The Ultimate Used-Car Selling Guide

by Sangeeth Mullassery

Tue, 03 November 2020

The Ultimate Used-Car Selling Guide

Tough times? Want to get out from under that loan? Here’s how to sell.

Buying a preowned car is tough, but selling a car ought to be easy right? Wrong. Sure - buying the wrong used car is going to cost you hundreds if not thousands of dinars in lost finances and heartache, but the same holds true when it comes time to sell that car.

Quite similar to those unscrupulous dealers trying to sell you lemons for the price of apples, there are dealers (and privateers) who are looking to low-ball you out of your decent used example - so that they can “flip” the car for a profit - the profit that was supposed to be in your bank account. In addition to this, I›m going to walk you through some common scenarios that I came across while selling my 2009 Dodge Durango a few months ago.

1. The first rule of fight club is - you do not talk about fight club: Inevitably, selling your car means posting an ad online on various used-car websites and/or social media accounts. The first thing you DO NOT do is talk about how you›re leaving the country and/or how desperate you are to sell the car for cash. This isn›t the place for it - it›s in bad taste for one and secondly, you›re setting yourself up for potential buyers to continuously low-ball you on your asking price. Everyone has a reason for selling their car - it could be that they can›t afford to keep it, pay for repairs, are relocating, bored of the car and so on. This is best discussed in person - if the buyer asks. 

2. Stick to the matter at hand: Explain the nuances of your car to the buyer, but don›t turn it into a biopic. Be as brief as possible and more importantly - be honest. Unless you›re a shady used car dealer looking to make a quick profit or someone with no shred of decency, your car is most likely in serviceable condition. 

3. Stop wasting everyone’s time: Unless the car you’re selling is a one of twenty-odd Porsche 911 GT1s ever made, make sure you include (and be upfront about) your asking price, whether you’re willing to negotiate or not and the car’s flaws. A photo of the vehicle’s history that you can easily pull up from saves the buyer a lot of time and builds confidence in the deal. This way genuine buyers can take time out of their day to come see your car and not have themselves made a fool of.

4. The Basics: A half-way decent used-car advertisement should contain the following details. Not only does this process help you recall details about your car that you may have overlooked or forgotten, a comprehensive ad is always a confidence-builder for any potential buyer.   

Year, Make and Model: (Example) 2015 Chevrolet Silverado
Current Odometer reading: 50,000 kilometers
Noteworthy options (if any): 4WD, Leather seats, navigation, automatic air-conditioning, sunroof
General statement about the condition: I›m the first owner of the car, bought new in 2015, tires are just one year old, paint in great shape with minor wear. One minor accident in 2017, repaired at the dealership under insurance. Full service history at the dealership since new. 50,000-kilometer service completed.
Price: BD 8,500 reasonably negotiable. 
Contact options and times: Email/Mobile with WhatsApp, 3pm-6pm Friday and Saturday only.
Detailed Photos: (Ten from every angle at the very least)

4. About those Photos: Photos that are taken from the top of the World Trade Center or in the shadiest corner of a side street past 8pm on a moonless night aren’t what we’re looking for. Nor are five photos of the same angle of the car. 

Take one, clear, photograph of each section of the car - the front end, both sides, the rear, close up of the wheels and tires, the interior - dashboard and trim, trunk and engine bay. This is done during daylight hours - preferably between 4-5pm when the sun isn’t blinding everything, but there’s still adequate daylight to see defects clearly. Approximately five feet away is a good distance to keep when taking those photos. 
I’d personally go a step further and get a clear walk around video of the car’s exterior, the interior and even start the car up. This video makes light work of dealing with a potential buyer’s questions, making it one step closer to cash in hand. 

5. About the price: Do a little bit of research prior to pricing your car; this can be easily achieved by perusing used-car websites and taking note of what similarly-speced cars are going for. If you determine that your car is in significantly better shape or lower in terms of kilometers on the clock, you can add a slight premium to the tune of BD 300 to 500. However, unless you aren’t particularly motivated to sell, price your car to limit negotiations. Usually, a serious buyer will already know the price point of that specific make and model. Combine this with detailed information, photos and videos, and a prospective buyer will be coming over with cash in his back pocket - not to waste your time with chit-chat or test-drives.

6. About those test-drives: A test-drive can either be a deal-breaker, a deal-maker or a time-waster. It is also a huge spot of liability - the potential buyer may have a mishap that involves your car and the pavement, another car or a pedestrian - all of which you can be potentially liable for. If nothing else you end up with a car that has diminished value and no legal recourse to claim damages - especially if it was the buyer’s fault and you have liability-only coverage on your car. If you’ve done due-diligence to the steps outlined in this article, a test-drive should merely be a formality at this point. To get to this point, always ensure that you’ve shaken hands on a price prior to any test drive. At the very least, the buyer needs to know what the rock-bottom is - including all the potential faults that the car presents itself with. This way there is no wasted time, effort - or liability. Unaccompanied test-drives are always a no-no.

7. You’ve agreed on the deal - now what? Remember that you haven’t actually “sold” your car until the buyer has paid you in full. This means that unless you’ve got cold, hard cash in your hand or in your bank account - no deal has actually transpired. Therefore, the buyer doesn’t get to drive away in your car - even if they’ve paid you a deposit. 

The same goes for signatures on transfer papers, or any letters stating to that effect - unless you’ve got every last Dinar of your agreed-upon price, do not transfer the insurance, sign the traffic form or hand over the car’s ownership documents - regardless of what the buyer promises.

8. What if the buyer wants to have the car inspected? Allowing a buyer to have your car professionally inspected is a courtesy that you can extend to a serious buyer who has physically arrived, inspected, tested and agreed upon a price first. Better-still you can even go the extra mile and get your car inspected by an independent workshop (or the local authorized distributor) and have the report ready to send to the buyer. Similar to those test drives, under no circumstances do you hand a random stranger the keys to your car unaccompanied and unsupervised. 

9. Selling a car takes time: Take those photos, post the ad and done! Right? Wrong. Selling a car takes a maddening amount of time and effort - especially if you work 9-5 and value your weekends. Buyers want to see the car in daylight - and rightly so - and you don’t get off work till it’s 7 on a good day. Getting random folks showing up to your office isn’t good for business either.

10. So how do you manage work, your weekend and selling your car? Set clear boundaries and stick to it; define three-hour windows on a Friday evening or Saturday morning. Screen calls and WhatsApp messages based on the time-slots you’ve set. If the buyer hasn’t bothered reading your advert carefully, it is more than likely that they’re out window-shopping.

11. Someone who negotiates on the phone is not going to buy: It really is that simple. Remember that. If you have a buyer who is on the phone with you asking you for “last last”, hang up.

12. Be wary of those used-car dealers and the low-ball scam: These guys are ruthless - and since times have gotten tougher than ever – they’ve rewritten the rule-book of what it means to be shady. Remember - they know how to talk-the-talk, and can get you right convinced that your car is a pile of junk that deserves to be scrapped and that they’re doing you a favor by taking it off your hands.

13. Prepping your car for the sale: 
Remove all personal items, including the stuff that disappeared under the seats. 
Get the car washed at a car wash - or professionally detailed. There’s no excuse not to - it costs all of BD 30 and mobile car washes will come to your home or office. 
Do you have a license plate that is worth keeping? Get it transferred off the vehicle into your name and put a generic plate on. Remember - license plates appreciate in value and you can reserve it for your next car for a fee - even if you’re an expat. 

14. What if you’re upside-down on that auto-loan? This is a situation a lot of folks find themselves in. Being “upside-down” on a loan means that the value of the asset post-sale is insufficient to cover the remainder of amount owed to the lender. If you’re in this situation, you have one of three options: 
Sell the car and pay off the loan by injecting your savings;
Find a buyer willing to and transfer the loan and the car to their name;
Ask your lender if they’re willing to repossess the car and settle the remaining amount in cash. 

15. Use the “Golden Window”: The Golden Window is a timeframe - usually between an hour and two days from when you first post your vehicle for sale on a used-car website or social media. This is the period during which you will get the most calls and enquiries before interest begins to taper-off. As much as possible - try closing the deal in this window. After the first two days - you’ll notice that enquiries are slower and that it is harder for you to get someone to come look at the car. Know that the market has a memory and will remember a re-listed car that hasn’t sold the first time around. 

Armed with this knowledge, selling your car should prove to be a slightly less-stressful experience than otherwise. Sold a car and got some wild experiences to add? Email me on [email protected] or DM me on instagram - @sangeeth911.