Piston Slap: Q'ed up for a Profitable Sale?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Virgil writes:

What has been your experience selling a car privately? My recently widowed sister in California has a 2003 Infiniti Q45 with 10,000 miles. Yes, ten thousand. But I live 2000 miles away. An ad in the paper or Craigslist would certainly bring riff-raff to the door. A simple test drive could turn into a missing car. The dealer offered about half of market value, a private sale could make both parties happy.

Sajeev replies:

The Mehta clan dumped several cars for trade when a manufacturer offered us disgusting incentives to buy/lease another company vehicle. Not proud of those moments, but that’s how easy credit and the lure of New Car Smell works. Now that credit is tight and lease rates generally suck, I’m a big fan of private party selling.

I’ve had good luck (twice) with Craigslist. Both sold in less than 24 hours to people who reaffirmed my faith in humanity. They sold for their (reasonable) asking price. And these were $15,000+ late model cars, much like your sister’s Q45. The keys to my successes are:

♦ A detailed write-up on the vehicle’s good and bad aspects, recent service history and corresponding receipts.

♦ Spending an afternoon cleaning/detailing everything, including dust on the engine and spots on the floor mats.

♦ Putting ALL CAPS, bold face proclamations in the ad stating that I am not a dealership. You have cash/cashiers check or we don’t talk.

♦ Taking hi-res pictures inside and out.

And don’t bring riff-raff to the door: meet prospects in a very public parking lot, like a high end shopping mall, at high noon. If you have full coverage insurance, let them (potentially) steal the car: it is worth the risk to find the right buyer and put them at ease, too. And your (recently detailed) ride no longer has any valuables or identity theft threats, aside from the license plates.

But I get it: a single woman (with more important things on her mind) won’t share my enthusiasm for private party selling. That’s what brothers are for: help her write the ad, find a place for car detailing and see her comfort level with meeting strangers in a somewhat safe place. Maybe go for a visit and throw the ad up there: you have nothing to lose other than your frequent flyer miles. And thousands of dollars at a stealership, of course.

Best of luck to her, whatever route you both choose.

[Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com]

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Sep 12, 2009

    Two other tips: One, have the car FULL of fuel. Makes the buyer feel like he is getting a bit extra. Another good reason to do this is if you have a check engine light that occasionally comes on due to a minor leak in the evaporative control system (present on all cars from '96 on) the evap test does not run if the ECM knows the tank is mostly full. The second is have an oil change reminder on the window with about 1000 miles "used up". This makes the buyer feel that you have been diligent with the changes. I was always suspicious when I checked out a used car with brand new oil and fresh sparkplugs (yes, I pull at least one. A plug is the ultimate truth serum for an engine)

  • Enicideme Enicideme on Sep 12, 2009

    I second the Carmax. They usually are very reasonable on their offers, quick, and professional. Think about how much time you'll spend writing an ad, answering calls, waiting around for people, going on test drives, maybe getting carjacked, hoping you have a real check, etc etc. Then decide if its TRULY worth your time.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
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