Yesterday I sold our 2007 Prius Touring for a fair price: $16,000. The buyer was happy, and I'm happy. So now that I've had the vast experience of one recent private party used car sale, I'll share my tips for car-selling in this Internet age.
My Craigslist ad mostly resulted in email messages that said: "Location? I can pick it up," along with "How much are you asking for this car ?? Ive been wanting to buy one like this so if you can please email me back thank you," and another "Location? I can pick it up" from a different scammer.
Dudes, be more creative.
The asking price was clearly listed on the ad. I'm not so stupid to believe that someone is going to buy and pick up the car sight unseen. The only good thing I can say about Craigslist is that the value of the ad I put up was equal to the price I paid for it: nothing.
By contrast, I found the AutoTrader web site to be wonderfully easy to navigate. I paid extra for several add-on features that supposedly gave my ad more visibility. Don't know if that helped, but I sold the Prius in about three weeks via AutoTrader.
It wasn't a lot of fun, but I felt like I had no choice after realizing that selling our car to a dealer wasn't going to net us what the Prius was worth to a private party. The Corvallis Nissan dealer -- where we recently bought a Leaf electric car -- offered a decent amount: about $14,500, which was the Kelly Blue Book estimate for a "good" condition trade-in.
That was a fair offer. But another dealer, who would go anonymous if I didn't want to mention that the name is Capitol Toyota here in Salem, gave me an insultingly low offer of $12,500.
So here's another tip: don't expect that just because you've bought three cars from a new car dealer (in our case, two Priuses/Prii and a Highlander Hybrid), and that dealer has regularly been mailing postcards to you saying "Your Toyota used car is in demand; call us today to find out how much it is worth," you'll get a fair price from the dealer.
Previously I'd traded in our 2004 Prius when my wife and I bought the 2007 Prius Touring. At that time, a Capitol Toyota salesman who I liked a lot, and would go anonymous if I didn't want to mention that his name is Kelly Stewart (Kelly now is with Capitol's Chevrolet dealership), simply went into his office for a few minutes and came out with a Kelly Blue Book report that showed the trade-in value -- which was exactly the same price that I'd gotten when I visited the Kelly Blue Book site myself.
When I brought in the 2007 Prius for a look-see, though, having been advised by our Nissan salesman that a Toyota dealer should give us more for the car than his dealership could, a used car guy at Capitol Toyota handed me a Edmund's report that showed our car as being in "rough" condition. He said the best he could do was $12,500.
I said, thanks and walked out the door.
Here's a tip for new car dealerships: if you give a three-peat customer a low-ball price when he asks how much his four year old car is worth, if he ever thinks about getting another new car from your dealership, he's going to remember what happened and question whether he can get a fair deal.
Our 2007 Prius wasn't in "rough" condition. It had one small ding on the front passenger door. Otherwise it was in near perfect shape. Yesterday the couple who paid $16,000 for it said, "Wow, it looks great." I honestly filled out the Kelly Blue Book car condition questions and learned that our car indeed was in "good" condition -- as most used cars are.
I'm not saying that all car salespeople can't be trusted. Most can be. We thoroughly enjoyed how Russ Goodyear (great name for a car salesman) treated us at Jack Scoville Nissan in Corvallis. I'm just reminding people to do their research before heading to a dealership to get a quote on what a used car is worth.
All I can figure is that Capitol Toyota assumed that I might be clueless about what our car was worth, and/or desperate to sell it at a ridiculous low-ball price. Regardless, I found that $12,500 offer to be insulting, if not borderline dishonest (since the car clearly wasn't in rough condition).
My only other tip for a private party sale is to treat a prospective buyer like you would want to be treated yourself.
I don't like playing price-negotiating games. Some people do. In that case, maybe you can justify sticking with a high asking price and trying to argue a potential buyer out of a lower offer.
But after several weeks of not selling the car at a price that started at $17,900, I reduced the asking price to just above what I honestly thought the car should go for: $16,495. (Kelly Blue Book had the private party price at $15,850, but our Prius had new tires with just a few hundred miles on them.)
I realized that since I don't like to price-negotiate, if I saw a car for sale that I was interested in, yet the price was a thousand dollars or more above what I thought was a fair offer, I'd be inclined to look elsewhere.
So I changed the AutoTrader and Craigslist ads to say $16,495. Within a day a woman emailed me and said, "Would you accept $16,000? If so, we'll bring you a cashier's check and pick up the car."
I'll end with a comment to Capitol Toyota, in case someone from the dealership ever reads this blog post. If you guys had offered me $15,000 for the Prius, I would have seriously considered the offer. You then could have made at least a thousand dollars on the deal. Probably more, given that you've got a lot more experience selling cars than I do.
I don't understand why car dealers aren't 100% into buying and selling quality cars for a fair price. In this country, car dealerships are just about the last place where ordinary people buying retail still have to often engage in intense price negotiating and sales game-playing.
That isn't appealing to me. And it isn't necessary.
Last night I sat at our dining table with the people who bought our car, having a pleasant conversation and signing papers in an absolutely relaxed manner. Like I said, treating the other party in the transaction like you'd like to be treated if you were in their shoes goes a long way to making a car deal go smoothly and fairly.