“Sell my car? How difficult could that be?”.That was my answer to the seemingly innocuous question posed by my family about how I was going to sell our much-loved family car. Despite being met with skeptical eyebrows and the slight against my self-prophesied, Trump worthy negotiating skills, I was determined to sell my car, on my terms and to my benefit - at least that's how reasoned it. No longer will dealership salespeople take advantage of me or will I feel like I signed over my retirement in complex contracts. No longer will I be ridiculed for believing that the Power-Balance bands were legit. And more importantly, I'd finally have the shiny new BMW 320i that I'd been eyeing for ages, and finally, take my place among other BMW drivers who are too important to use indicators. What followed made me question my sanity, humanity, and nearly had me sleeping on the couch indefinitely.
An account that should be adapted into an episode of Law and Order, this is a personal account of my attempt at selling my car privately, and the lessons learned.
The Calm Before The Storm:
My story begins like so many others. An ordinary citizen faces the unordinary, and in the wake of overwhelming obstacles chooses to double-down on his bad decisions in an attempt to save face in front of his family and friends.
But let's start from the beginning. My typical day begins with an anxiety-filled school run. Wait in the car for ages and admonish my children for dawdling and making us late. Wait in standstill traffic and admonish other drivers for dawdling in the morning and making us late. Arrive at school and admonish kids for slamming the car door. Be admonished by kids and teachers for being late.
But this day was different. In the process of being told off for the hundredth time by my kid's unpleasant teacher and muttering under my breath at the indignation of the suggestion of "Just leave earlier.", I was greeted by a scene that would turn the next three months of my life upside-down. A gentle and audible purr thrummed in my ears, and I turned towards the source of this beautiful mechanical symphony. A sleek and shiny BMW 320i rolled up into the parking lot next to my battered family estate. Two children exited its leather cocoon gracefully and to my astonishment, respectfully closed the car door without a whisper. An undisheveled driver looked on like a proud parent should as the children carefully handled the school luggage from the boot without so much as touching the body paint. The driver sauntered over as if he had all the time in the world while waving goodbye to his grateful children. My astonishment quickly turned to annoyance, and I eagerly anticipated the lecture that the school teacher would give to this undeserving parent. However, the driver was greeted like a long lost friend, and the expected lambasting quickly turned into a conversation about the upcoming weekend - which was probably golf talk. I stalked off and spoke aloud about the clear injustice of it all - like you getting the blame and your partner-in-crime getting away scot-free. As I sat in my car in the worn driver's seat that had been perfectly formed around my back-end after years of driving, I had an epiphany. In the discernible musk of a two-week-old lunch that my kids had forgotten underneath the seats, I realized that all my problems could be solved by simply buying another car. The respect, the grateful children, a comfortable and a less anxiety-filled morning school run would come with it.
The first thing that dawned on me was how I could sell my car , not only quickly but also in a way that I could get the best deal. I had a deep mistrust of dealing with any salespeople type-scenario - ever since the Power-Balance bands fiasco - and that I was your stereotypical impressionable consumer that would buy into any multi-level marketing scheme. Also, I was caught up with this "new car, new me" mentality, and I was sure that no BMW driver would ever allow someone to negotiate on their behalf. They don't even let the indicator signal on their behalf! The only logical method in my mind was to sell my car on my own.
The Art Of The No-Deal:
At this point, I was at my pinnacle. I was walking around as If had just gotten' North Korea to throw away their nukes. My ad had a ton of hits on multiple websites from the get-go. I had a ton of prospective buyers, with some even coming through to see my car the next day. From there, I developed my own rigorous "buyer filter" to weed out the bad apples from the gold apples and collect the royalties every month from my best-selling business book.
The next step was agreeing with the interested parties to come look and possibly test drive the car personally as well as go over the warranty, history, and any possible paperwork discrepancies. Naturally, I was excited because the obvious next step was a handshake and me whistling Flight Of The Valkyries as I skip along to my nearest BMW dealership.
Of course, my delusions were quickly shattered. The headline for my business book will now be "The Art Of The No-Deal," how not to sell your car and the lessons learned.
1) The Haunting - dealing with potential buyers:
The amount of interest that I was getting for my car was immense - which I immediately attributed this success to my marketing expertise. I received calls, emails, messages, and carrier pigeons. But my smugness quickly turned to distress. I received more calls, more messages, and more emails, at every waking and sleeping hour. Not only from local South Africans, but every country in the SADC - which had my partner believing I had mistresses from Cape Town to Lusaka.
It eventually got to the point where I had erased and scrubbed every inch of my personal information from the advertisement and only provided a newly created email to deal with this specific spam-like problem. But I quickly learned that you could never doubt the tenacity of a South African consumer to get to you, as my social media profiles were bombarded with "interested parties."
And it wasn't even the sheer volume of calls that was the problem; it was the quality of the leads. I had individuals phoning me to enquire about the most basic details, even though the basic information was on the advertisement, and then abruptly end the call. Despite my non-negotiable stance on the price (another problem that I'll explain later), I still had "interested" parties offering 10% to 40% lower who would then be agitated as if I was overly pedantic about some small issue. I even had an individual offer me half the stated price but promised me he would pay the full amount in the preceding two weeks after purchase. When I asked how exactly he would come up with half the stated amount in two weeks, he declined to say and advised it would be best I didn't know - I can only assume that there is some wealthy mother-in-law whose gone missing recently.
Lesson learned: Always "qualify" your buyers - as in can they afford it, which is the easiest way to filter out time-wasters. Cash deals, which is typical for deals below R100 000 , are potentially hazardous in which case you can ask for verification that they have the available funds for the purchase. Electronic transactions are safer and preferable, as you can always reference back to their bank details in the case of unscrupulous characters. If the buyer is planning to purchase your car with bank finance , you can request to see the approved car finance offer from their bank.
2) Test-drive or track day?
Initially, I had prospective buyers come straight to my home to test drive my car - extremely dangerous. But after I had not only the buyer but every single person in his extended family rock up at my door, I decided to use the secured parking lot down the road from me.
For fear of seeing my car drive off into the sunset, I always got into the passenger seat for any test drive - something I still have nightmares of to this day. From buyers doing wheelspins in my suburban street to near collisions with stationary objects, I felt like I was getting into a car with Helen Keller behind the wheel on a daily basis. I realized on one such occasion - as I waited in the parking lot of a petrol station as a buyer did what seemed like his monthly grocery run - that my rigorous "buyer filter" needed some work.
Lesson learned: Always choose a safe meeting place when a prospective buyer sees your car. A secure mall parking lot will do the trick - but not at night, it looks dodgy. If the buyer is test driving your vehicle, always ask for a driver's license beforehand and establish a test driving route that is reasonable and accommodating for the driver. An accident, while a buyer is test driving, is a real possibility, so go over your insurance policy just in case.
3) "So more is less for you?"
My car had an extended service plan . Of course, in my mind, that would be a real value driver. Who wouldn't want to be covered by an extended service and have the reassurance of OEM serviced parts? - A lot of people apparently. Since service plans are transferable between buyer and seller, this affected the asking price. The few buyers that did trickle down my filter almost always asked if they could opt out. I quickly realised why and the difference between maintenance and service plans and why specific buyers found more coverage less appealing. Extended service plans cover labor and parts that are recommended by the manufacturer for service maintenance of your car. The upside is that your vehicle is serviced by a trained and qualified technician and you're getting OEM parts. The downside is that it limits servicing to only a few OEM approved car dealerships. Service plans only cover serviceable parts, that excludes significant damage, general wear, and tear, internal and external trim, body paint, etc. Maintenance plans, on the other hand, cover what the service plan doesn't and are the ultimate peace of mind - and are transferable if you sell your car, at a hefty price.
Lesson learned: While service plans may seem beneficial, many buyers would dislike being limited to potentially expensive OEM approved dealerships. After three years of driving, my car had limited but noticeable wear and tear, particularly internal trim and the electronics - which is not covered by a maintenance plan. To some car buyers, a service plan would be insignificant for them. Maintenance plans while covering all of that, come at a hefty price and may dissuade potential buyers. Every buyer is unique and has their particular preferences.
4) "That's not a scratch! It's a racing stripe!"
I quickly realised that my initial "non-negotiable" stance on the asking price was not viable . My pool of prospective buyers was shrinking and figured out why. After haggling with one buyer who was convinced that I should knock down the price because the color of the car in the ad was different in person, I asked myself the car question, did I evaluate my car wrong? Was I displaying some cognitive dissonance towards my car? From the milage and the service plan to my definition of "immaculate condition," I had overvalued all these elements. While I've been happily focused on attempting to sell my car and I forgot how much I loved it, to the point where I would get defensive over a very clear and visible scratch.
Lesson learned: A common mistake among first-time sellers is looking at the retail or trade-in value and setting a price based purely on that. Be conscious of potentially overlooking certain aspects of your car that buyers may find concerning. It may seem obvious, but the effect of mileage on the price depends on the car and driving habits of the previous owner. For instance, my car has high mileage but has only driven low city-speeds on quality road. Compare that to a car that has high mileage, at highway speeds, on the asteroid craters that are Limpopo roads. Buyers will also not agree with your definition of "immaculate condition." Remember the ultimate goal is for both parties to walk away from a deal feeling as though they both benefited. Honesty, compromise, and emphasizing the good aspects of your car will go a long way.
5) "Well, this puppy did have working electric windows, so that's at least an extra 2k."
Probably the most fundamental flaw I made selling my car was the asking price and getting the car valuation all wrong. The amount of elements that go into evaluating a car is quite daunting. The consumer demand, age of the vehicle, mileage, the service, maintenance or warranty plan attached, the total number of previous owners, car history, interior and exterior condition, hi-jacking popularity to even the geographical position of your car all play a significant role in the value of your car. Looking at the trade-in and retail value also placed high expectations on the asking price that almost definitely dissuaded credible buyers.
Lesson learned: The easiest way to get an accurate idea of the value of the car is to use an online car valuation tool , that show the book value and retail value of your car. While not definitive, it will give you a ballpark number to operate within that’s better than a guess.
Nevertheless, I did eventually sell my car but through Wheel Index . Who facilitated and solved all the problems above, 100% free. Selling your car through Wheel Index privately automatically puts you in touch with dealerships and qualified buyers who won't waste your time or rock up at your place of work to test drive your car. Wheel Index also uses a useful and comprehensive tool that provides an accurate overall value of your car . Not selling? Are you a car-buyer? Are you worried about potentially buying a stolen car? Get the comprehensive information and history of a vehicle with a VIN check - the easiest stolen car check method! From the engine type, model serial number to the complete accident history of a car, a VIN check is the most accurate and useful way of getting information about a car.
What's a used car worth? Get an instant report today on Trade values, Retail values & historical transactions.
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This thread needs a TLDR