As part of our ongoing downsizing efforts, we have sold a dozen or so items on Craigslist over the past few months. Furniture, bicycles, a jukebox and today, a car. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Even from this single experience, I learned a few things about Craigslist car shoppers that some of you might find interesting.
1. Don’t be in a hurry. Some vehicles are always popular and are certain to find buyers if the price is close to reasonable. Other vehicles require more of a “niche” buyer. Our vehicle was more in the “niche” category. It was an older (1999) premier brand (Lexus) that combined high performance (not a gas saver) with luxury features. I knew it would take time to find the right buyer who valued vehicles like this, even in our MSA with a population of 1 million plus. In a smaller market, eBay would probably be a better selling channel compared to Craigslist. I was almost ready to put the car on eBay myself.
2. Put photos and lots of detail in your ad. I learned from my earlier sales that I did not enjoy answering endless questions from buyers/lookers about the item for sale. With this vehicle, I cleaned the car inside and out, polished it up, and took 4 high quality photos (the maximum allowed on craigslist). I then crammed the text of my ad with the history of the car, where it was garaged, how it was maintained, its physical condition , every feature it had, and why I was selling it. This greatly reduced the amount of time I had to spend answering questions. Instead, most of my inquiries were “do you still have it” and “when can I see it?”
2. Test your pricing. I first put the car on Craigslist a month ago. I priced it at the high end of retail book value ($9,100). I had almost no activity in response except for the shopping trolls (more on that later). Ten days later I dropped the price to what I believed would be another resistance point, $8500. I had one looker who offered me $5000. I politely rejected that with no counter-offer. Two days ago, I moved the asking price to $7950 and again renewed the ad (which pushes it to the top of the list). This generated a lot of activity.
3. Ignore/blow-off the shopping trolls and email negotiators. Apparently there are folks out there who think they can solicit better prices by making low-ball offers or asking “what’s the lowest you will take for the car” without even seeing the car. Apparently, there are also sellers who lack the confidence to blow these people off. I had one guy email me yesterday with $4500 offer – cash! – if I didn’t sell it before my deadline. First, what did he think I would take from other buyers other than cash? Second, I had no deadline. I emailed him this short response: “Not gonna happen.” To other trolls I just said: “I only negotiate in person.” Another prospect wanted me to drive the car to his brother’s shop to look at. I of course declined. Apart from the safety concerns, I would not want to negotiate on the buyer’s home turf.
4. Don’t negotiate against yourself. I had a prospective buyer drive the car on Sunday. He was there with his two brothers. Each took a turn asking me “what’s the lowest price you will accept.” I kept answering “I haven’t decided that but if you make me an offer, I’ll let you know if it’s high enough.” Finally, the guy offered my $65oo. I said no, but after thinking for a minute, I countered at $7400. He then told me that his offer was firm. I said that’s too bad because he was turning down a good price on a good car. I told him I had two other buyers wanting to see the car. They left.
5. Establish trust with your buyers. With each buyer, I was quick to disclose the one item that I knew was wrong with the car (missing pixels on the audio display). I never said there was nothing else wrong, only that I didn’t know of anything else. (A true statement.)
6. Go along on the test drive. Even if you trust a prospect not to steal your car, the test drive gives you more opportunity to highlight the selling points of the car. Our car had a lot of small luxury features that were not readily apparent in a short test drive. I made sure the buyer knew about them.
7. Have your documentation ready. When you get an eager buyer, make sure you can close the deal quickly by having a clean title in the proper name, etc. Last evening, a single baby boomer woman drove the car for 5 minutes and offered full asking price on the spot. She was tired of the minivan/SUV experience and was ready for something radically different but affordable. Our car filled that need perfectly. She offered me a personal check right then or a cashier’s check today. I wanted the certainty of a bank check so I agreed to meet her at her bank first thing this morning. I wanted to meet at the bank so I could confirm that the check was genuine.
8. Use a Bill of Sale. Although a signed title is adequate to convey ownership in most states, I recommend that you also provide a Bill of Sale, to be signed by both seller and buyer. The Bill of Sale should contain clear language stating that the car is being sold “as-is” with no express or implied warranties as to the condition of the vehicle. This protects you against legal claims if the transmission falls out of the car the day after you sell it. A frustrated buyer may claim that you stated the car was in “perfect condition.” A judge might believe the buyer and rule that you made a verbal warranty to the buyer. Not good.
Car selling and selling in general on craigslist can really help with your downsizing. I know it has helped us.
Do any of you have other tips to share?