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Tricks and Tips to Selling your Car

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my 2004 BMW X5. I enjoyed the X5, it was a nice daily driver. I installed a couple technology upgrades so it felt like a more modern luxury SUV. The issue with older German automobiles is there is always a point when things go south. Even the most well-maintained vehicle will eventually start to deteriorate, automotive entropy is a given. Over the past year, it was in the shop six times and needed to be towed twice on two consecutive days. My patience and wallet had enough abuse, so it was time to part ways.

Selling your car can be a scary and frustrating endeavor. That’s why most people tend to trade them into a dealer. The thought of dealing with the general public can be daunting and you’ll start questioning your sanity. I’ve sold multiple cars over the years and every time, usually with a strong cocktail in my hand I utter to myself: Is it worth the hassle? It depends on the situation. I’ve always sold my cars outright because the low-ball offers from dealers are maddening and go against my principles. I know with a little effort I can get top dollar if I advertise it to the right audience.

Before you post your vehicle it’s best to understand your market. Here are some pointers to follow:

True Value: Most people have trouble selling something because they tend to over value its worth. You know your car’s issues so take those into consideration. Kelley Blue Book and are great free resources to get an accurate value. It’s important to remember that any aftermarket upgrades you’ve installed don’t really affect the vehicles value. Just consider those neutral as it’ll be challenging to recoup that money. If the parts are valuable, it’s best to remove and sell them separately.

Prospective Buyers: It is important to narrow down your prospective buyers. I marketed my X5 to young drivers and more importantly their parents. I made sure I talked about its extensive maintenance history and all its safety features Another option would be asking your mechanic if they knew someone who would be interested. People tend to ask their mechanics for car recommendations.

Over communicate: Most people search for cars on the internet so it’s extremely important to put a lot of details into your ads.

  • Take a lot of high-quality pictures from all angles.

  • Make sure your ad is well written and clearly describes the car.

  • Get a Carfax report. It shows you’re not hiding anything.

  • If you get questions, make sure you respond promptly. There are millions of cars out there and potential buyers move on quickly if they don’t hear back the same day.

There are a lot of ways to sell your car online. I’ve probably tried them all, but these are the ones where I have had the most success and yes a few snags.

eBay Motors

With COVID, I thought this would be the best site for a quick sale. eBay is great for reaching a lot of potential buyers in a short period of time. They have a simple user interface for creating an ad. The drawback is the eBay fees. They have a $100 posting fee but offer the chance to relist it if doesn’t sell. They take a percentage out of the final winning bid. There is an escrow charge if you use that service. eBay gives both parties confidence with their auction safety nets in case there is a dispute. There are two selling options, a standard auction or a Buy it Now for an immediate sale.

My eBay experience started out great. I posted a 10-day auction. I had a highly effective ad with a lot of pictures and an aggressive starting bid price to entice bidding. I did have a reserve, but it was below the market price for the X5. I received a couple questions with some real interest. I was able to hit my reserve price, so I was thrilled it was going to sell without much fuss. The winning bid was $200 over my reserve price. Excellent!

Dealing with the winner, however, can sometimes be a challenge. The winner of my X5 responded to my e-mails but as the day went on it was apparent he was starting to get cold feet and began asking many questions—most of which he should have asked before bidding--and making strange excuses. I knew that this was going in the wrong direction, and my frustration grew. After a couple more exchanges the bidder backed out of the deal. At this point I gave the winner a couple days to change his mind, but the winning bidder never purchased the X5. Thanks to eBay’s safety nets, I was able to move on to start figuring out my next option. Unfortunately, unreliable buyers are a pretty common occurrence on eBay, so keep this in mind. If you decide to sell your vehicle on eBay, know that it’s not sold until you have cash in hand.

Facebook/Social Media

After the eBay fiasco I turned to my Facebook account. I use Facebook to keep up with friends but mostly use it for the car groups. Groups are great for people with similar interests to be nerdy and chat about their cars. Most of these groups offer a marketplace to buy and sell a specific type of vehicle model or brand. A lot of these groups require a joining request, but after a couple quick questions you’re approved. The best thing about groups is you’re chatting with like-minded Facebook users who have real interest in your vehicle, so you fewer worries about “posers” wasting your time.

I live in Chicago and belong to a couple local car groups. I took my eBay ad, and posted it to the Windy City BMW’s Facebook marketplace. Within an hour a couple potential buyers reached out. As I mentioned above, I still followed my pointers which made all the difference. A friend from auto-crossing saw my ad and was genuinely interested. We knew each other, so that took the stress out of the equation. We chatted over Facebook, set up an in-person meeting and had a deal in place 24 hours later. I was thrilled to sell the X5 to a fellow enthusiast and friend. I knew he would take care of the X5 and keep it well maintained. Win, win.

Other Options

If you’re not on social media, specialized car forums have the same type of enthusiast community with large marketplaces where people can buy and sell cars. I’ve had success selling winter tires and other parts on these forums.,, and, more traditional selling sites like Craigslist, Autotrader and AutoTempest can work too, but it’s harder to stand out in the crowd.

I hope this overview of my sales strategy was beneficial and gives you confidence to get top dollar for your old family member. Good luck, and happy selling!

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