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April 14 Weekly Open Thread: Selling cars - tips, tricks, and any wisdom you have

Honda Civic Caravan

Ever sold a car?  Had good luck with it?  I need your wisdom.  I find myself in the unique position of needing to sell not one, but two cars.  Neither are remarkable unfortunately.  I have a 1996 Honda Civic (wife's) and a 2001 Dodge Caravan (mine) that we've replaced with a 2001 Subaru Outback (wife's) and a 1995 Ford Ranger (mine).  We thought we'd sell them last Fall, but with an early winter, busy schedule, and my own general laziness, it didn't happen.  I asked about this to a degree this past Fall here on the blog, but was hoping for some new and perhaps final wisdom before I take the plunge and get in the market.

I've never sold a car. Or any vehicle.  I scrapped my last one - The Homer.  We sold the body of Bob the Impala for a demolition derby car, but still have the motor.  All of my other vehicles were work vehicles (I used to drive 45-55K a year for work) or vehicles that went to other family members, with the exception of my 1978 Corolla that was also scrapped.

Both of the vehicles are high mileage with some rust.  Interiors are clean, and I'm willing to be honest about their warts (insert oil every XXXX miles...).  We have a pretty good set of records on both, and both vehicles we were second owners on.  Both run just fine - particularly the Honda.  It might have another 200K in it mechanically if the body doesn't rust off the frame first.

Both vehicles have sat over the winter.  One at the end of my driveway, one in front of the garage at church. I've kept both batteries charged, and have run the motors for extended periods as well as cycled the transmissions through gear changes (primarily just in the parking lot) each month to keep the fluids moving.

I'm not asking a ton - probably $1200 for the Honda and a cool $1000 for the Caravan.  If I could squeeze a few hundred more out of each I'd be truly ecstatic.  The difference between $2200 and $2600 is pretty signficiant for our family budget.

Craigslist isn't really a good options, though I'll try it (we're a small, rural town in Southern Minnesota). We don't have a consignment lot in town.  Any "parking" place with traffic will require I move the vehicle(s) regularly so they don't get towed.

So what's the secret?  They'll be as clean as I can get them.  Carpets and seats have been scrubbed. Wording in advertisement?  Locations where they'll sell better?  Prayer?  What's it take?!?

And this is also the place for any other automotive words of wisdom that you may have.

--Big Chris


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Interesting essay in The Weekly Standard today on how regulatory requirements have shaped the shape of modern cars.

there are three places to sell a car that is not worth paying 30$ to advertise.

1. pennysaver/thrifty nickel
2. craigslist

circulation newspapers usually want 30$ per week.

craig's list has he widest breadth for no cost.
otherwise you are going to need to make flyers and put them up in your local gas stations.

1. Cash 2. Receipt 3. Title 4. Keys.

Craigslist and the local paper (most papers have websites you can advertise on also, usually for not much $ and in some cases, even free) are usually the cheapest way to go. Maybe offer them both as a package deal.

Gotta be honest, though, although I don't know how the market is in your town, I can't see there being a huge market for cars like that (the Civic - maybe, a high-mileage Grand Caravan - not so much). Once you consider the time (and expense) you'll put in to trying to sell these yourself (having to deal with strangers coming to your house, etc), unless you want to give them away to your local fly-by-night "Fast Eddie's Used Cars" lot for a mere pittance, you might want to consider donating them to your Red Cross or some other local charity and take the tax deductions.

Something to think about. Good luck. :-)

I've never sold one, but being cleverly honest in the ad, much like you've done here, seems to me the best way to attract decent interested buyers. I'm reminded of the guy who made a sort of Top Gear commercial for his old car that he was trying to sell.

In this day and age, mileage means a lot less than it used to. A car can go 300,000 miles if maintained right. Find out where you're leaking oil from. If it's a rear main seal, you may want to just take a hit on your van. If it's a front main seal, cam seals, valve covers and oil pan, think about doing a driveway reseal and then cleaning your engine compartment. If you have to do a front main seal, replace the water pump and the timing belt while you have it apart. This can be done with a minimum of work- a couple of Saturdays at most. Pull the right front tire and the splash shield, then the air intake, throttle body and upper and lower intake manifolds. It's within the average wrench turner's ability.

Once you've done the reseal, water pump and timing belt, the engine should be ready to go for another 80k miles or so with routine maintenance only, and the odd accessory replacement.

Also, if the rust is only surface rust, a can or two of duplicolor and some wet sanding can make the car look happy again.

Bottom line: if a car's body is straight and looks decent, the drivetrain is leak free, and it's ready to pass safety and emissions and has decent tires on it, I wouldn't take less than two grand for it. If the body is really nice and the car runs very well, don't take less than three thousand.

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