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Selling Used Cars

20131102_152638I find myself at a unique place in life, a first for me.  I have to sell a car.  Two in fact.  Well, one is a van, but you get the idea.

Thankfully, neither are lust worthy vehicles (in my mind at least).  I have a 1996 Honda Civic with 285K miles and a 2001 Dodge Caravan with 260K miles.  Both run well still, and the Honda in particular has had quite a bit of recent upkeep (new timing belt & water pump, new tires, some other stuff) because we thought we'd keep it another year. But the right car came along to replace it, so I now have to move something.

The question I raise to you today is what is the best way to sell a used vehicle (quickly for a high price!)?  I purchased a used truck once from a dealer.  That's the whole sum of my experience in this realm.  Craigslist is the obvious starter, but my dillema is that I live in a small town in Southern Minnesota where the nearest town (Mankato) with its own Craigslist is 30 miles away.  We don't have a consignment lot, and I'm not sure that either of these well used vehicles would do well there anyhow.  I'd consider donating them, but I don't need any more tax write-off (and it isn't close).

What have you done, or if you haven't sold, what experience do you have on the purchasing side?

Further, what ways do you need to prep the vehicle(s)?  I hand shampooed the carpets in the Honda as they had never been done.  I hit a few spots on the seats as well.  Everything was shined up and I've washed the car.  I'd consider wax, but wax is wasted on this paint.  It's a black car, so should I spray paint some of the rear wheel rust spots that every Honda develops?

Words of advice?  Recommendations?  I'd like to sell them sooner rather than later, so I'm motivated.  Because the snow is coming.

--Big Chris


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Have you tried parking the vehicles in a well-travelled public parking lot with For Sale signs in them?

I think they both might make great first cars for teen-aged drivers.

Selling in a small town has benefits and drawbacks. Since there isn't that big-city infrastructure, you can capitalize on its being an in-town car with Craigslist. The good ol' for-sale sign in the window and word of mouth can bring people in, especially if you have an in-road with the local high school. No dealer-fees, payments or credit checks, even personalized to-your-door delivery, can be a big draw for local school kids; (as can be the knowledge that if they need help maintaining it, you're local and willing to show them how to change a head gasket!)

If there isn't a market for your car locally, you have to get the word to the world outside; and the best way to do that are national sites like Auto Trader and eBay, but good marketing and clear pics are everything if you're gonna sell to someone sight-unseen. The classified section of Honda fansites will put a big ol' target your demographic. I've both bought and sold cars on eBay; do your research and see what "comps" are selling for. Set a good reserve and start the bidding low, or sell as a buy-it-now, and be prepared to list it for awhile. Ebay fees are terrible for cars...but it's a good way to get it on a lot of screens at once.

As far as prepping, I think of it like staging a house. You want it to look as good as possible, without covering over the obvious flaws. In other words, detail the interior to as close to perfect as you can, and polish and wax the paint to within an inch of its life. Paintless dent removal can eliminate some unsightly dings -- but painting over existing rust will look like you're trying to hide something! Best to be up-front and honest about what's there. The same with underhood detailing: a fresh steam-clean can look like you're hiding a bad leak. Better to make the engine noticeably tidy, but not perfect.

Man, I cannot help but think just driving these until something totally goes makes the most sense. Would it be a greater return to sell the car you recently received? At 280k it is a hard sale. Granted, I know too well these Hondas will go 400k with proper maintenance. I just plan to keep the 92 VW GTI until the wheels fall off of it. Then, it will go electric and the wheels will be put back on.

Unfortunately, "quickly" and "for a high price" are in inverse proportion to each other. If you're a motivated seller with not one but two rust-spotted and high-miles rides to liquidate, cash is (and should be) king: if someone shows up with a fistfull of bills, just take it! It seems that the sellers who want the crackpipe prices are the ones whose ads end up hanging around forever, getting re-listed multiple times, and I can only imagine the wasted time and headache behind these protracted periods of for-saleness (there are certain CL re-lists I've been tracking for literally years). I agree with others above, however, that thorough and flattering photography will go a long way, and an eBay listing (though that's gotten very fee-heavy) will open you up to more than just a local audience. Another option is to spam neighboring cities' Craigslists, though under some circumstances that can get your ad flagged and pulled down. Stealerships seem to get away with it though...

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