by Jim Kerr

Take a quick glance at the classified advertisements in any newspaper and you will find hundreds of vehicles for sale. Many of these vehicles are being sold by private owners. If you are considering selling your vehicle, here are a few pointers that can make your sale easier.

Once you decide to sell your vehicle, you must decide what the vehicle is worth. Unfortunately, it is only worth what others will pay for it. No matter how rare or good condition your 1972 Bluesmobile is, if no wants one, then its value will be low! On the other hand, if everyone wants one, then your vehicle is worth much more. Vehicle values can be determined by checking the advertisements to see what other people are asking, noting the price asked by dealers, and checking values listed in vehicle price guides. None of these sources will individually give you an accurate value estimate, but it should put you in the ball park.

Before setting your selling price, you should determine the condition of your vehicle. An excellent vehicle would be close to the same condition it came off the showroom floor. Very few vehicles are sold in this condition! A VERY good vehicle would have everything working, appear to have no defects in the interior and the exterior, while a good vehicle would have most items working with no major defects in the powertrain, suspension, brakes, steering, and body. This is the category that many used cars can fit into.

Finally, there are those vehicles needing work. The body may be rusted, the engine or transmission not operating smoothly, or the steering, suspension, and brakes need repair. To determine the value of a vehicle in this category, the cost of repairs should be deducted from the value of the same vehicle in good condition. Sometimes this can leave you with a negative value! For example, if a vehicle in good condition sells on average for around $2000, and the cost of repairing a worn engine is $2500, then you are $500 in the hole! Don’t despair about having to pay someone to haul your vehicle away however. A salesmanager once told me that any car that drives, stops, and steers can be sold for $500. It may take a while but someone will eventually buy it.

If you were to trade your vehicle in at a dealership, the used car manager would estimate the value of your vehicle in a similar manner. First they would look at the year and model of the vehicle. Luxury or sport models usually command higher prices unless they have high mileage on the odometer. Then the chances of options breaking are higher and the cost of keeping the vehicle operating increases. Therefore the selling price must be lower.

Next the manager would look at the mileage on the vehicle. An average vehicle is driven over 20,000 kilometres per year. If your vehicle is four years old, then it would on average have about 80,000 kilometres on the odometer. If the vehicle has only half that mileage showing, then it would be considered a low mileage vehicle and command a higher price. Typically you can ask $500 to $2500 more for a low mileage vehicle, but it still depends on the model and condition! Conversely, vehicles with higher than average mileage drop in value.

Required repairs are the next factors considered by the sales manager in determining value. Subtract $300 for a cracked windshield, another $250 for worn tires, $200, for interior and exterior cleaning, polishing, and touchups, and up to $500 for minor paint repairs. These values reflect the dealer’s cost to recondition the vehicle. Most dealers don’t want vehicles with major mechanical flaws as these must be repaired before they will resell the vehicle. They drop the value of your vehicle dramatically! Take an unbiased look at your vehicle just as a sales manager does to help determine the asking price.

Selling privately has advantages and disadvantages. You may get more money for your vehicle this way than you would trading it in, but you will have to work for it. Don’t expect to get as much as the dealer can. Used vehicles sold by dealers undergo a safety check and usually have a limited warranty against major defects. Private sales are sold “as is” without warranty, so the price is lower than the dealer’s.

Selling privately means you have to advertise. This is a direct cost to you, and sometimes it can take weeks to sell a vehicle. During that time, be prepared to answer lots of phone calls, be around to show the vehicle, and take several people out for test drives. After all, would you buy a vehicle without driving it? Buyers will point out every little fault on your vehicle in an attempt to lower the price, but if you have done your homework and have a good idea of the vehicle’s value, don’t be intimidated. Bartering over the price of a vehicle has almost become a tradition, so interested buyers will usually offer a lower price. Be sure what the lowest dollar value you will accept is before the first buyer makes an offer. It makes selling your vehicle a much easier mental task.

Finally, serious buyers may want to have the vehicle inspected at a repair shop. This is reasonable, but costs should be assumed by the buyer. Don’t pay for it yourself. If an interested person wants to test drive the vehicle, be sure to accompany them. Would you let someone you didn’t know walk around the block holding your thousand dollar bill? Well, a car is worth much more! Before a test drive, check the person’s driver license. An unlicensed driver could mean no car insurance in case of an accident. One last word of caution: if a test driver operates the vehicle unsafely or abuses the vehicle, tell them to park it immediately and drive it home yourself. Risking your life isn’t required to sell a vehicle.

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