How To: Sell A Used Car: Episode 2

In Episode 1, we walked you through some of the prep work needed to sell a car, as well as some pointers for crafting a good ad. By this point, people should know that your vehicle is for sale, and it should be in 'show' condition. The trick will be to keep it in 'show' condition - no eating in the car, trash comes out when you get out, and park it inside if possible.

You've gotten a bite, now it's time to put on that salesman hat, and go to work. This is now your part-time job. Plan on dedicating at least a few hours per week to this. If you've ever worked in sales or retail, then you know what to do. Otherwise, here are a few tips:

  • Be clean and presentable. You can leave the short-sleeve white dress shirt and tie in the closet, but don't approach a buyer looking like you just changed the oil and rotated the tires.
  • Smile. Not a tough concept, but can be difficult after a long, difficult day at your real job. Don't make that their problem. Smile, and the buyers might too. That is a huge thing.
  • Separate your emotions from the task. If they don't like it, then so be it. Never take offense to a comment, and don't be negative. Instead, always look for a positive spin.
Where to meet? We prefer to have first-time showings at neutral locations. You don't know who they are, and they don't need to know where you live. Gas stations, retail centers, church parking lot. Things like Google Maps are still lost on some folks, so choose a location that's easy to find. A good landmark, like "the Shell station at the corner of Fifth and Main", is tough to beat. There's nothing worse then getting prepped for a showing, spending an hour waiting, just to find our your buyer got lost. Also - be early. Don't leave them waiting either.

Besides our general salesman advice above, here are a few more specific tips:
  • Be honest. Don't misrepresent your product. If the transmission is slipping, then it's slipping. Don't dodge the question when they ask.
  • Tell your story. First, see the previous item. Now, people like a good story, so tell yours. We sold our car because we needed more space. It was a fabulous car. Got great mileage. Had low miles. And was in great shape. It just no longer fit our needs. Some folks will automatically assume that you are selling your car to pass off your problems onto them. Give then something else to consider.
  • Don't let it our of your sight. No matter how nice the buyers are, go with them on the test drive. They'll have plenty of time to discuss their thoughts in private later. If they want to take it to their mechanic, then go along. So long as everything is on the up and up, then they should have no problem with this.
  • Know your car. If they ask about the fog lamps - know if it has fog lamps, and how to turn them on. If they want to look under the hood, know how to open it. Be ready to answer any questions within reason.
  • Point out what they can't see. If your vehicle has some extra storage compartments in unusual places, then point them out, as they may not see them. Stealthy security features, aftermarket components, and special technologies are not always noticeable, so point them out.
  • Low pressure. Ask them what they think. Especially if they have been quiet. Give yourself the opportunity to address their unspoken concerns. Don't hound them. But keep them talking while they are there. If they want to think about it, then let them. Make sure that you have contact info for them, and follow up if you don't hear back. If they aren't interested, then ask for feedback. Do they not like the color? Is it not as advertised? Was it too small for them? Priced too high, or just too much for them? This information can only help you going forward.

Always remember - we're trying to get top dollar for your automobile, so tailor your actions to suit that. Be a problem solver. Have info for them to take with them, as you would find when selling a house.

Now here is a great opportunity to drop the ball after all of this hard work. There are a TON of scams out there so, above all else, protect yourself. Many scams involve variations on fake cashiers checks or personal check fraud. Never, ever take a check of any kind without some kind of verification from a bank that the check is real and the funds are there. A common scam is to buy a car on a Friday evening with a bad check. The seller won't figure out that he's been had until Monday afternoon at the earliest. They'll be long gone with the car, and you'll be held accountable for their bad check. Cash is safest, but even there you have some risk of counterfeit, though less likely than checks.

Your best bet is to handle the transaction at the bank / credit union - theirs or yours. If they are getting a loan, then this will be no problem, as the lender will likely want to hand you the check. Otherwise, you'll want to contact your bank manager ahead of time and talk to them about your situation. Tell them that you would like them to verify the validity of the buyer's check before closing the transaction. This shouldn't be a problem. Do not assume that they will just do this without asking. Banks today are little more than a clearinghouse in terms of checks, and will process nearly anything, holding you accountable for even their stupidity. You will want to specifically ask them to do this. If they are handing you a stack of $100 bills (which is pretty cool), then it doesn't hurt to have the bank teller verify the amount and check their validity. Once again, a legit buyer shouldn't have a problem with any of this. Just don't insult them and insinuate that they have something sinister planned. Bank personnel may also be willing to witness the transaction for you as well and sing the bill of sale. Discuss this with them ahead of time.

There is a lot of risk management here, but this is also a very valuable object, and there are a lot of people out there looking to lift your vehicle and chop it for parts. If you've covered all of your bases, then you'll have a smooth transaction and everyone will drive away happy.

Don't forget your stuff! Jumper cables, registration and proof of ins, garage door opener, kids' car seats, that emergency cash you keep hidden for when you need a tow, whatever. And don't forget their stuff. Spare sets of keys, extra keyfob remotes, a copy of the bill of sale.

Now, with your cash in hand, you are ready to buy.
Coming soon: How To: Buy A Used Car

Have some experience to share on selling a used car? Hit the comments below.



Anonymous said...

Don't forget to make the sure the title is transferred after sale. A co-worker paid a small fortune in impound fees because he didn't do that.

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