Selling Your Classic Car

The following is an edited excerpt from Drop Throttle Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, by Jason Paynter, host of the Classic Car Corner podcast!


So the time has come to sell one of your beloved cars. Your reasons may be multiple and everyone’s reason is different. You ran out of space, you want or need your capital for other things, you’ve really seen a lot of appreciation on one car and want to see what the market will bring. The only thing I’m sure of is you aren’t selling because you’ve given up collecting, right? Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s time to say goodbye and sell. When the time comes, here are some things you can do in order to have a successful sale and get top dollar for your car.

Prepare The Car

This seems like it should go without saying, but clean the car, perform any mechanical work it needs. Make sure all the lights, blinkers, radio, wipers, etc. are all in working order. You don’t have to do all these things and you can sell the car “as-is,” but having everything in proper operating condition, along with all the paperwork when selling, will make it very easy for an interested buyer to say “I’ve got to have it!” when he sees your car. Also, it really pays to have the car detailed. Even if you’ve never done it before, do it now. Your car will look so fine you might even change your mind about selling…

Determine The Price

Do some market investigation. What are other cars of the same year, make and model going for? Are there any for sale in your market? And what is the overall market like right now? Is there a lot of demand? How soon do you need to sell the car? All these are going to be factors in setting your price. So is the actual condition of the car. Take a good honest, critical look at the car. What kind of shape is it really in? Advertising it as “mint” when it’s really “good” will just end up attracting the wrong buyers.

Marketing

You’ll want to take photos. Or better yet, you might pay a little to have some really nice photos taken. While I wouldn’t encourage you to stretch on the condition of your car, there’s no reason not to photograph it in the best light. Also, have lots of photos. You can’t have too many. You already know car enthusiasts love to look at pictures. Get as many as you can.

Determine where you want to advertise your car. A classic car needs to be marketed with outlets that professionally sell classic cars on a daily basis, in my opinion. You may get lucky on Facebook Marketplace, which can be great and cost effective, but eBay, Gateway Classic Cars, Hemmings and Bring a Trailer, to name as few, should be considered too. You may choose to use a listing service which will cost a bit. Or you may be prepared to wait to sell. Either way is fine, it’s totally up to you.

Write copy for your ad that will draw the searching enthusiast in and make the car real. Interesting attributes, elements and special features included make it come to life. If you’re looking for one of these cars, the copy should enable you to envision it in vivid detail, even without pictures. Also note the things in the car that are not working are listed. You want to give a full, engaging story about your car, but it’s good to set expectations. That way you know when a buyer sets up a visit he won’t be disappointed.

Make The Sale

Some of how this will be done is determined by how you choose to sell the car. If you go with a broker or an auction, you don’t really have to worry about this. But if you choose to sell yourself, online or in print, you’re going to need to do a bit of seller beware. The overwhelming majority of buyers are honest. You bought the car yourself, right? And your intentions are good. So something going wrong like this is rare, but it does happen and if you’re aware that it could, you can practically guarantee that it won’t happen to you. Here are some good rules to follow:

  • Ask your prospective buyer how he heard about your car, and get contact information
  • Always meet a prospective buyer with another person, a friend or family member
  • Be very choosy about payment methods: accept cash, cashier’s check, wire transfer or electronic payment. Cash needs no verification (although be careful on the way to the bank). A cashier’s check can be verified through the bank it’s drawn from. A wire transfer can usually be processed and verified the same day if it’s sent before a certain time. Either way, you should be able to call the bank and make sure the funds are there and being sent. Don’t be afraid to do this! If your buyer is honest, he will understand you need to verify getting your payment. If you get any pushback, my advice is don’t do the deal. No honest person is going to give you a hard time about being careful to get paid.

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