever look, park it in an attractive setting, with no other vehicles or people in shot. A grassy setting looks pretty good – if you live in an attractive house, it can work to use this as a background. Take at least the maximum number of shots included in your advert package, say 12, and include pictures from all angles, inside and out, and include pictures of any build/compliance plates too if you can. If it’s a coupe for example, concentrate on the “look” – if your car is an SUV / 7 seater say, concentrate on the space and practicality aspects. Choose the main picture carefully. Try to use a good quality digital camera if you can, but if you have a smartphone and know how to use it well photographically, that will do.
Describing your car
You have to be honest in your description. If you are not honest, the sale WILL very likely unravel. Think of the key features your car is known for, and take account of your potential buyers needs. Even if a feature is standard on the car, your buyer may not know, and will maybe value that feature of your car highly anyway.
Update your ad
In order for ads to appear near the top of listings, they should be updated regularly. This can be simply by adding or removing a full stop or comma.
Dealing with enquiries
When you get a call or email enquiry about your car, be pleasant and polite, even if the “buyer” is trying to sound all nonchalant and dismissive – he’s probably an experienced car buyer, or maybe a dealer. Most genuine enquirers will ask a few pertinent questions and then ask when’s convenient to view if your ad has done its job well.
If a buyer tries to push you for your best price without arranging to see the car, he’s probably a dealer without a dealer licence. It’s worth mentioning that the best price can only really be established when your buyer is there looking at the car, but reassure them that you “won’t fall out over price” – that’s not to say you are going to knock thousands off, but that the conversation will be polite and courteous. Your goal here is to get that person to come and see the car, not to sell it over the phone.
Ask the person to call you as they are leaving, so that they can know the car is still available, and also so that you know they are coming – it’s very frustrating waiting for the buyer that isn’t going to arrive ! When they arrive, try to stay off the subject of the car if you can for a minute or two – ask about the journey, how was the traffic, their current car, what lovely children they have if they have brought them along (assuming their kids aren’t running wild !) In short, anything that builds rapport with your buyer is a valuable selling tool, and is just plain good manners – putting your buyer at ease is a very good foundation for selling your car !
There are many, too many to go into here, and there is specialist advice on the carsales website. Do please read it.
Have an idea in your mind what your absolute base price is going to be. And stick to it, whilst being realistic. A lot depends on “when”, too. If a buyer is making a low offer, but is prepared to pay cash and drive the car away today, then that is worth considering. If the buyer however, wants make the same low offer and then wait to sell his car, arrange a loan, think about it, ask his/her other half etc. – that’s not the same offer, or at worst not an actual offer at all. The bottom line is, sometimes circumstances dictate that as a seller, you have to meet the market as it were. Whatever the car is (unless it’s an appreciating classic car) it’s worth more today than it will be tomorrow, and is worth less today than it was worth yesterday, so holding out for an odd hundred or two is often unwise… ultimately, it’s your car, and you choice how (or if) you sell it to someone.
When a deal is agreed, make sure you have a valid roadworthy done already, as it’s incumbent on you, the seller, to provide this. It’s a good idea to have the transfer of registration / ownership documentation printed, ready for completion. Make sure all the logbooks, handbooks, spare keys etc are available so that you can get the sale done in one go. Fill in the paperwork with the buyer and confirm the ID by taking a copy of his/her driving licence. When taking payment, be careful of bank cheques – don’t be shy of confirming the validity of a bank cheque with the bank themselves – it’s your money – you don’t want to be in that nightmare scenario that involves no car AND no money, as some have… and it does happen – the people that perpetrate these frauds are very skilful… direct transfer is our preferred method, with the car being handed over only when the funds are physically in your account.
Selling a used car privately is not for everyone, by any means – To some people it can be quite a stressful exercise, to others, simply sport !
One alternative is to trade in of course – you will not get as much for your car, but it is quick and hassle free. Sometimes if you factor in the time you will spend preparing, marketing and ultimately selling your car, the trade in price doesn’t look so bad after all. At MotorFleet, we get three bids on your car, including one from the dealer who is supplying your new car (who naturally will be keen for obvious reasons).
Another alternative is to try the auctions, but although a very fast way to get your car moved on, it’s often the least financially beneficial to you.
Finally, there are a few small companies who will sell your car on consignment – i.e. you leave it with them and theoretically they advertise it and find a buyer. The problem with this is the listing fees are quite high, and quickly reduce what you are going to get back eventually in cash.
If you are the right kind of person, selling your car privately can be a good option, but do think it through, and get a trade-in price as a backup.
At MotorFleet, we are happy to answer any specific questions on selling your car privately, as a part of our customer service.