This is Howard C. Park's blog. Interests: live music, simulations and modeling, languages, iPod, social and business networking, systems thinking, history of science, management, BBQ, trivia, good coffee, organizational learning, traveling, personal histories.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
selling your car
I recently sold my car that I've had since 1998. Here is one man's tale.
Images of seedy salesmen and scam-artists awaited me as I ventured into this endeavor. In a nutshell, it was easier than I thought, but I did learn a few interesting things. I decided to test the waters by placing a "For Sale" sign on the car (would I get any calls? ). Most of the time, the car was parked in front of my house, where school and park traffic guaranteed a steady stream of potential buyers. I did receive several calls every week for several weeks. Only a few called back and one or two people came by and saw/drove the car.
Then I decided to get serious: I took out an ad. I had recently purchased a used car, and having gone through the experience as a buyer helped me become a better seller... What does a buyer look for? How does the buyer look-up cars for sale? How does the buyer decide what they want to pay?
I had a choice of venues for ads. In the end, I chose autotrader.com. For $44, I got a 3-week run, with 9 photos (on-line) and one photo in the weekly publication. AND, I had a chance to keep the ad running until I sold. I chose autotrader since they seemed to have the most selection for similar cars.
I also built a free "blog" so I could place more detalied pictures and text. The buyer did go out to the site. In the very least, it helped me think through which pictures I wanted with the ad as well as the text I woud use for the "selling points".
Other things I learned:
I thought "what would my realtor do?". So I kept the car clean, used good gas, and tried to keep the "curb appeal" high. I also took lots of pictures on a nice day. I used different angles and different placement against the sun. For the shoot, I parked at a nearby park... You'd be suprised at how many people try to sell a car with a picture in a sleazy used car lot or against some dumpy fence or pad pavement.
Strange, but after I placed the ad, I received calls from brokers and other non-buyers wanting to help me out. A nuisance, but ignorable.
Do your homework. Every buyer wants to negotiate the price, especially if you are selling as an individual. I had a list of other cars and prices, as well as mileage and features. When someone asked me if the price was negotiable, I told them, "sure, but you have to tell me why... if a similar car is selling for $1000 less, I have to bring my price down".
This leads to how one should price a car. Do the homework... keep a list across a few weeks (if possible), print it out and have it with you when a buyer shows up. Think about what points should increase a car's price (one-owner, no accidents, etc.) and what would bring down the price (crack in windshield, funny smell). Set limits and goals, and decide how fast you need to sell a car. I priced my car below the dealer's prices, emphasized several key items, and got a buyer with a few days.
Finally, I was suprised at how many calls I received from folks from Austin & Louisiana. I guess from a 300 mile radius, Houston will have a larger pool of used cars and people are willing to drive in to buy a car. The buyer was a father-son team from Austin who did some research on the internet.