(Editor’s note: During the month of September, we’re publishing a series of articles about selling a collector car. Today, Andy Reid looks a selling through a private sale.)
There are quite a few ways to sell a car in 2021 — live auctions, online auctions, consignment with a dealer or broker, and the oldest of the all, private party sales.
Just to be clear, let me better define what a private party sale is. This is where the owner of a car lists a car on the web or in a print publication, or even posts a notice on a bulletin board at a local coffee shop or grocery, and then shows the car to prospective buyers.
This has its advantages for both the buyer and seller. First, the buyer and seller actually meet, and if the seller is looking to sell the car to a person who is a true enthusiast, they will quickly discover if the prospective buyer is knowledgable and someone to whom they would like to see as their car’s next owner.
The buyer benefits in getting to size up the owner and discern how that person treats the car.
As an added benefit, I have bought and sold cars privately, and many times have nded up making a new friend out through the deal, and that’s a real bonus.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to sell your car as a private party. Too many, perhaps even most advertisements for cars offered for sale are terribly worded, have too little data about the car, bad photographs and, in some cases, even misidentify the car.
This is not the way to sell a car privately, at least not if you’re looking to maximize the amount you get for a car. On the other hand, savvy buyers often look for such advertisements because they can be a sign of naivety on the part of the seller and thus may lead some of the best deals in the marketplace. On the other hand, a poorly done listing is likely to attract widespread interest.
To help you with selling, here is a short list of things to do:
Be sure to write a complete description of your car. This should include such things as year, make, model, sub model, engine and gearbox combination, color, interior materials and color, and every option on your vehicle.
You should include all information from your ownership period and anything you know about previous owners. This includes service history, show history, interesting owners, etc., basically everything you know about the life your car has lived.
If the car has been restored, be sure to include that as well, and to what level and by whom. In addition, if it was restored with original factory panels and parts, note that, as well as any upgrades that have been done.
Are you a member of the car club? If so, be sure to mention that as club member cars are often thought of, quite correctly, as being well cared for.
Finally, if you have documentation from the factory of how the car was delivered when new, be sure to let people know. More is better and it is better to have a 500-word description than a 50-word one.
However, be realistic when describing your car. Just because it won a local car show does not mean it is a concours example. Be honest in the way you describe the condition and don’t represent it as something it is not. List its flaws.
You are basically telling a story with your description so make it a good one. A good story will lead to increased views for your ad.
Be sure your pictures of the car are as good as you can get. If you cannot take good photographs, find a friend who can. Photos must be in focus, properly exposed, and of high enough resolution that people viewing the ad can see details.
As a general rule you want at least 15 pictures of the car. Be sure to include pictures that make the car appear as nice as it can look, but also show the flaws. Don’t waste your time or the buyer’s through false representation.
If the car was restored and you have pictures of the process, be sure to include them.
You need photos taken of the complete front, rear, left side, right side, front right ¾, and front left ¾ views, as well as a wide shot of the interior from the driver and passenger sides, detail pictures that show all the seats and their condition, the dashboard (noting any cracks in additional pictures). Be sure to take pictures of the engine from the left and right, again showing details of any issues. Shoot a few images of the trunk, both with and without the spare tire (if there is one).
If you are able to get the car up on a lift, be sure to also shoot multiple pictures of the condition of the underside.
Finally, if you have documentation, books, tools, awards and such, be sure to photograph all of these and add them to your ad.
Pick the correct place to sell your car. If you are selling a Porsche, you probably don’t want to post it on an MG club website. Pick the correct marketplace for your specific car.
If you are posting it on a website such as ClassicCars.com, be sure to choose the correct make and model for your car. The site allows you to choose not only a model, but often the sub model. Take advantage of that as it helps sellers find the car they want. I have successfully sold several cars through our website.
Car club sites and enthusiast message boards also are good choices, though in my experience they are not drawing the traffic they used to. One exception might be TheSamba, a VW exclusive site which has a very busy classifieds section.
Be sure to include correct contact information in your ad. This is important. Do not use an email account you rarely check. When a prospective buyer contacts, you be sure to get back to them in a timely manner. If they are anything like I am when I am in a buying mood, I might contact four different people about vehicles for sale and the one who gets back to me is often the one whose car ends up with in my garage.
You need to be reachable or there is no point in placing an ad in the first place. Be prepared for a sometimes seemingly endless number of questions, some of them perhaps silly. But try your best to answer them patiently and honestly. There are people who will call or email you again and again. Encourage them to see your car or, if that is not possible, have an inspection done by someone else. Be ready to accommodate such requests.
My rule, and it is shared by others, is never to buy a car that they or someone they know has not laid eyes on.
Be sure that the price you are asking is market correct. Just because Barrett-Jackson recently sold the Porsche 928 used in the Tom Cruise movie Risky Business for more than a million dollars does not mean your 928 is worth even 1/10s that amount.
Be realistic. You need to be as objective as possible in evaluating the condition of your car, and then use a valuation tool, such as that provided on the Hagerty website, to established your asking price.
For example, a 1969 Corvette with the L88 engine option is worth considerably more than one equipped with an L46 engine. Also, as a rule, cars with an automatic transmission are worth less than those with a manual gearbox. Ditto for cars with air conditioning, which can add 10 percent to the value of some cars.
If your car still has its original and factory-installed engine and transmission, they also helps its value. If not, you likely will have to deduct as much as 30 percent from what you thought it was worth.
When negotiating with a buyer, know how low you’re willing to go. You likely expect more from your car than it’s actually worth. Sure, there are a few cars which can demand a firm price, but remember that even the top-tier auction companies set estimated values that have a wide range of price points. Be prepared to negotiate.
It is often said that in negotiations, the person who names the prices loses. While that can be the case, it is better to look at the process of selling a car privately as a negotiation. The best collector car transactions are the ones where the buyer and the seller each gives a little to make the sale work.
Ideally, both parties should come away feeling good about the deal.