I am terrible at selling cars. I have come to accept this, so I know it is something I have to work at.
Recently I purchased a 2008 Cadillac STS-V to replace my previous 2005 Cadillac CTS. After a long search, I had found the right Cadillac at a Dealer 5 hours away. We had all the details worked. It was not convenient however to take a chance of bringing the CTS on the roadtrip to see what the Dealer might offer on trade. That would have put me in a bad negotiation position in a situation in which one is already in a bad negotiation position, so no thanks.
The car business feeds on convenience. It is convenient to trade your old car in on the new one, and avoid the hassle of having to sell it yourself. Great for the Dealer, if he can purchase your used car at below wholesale, and sell you the new car at retail; he makes money coming and going. You almost always make more money on the sale by selling your car yourself, but that means posting an ad, having people call or email you, avoiding scams, avoiding in-person ripoffs, and navigating the narrows.
To prepare to sell my car, I re-read Help! I Gotta Sell my Car Now! by L. James Johnson. This book takes you through the steps of how to prepare your car to sell, where to advertise, how to negotiate, etc.
Things I learned this time selling my Cadillac CTS:
- Any ad on Craig’s list will get an offer; you have to learn to recognize the scams. I posted a “Want to Buy” ad before I found my new car, and I got an offer of $1,500 in response. Clearly this person is using some automated software that sends a low-ball offer to every ad posted.
- If your tires have less than 50% of tread remaining, get new tires before offering the car for sale. It makes a ton of difference and should be treated as part of getting the vehicle prepped. If you weren’t selling the car you’d have to get new tires anyway, so just write it off to a car expense and don’t mix it up in your mind with the car deal.
- Pull a Carfax or Autocheck on your car. Like checking your credit, this allowed me to see that there was a blemish on my 1-owner, never wrecked permanent record. Knowing the facts of the incident allowed me to address it in my ad.
- Write your ad copy, then get several people you trust to read and review it. This helped me to focus my ad, but it also helped me to get ready to talk about the car with Buyers.
- You will need several different write-ups. Craig’s List has a filtering system and if it believes you are posting the same text as it finds anywhere else the ad will get ‘ghosted’ and not show up on CL. Using the talking points from your ad copy, write a new unique CL ad for each time you post.
- Cars.com has a cool 800# phone forwarding service. For $4 I setup a temporary telephone number that forwarded calls to my cell phone. Put the temporary number in the car ad instead of your phone number. Then when the car sells, turn off the forwarding and avoid a dozen more calls to see if the car is still for sale. Brilliant.
- Autotrader.com has an online instant trade-in offer honored by certain local car dealers. Fill in all the details of your vehicle, and they send you an offer to purchase. Take the car to the local dealer to evaluate against your description, and if all matches then they honor the offer apparently. Interesting, and an easy way to get a ‘floor’ for which you know you can sell the car right away.
- Besides getting the car detailed and ready to sell, keep some speed detailer handy so you can spruce up the car right before a Buyer comes over to look at the car & test drive. Visuals make a ton of difference in car sales, so be ready for last minute touch-ups.
- Vacuum the trunk. I forgot this one
- Remove your toll tag and garage door opener from the car before you sell it