6 things you need to know when selling a car privately
Be realistic and have a MAP. Before you start the process, it’s important to understand what you want to achieve as a sale price, and then make sure this number is realistic. Redbook data can help provide a guide but remember the free information on their website isn’t as accurate as the data companies like Lendly pay to licence from them. The car is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, hop onto Carsales and search for what is already on the market. The ones that seem expensive are, and those people aren’t selling their cars anytime soon. Filter the search results with the lowest price first and depending on the KMs on your car, you can drop out vehicles with excessive KMs. Then see what’s there and come up with your initial advertised price. Remember that sellers will likely be accepting at least $1-$2k less than those advertised prices. Using this information, you should set yourself a Minimum Agreeable Price (MAP), this is the value that you will accept if someone offers it, note this could be thousands less than your initial advertised price.
Prepare the car. We want to minimise the hassle and stress, but you also want the car looking its best, so spend the $200 and get your local hand car wash to detail it inside and out, remember you get to pay that pre-tax on your novated lease. Set the tyre pressures and ensure the car doesn’t have a service due or any warning lights. Make sure you find that spare key you lost in the last house move, it’s probably hiding with the registration papers. Make sure the service logbooks are in the car and that the service centre remembered to stamp them.
Used cars will almost always have some small bumps and bruises, and if the damage is minor, it’s unlikely you will get the cost back in the additional sale price, just be ready for a potential buyer to use them as a price negotiation point. For any major damage, you’ll want to get that fixed, not only to maximise the sale price but also to speed up the sale and remove any doubt from the potential buyers’ mind that it wasn’t a loved and cared for car.
A picture speaks thousands of dollars. You would have noticed the value of great photos when you were doing the price comparison research in step 1. The cars that stand out the most had a great “hero” photo of the car with a captivating background. The better the quality and number of photos, the more time you will save in dealing with potential buyers.
Never leave anything lying around the interior or boot, it makes the car look untidy and unloved. Ensure that you have clear photos of any damage, be up-front and transparent, it will only help you save time and headaches when it comes to the negotiation. In addition to photos of all sides and interior, you should include pictures of the odometer and any additional accessories fitted, e.g. sunroof, boot mat, tow bar etc.
Writing the ad. Please don’t use the suggested ad copy that online platforms give you; most people aren’t reading much past your third line of information, so make it count. You want to highlight all the positives; was the car just serviced and have all the services been done at the manufacturer? Did it recently have any expensive maintenance items done such as brake pads and discs? Were the tyres recently replaced? How much warranty is left? What additional options and accessories are on the car? Is there a majority of registration still on the car?
A question every buyer will ask that you should have an answer for; why are you selling the car?
Once you’ve highlighted all the reasons why someone will buy your car, don’t be afraid to highlight all the things they will pick up when they see it; light scrape on two wheels, small dent on the front wheel arch. It shows you’re not trying to hide anything and will also save you a lot of time and hassle when someone tries to use them against you while negotiating the price.
Managing the ad. You’re only looking for one person to buy your car, patience is key, and you need to watch the data. Make sure you have a saved search on Carsales that pings you every time someone advertises a car that matches yours, it will help keep you in touch with what the market is saying your car is worth.
Keep price changes for Thursday or Friday mornings, this is when people start planning their weekend car search, and if they have saved your ad in their watch list, they will get a notification of the price change. Carsales also pings anyone who is watching your ad when someone enquires on it, and they let them know that “interest is increasing” so it’s not uncommon to get a few people enquiring in quick succession.
Here’s what to watch out for; you will get phone calls from car buyers at dealerships and wholesalers offering to buy the car or sell the car on consignment. You can kindly tell them to go away. These deals never work out in your favour, and you’ve already done a lot of the work getting to this point.
Closing the deal. Let’s start with the initial phone enquiry. Let’s face it, these days it’s usually an SMS or email as opposed to a phone call. The best thing you can do to save time and hassle is to get them on the phone; this will help you determine if they are a serious buyer worth your time or a tyre kicker looking to waste it.
The key information we want to know about the buyer; have they test-driven this car before? Do they know it’s the make, model and colour that they want?
Your car is there for the person that knows that’s the car they want and they’re just looking for the right one, they can go to a dealership if they’re still in test driving stage.
Now comes the negotiation, yes over the phone, before they come and look at the car I want to know the maximum they are willing to pay for mine. As we were upfront and completely transparent in the ad description, it makes the negotiation a whole lot easier. Ask this simple question; assuming the car is as I have described, what is the most you are willing to pay for it?
We already decided our MAP in tip one so if the price is below that you know it’s not acceptable and you can decline, being thankful you didn’t waste your time showing the car to someone not willing to pay you for it.
Once you land on a price equal or above your MAP, you can move to a test drive. The buyer will likely try to negotiate again on the day, but you can tell them that you’re confused, as the negotiation was already over and the inspection was just for them to confirm the car was as described. Reaffirm that you are happy to sell the car for what you agreed otherwise best of luck…9/10 that will be a deal done.
Important: If you get an offer above your MAP, take it, and be happy, even if it’s the first person to enquire. You already agreed this was a number you would accept. Be grateful if you get that number in the first couple of weeks, don’t get caught thinking that there is a bigger number around the corner because usually there isn’t and you get stuck taking a lower number weeks or months later.
Following all of the steps above will help you maximise your sale price and drastically reduce the headaches commonly associated with selling a car privately. In saying that, it won’t eliminate them, and you have to weigh up the opportunity cost of the time and effort against the potential profit. If you are like most people, even with these tips, it is a task that isn’t worth the time. In those cases, we have a national disposal network that all clients on Lendly Pay can access that can get a sight-unseen wholesale valuation that is independent of purchasing a vehicle through a dealership.