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Selling a Car
Setting the right price
We all want the best return on our sale, but go too far and no-one will call. Setting the right price must be carefully researched to ensure a sale.

What’s your car worth?
Getting the price right is usually the main difference between no calls and a flood of calls. It's also important to separate emotion from this phase, because we often place a value on our car that is higher than people will pay. We've lived with it for years, we're a little sentimental because of all the fun we've had in it.

Do it yourself
Alternately, you can check Carstation classifieds for vehicles more closely matching your own, right down to colour and kilometres covered. Remember to take into account any differences in condition, registration and also location. Buyers are more likely to pay more for a vehicle closer to them.

Price influencing factors
Several critical factors affect the value of your car:
1. Age
2. Mileage
3. Popularity of model
4. New car discounting, price cuts and new models
5. Engine and transmission combination
6. The right options
7. Air-conditioning and power steering
8. Colour and condition
9. Service history and registration
10. Who's buying on the day
11. The number of similar examples on the market
12. How quickly you want to sell

Remember too, that as a private seller you cannot expect to get the same price a dealer will. A dealer offers trade-in and finance facilities, reduced risk and preparation to new car condition so don't pitch your car at forecourt prices if you are in a hurry to sell.

Good preparation can increase the sale price of your car. It is amazing how a little effort and planning can mean more dollars in the bank. While the industry is always banging on about how buying smart can save thousands of dollars, selling smart can have exactly the same net effect. Selling a car well can increase your spending power on the new one as much as any smart finance deal or haggling on the next one.

So how do you do it?

The first step is some groundwork... Putting a little time and effort into the preparation of your car will reap dividends. Appearance, appearance, appearance is to used cars what location, location, location is to real estate.

Everyone wants the dream of a fresh, new car even if they are buying used. Panel and trim repairs often cost less than the value they take off your car which is why dealers spend so much on preparation.

Let’s have a look…
  • Exterior
    This is what everyone sees first so it needs the greatest attention. It's also the easiest part of the preparation to get right. Wash the car then dry it off. Consider touching up paint chips. A quick polish can do wonders for the appearance. Don't forget the wheels. Crunched wheel covers are easily repainted or replaced with second hand items and make a huge difference. Liven up black and plastics, and chrome trim with the right products.
  • Interior
    The trouble with car interiors is they get shabbier without you realising it. The key areas to tackle are:
    • Carpets - vacuum thoroughly and shampoo as required. If worn, cover them with a nice set of mats. Don't forget to clean the boot.
    • Seats - vacuum and, if really grubby, shampoo if the trim is cloth with a colour-safe upholstery cleaner, or condition the leather and restore that new car suppleness.
    • Glass - wipe away the greasy film on the inside but don't use domestic cleaners as it can kill the window tint and the overspray can harm the trim.
    • Instruments and dashboard -- thoroughly clean with a damp cloth. Clean out all the rubbish from the door bins and glove box. Remove food stains and grime around controls. Replace broken plastic parts as they can make the car look really abused.
    • Smells - Empty ashtrays and fumigate! Smokers' cars can alienate non-smokers and may need to be steam cleaned.
Call in the professionals
If it all sounds too much, a professional car detailer can prepare your car to dealer standards inside, outside and under the bonnet. It will help your car sell faster at a better price.

Writing your advertisement
Preparing the car and seeing how well it comes up can make you excited and more confident about selling. So now is the best time to create the advertisement. Most internet advertisement will guide you into filling the relevant fields but there is a lot you can do and say to make your car stand apart from the rest.

If you're serious about getting potential buyers flocking to see your car, your advert has to make it sound as attractive as possible but also needs to be accurate and honest. It is far better for potential buyers to discover on arrival that the car is better than it sounded or looked in the advertisement, rather than overstate its condition and set up disappointment.

Vital details
  • Make and Model Series: not just Ford, but Ford KC Laser
  • Model level: eg GL, Ghia, TX3
  • Year
  • Engine capacity: eg 1.6, 1600cc or 1.6-litre
  • Transmission: eg five-speed manual or auto
  • Air-conditioning, power steering, CD player if fitted
  • Price: Clearly state a price and add ONO if negotiable.
  • Mobile and phone no including area code.

Helpful additions
  • Kms to nearest 1000km
  • Number of owners, if it's very few
  • Service history, if you have the documents
  • Balance of new car warranty, if there's any left
  • Registration, if there is plenty
  • Condition, but don't oversell it
  • Popular colour or features such as: leather, immobilizer, alarm, power windows, tinted windows, mats, mud flaps, headlight covers, seat covers, upgraded sound system, etc

How to deal with perspective buyers
Some tips on how to increase your chances of a successful outcome when selling your car.

Inviting a total stranger around to your house then letting them drive your car down the freeway is not something you would normally do. It's something that's hard to get around, though, assuming you really want to sell your car. In most cases, things will turn out fine but it pays to take a few precautions and be alert to what can go wrong.

How do you minimise the risk? Here are some suggestions...

The phone call
Be patient and polite to enquirers. Have all paperwork at hand ready to answer questions. If you don't like the attitude and feel uneasy, end the call. Don't disclose too much about yourself when the questions about the car can lead you into giving away information you shouldn't. Make appointments during daylight hours.

If there is something that people need to know about your car like a small blemish, some extra wear or a missing badge, let them know. It can tell buyers that you are genuine and realistic.

Callers can get nasty if they travel long distances only to find the car is sold or it is nothing like you said. Make it clear that if they don't turn up at the designated time, you reserve the right to sell it to someone else after that time. Ask for a return number in case the car is sold in the meantime so you can let them know or if a deal falls through later.

If someone gives you their number at this point, it's a good indicator that they are a genuine buyer.

Keep potential buyers separate so you are not trying to watch several buyers at once. Think carefully before giving a caller 'first refusal' on your car. Some buyers will use this to get you to hold the car at their convenience and force you to drop your price after you have put off other callers.

Don't be pressured into dropping your price until you give the ad time to work. Don't give out unnecessary information over the telephone.

Treat the car as sold only when you have received a deposit and even then keep your options open in case it falls through.

The viewing
For a start, if you're selling something exotic or otherwise desirable it's best to do the deal on neutral turf -- so potential 'baddies' don't know where the car lives. Make sure someone knows where you are and what you are doing. Enlist a friend to be around if you don't feel comfortable doing it alone.

Otherwise, show the car on your own ground, but if you live alone and are vulnerable, consider showing it from a friend's house then disclose your address only when the deal is done. Don't give anyone the keys. Don't let anyone wander around the house.

This might sound basic, but don't leave anything valuable in the car, such as the service records (think about it) and the registration papers. Some cars also have a code number on the key. Remove it and be wary of anybody who takes an unhealthy interest in it.

Some so-called buyers are shopping for a car and your household effects except they don't intend to pay and instead are using the visit to check out security systems and keys. Be wary of someone who is more interested in your movements and where the car is kept than arranging how they are going to pay for it.

Be aware that key codes are often stamped into the key or listed in the owner's manual which can allow a caller to get their own key made and take your car later. Remove key codes from your documents.

The test drive
Many buyers will want a test drive but you are not obliged to give one. Is the buyer really interested or just wants to hoon around in your car? Buyers who don't take the time to fully check out the car before a test drive are rarely genuine.

Do they have a current driver's licence? You also need to make sure that your insurance will cover the other driver.

Never let the car out on a test drive without you in it. Never get out of the car before the keys are back in your hands. Who pays for the speed camera fines or can vouch for what happened in a crash?

Don't accept the keys to the potential buyer's car as security, either. You wouldn't be the first person to be left holding the keys to a stolen car parked in front of your house while the 'baddies' are miles away with your wheels.

And we shouldn't have to say this, but don't do a deal where the buyer gives you half the money now and half later, "but I'll take the car now".

Be very clear on the terms under which you will hand over the car and stick to them.