By on October 11, 2010

TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:

My query for Piston Slap is simple: What is the best way for an ordinary Joe to sell a car? And by “best” I mean, “returning the greatest amount of the car’s value for the least hassle.” You see, I am about to come into possession of my grandmother’s 2005 Buick Park Avenue–low miles, great shape, only driven on Sundays, etc. While the boat will be fun to pilot for a few weeks, I won’t be abandoning my beloved 2000 Impreza 2.5 RS for it. Sooner or later, the Buick will have to go. I am afraid that if it gets too close to my Scooby they will annihilate each other in a burst of exotic particles.

Sajeev Answers:

It’s not for everyone, but earning the highest purchase price for your Buick is the domain of Craigslist. Trade-ins aren’t gonna work, CarMax isn’t your friend. And what other popular classified publication on the Internet is…wait for it…absolutely free?

And a traditional GM front-wheel drive V6 sedan (Detroit state of the art in 1984) is the right car for many buyers. You can’t go wrong with a proven (if crude) powertrain that lives forever with proper upkeep, plus a decent amount of style from that somewhat-classic body and afterthought portholes. Yes, the interior is a far cry from yesteryear’s Buicks, but it still has a cool name. More to the point: it’s desirable to certain car nuts.

Late model low-riders: especially the neoclassic renaissance known as the Swanga. Some are customized in the sedate (sedate?) manner of a pre-war Packard, others go louder/prouder like a Talbot-Lago. No matter, the insane wire wheels, retro grilles and chrome accents are pure Americana, with a Houston Twist. And my goodness, Buicks seem to rule the roost.

I’m not a lover, and I’m not a hater. Quite frankly, a Swanga Buick is far more appealing than the bean counted stocker from whence it came. There’s something about going Neoclassic on a late model Buick (or a Chevy Monte Carlo) that just…works. You can’t pull this shit off in a Camry, son.

Your neighbor’s 16-year-old might bite, but don’t be surprised if you get more hits from the Swanga crowd. So ask about $10,000 for your Buick on craigslist. Post lots of pictures, host them remotely, list the vehicle’s good and bads as you see them. If it has a moonroof, clean interior and plenty of service records, I wouldn’t lower the price for months. Because areas that unconditionally love GM Sedans will find your car on craigslist.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

And you thought Buicks were only popular in China? That’s what makes America so awesome, we like everything. And even if we don’t all appreciate the same thing, believe this: no matter your socioeconomic background, our collective appreciation of that Federal Green brings us together. It helps us buy or sell damn near anything for good money.

Send your queries to [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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37 Comments on “Piston Slap: GM’s Secret (Swanga) Success...”

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t bother posting it for sale on a Buick forum, btw.  It seems like the forums are low-ball city when it comes to selling cars.  I sold my GTI locally for $15,500 and my classified ad on vwvortex was for $16000 with roof rack and winter wheels & tires.  I got offers for $12k and $13k.  I wasn’t going to let it go for less than what I wanted because I didn’t need to sell the car.  So, use that to your advantage.  Needing the sell the car means you’ll let it go for a lot less than you could if you just hold on until the right buyer shows up.  I talked to the new owner of my old GTI yesterday and he’s absolutely in love.  Everyone won.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto.  Seems like a lot of people troll the forums looking for a good deal.  These people have more time than money.  I’ve only ever got lowball offers on forums, but Craig’s list and Ebay (though haven’t tried cars there) do a lot better.  Being patient is the key.  I listed a set of bar stools on Craig’s list and the day I was about to relist them at a lower price a guy called and bought them.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The accessories make a successful swanga.

  • avatar

    In 2005, after a real-life crack whore ran a red and totaled his green SL1 with her Enterprise car, he needed a new car that was reliable. He found one: a graphite 2000 Camry XLE-V6 with less than 40,000 miles. This car still had new-car smell, and food had never been eaten in it. The backseat was never used. This was a old-lady car that was driven very infrequently, and the dealer wanted $12,000 for it. My brother found that price more than reasonable and bit, and the Camry is, not surprisingly, trouble-free and still going strong (though, obviously, bland). If this 5 year-old Buick is anywhere near as pristine as my bro’s Camry, $10,000 seems more than reasonable as well.

  • avatar

    Easiest way is to get a feature article written about the car here on TTAC (be sure to include your email address or phone number). Or, craigslist in St. Petersburg FL or Phoenix AZ.


  • avatar

    I would be happy to refer someone to you that is interested in such a nice Buick.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    The cheapest, easiest way to sell the Buick?

    Go to the busiest cross-road intersection near your home. Hopefully, it’s just a short walk. Park it close to the road in a nearby parking lot with a big For Sale sign on it (with mileage and your phone number). Since you’re probably now parked in someone’s business parking lot taking up space, go to said business, ask for the manager, and make sure it’s alright to leave it there during the day.

    After dark, take a stroll from your home and bring the Buick home. Don’t leave it there overnight for people to mess with.

    I’ve sold all my cars this way. No trade-ins. No internet ads. No trader pubs. No want ads. Just tick it out on the busy road. Sooner or later, its seat will find its ass.

    As for Craigslist for a Buick…let’s face it, the primary market to whom this car appeals has never heard of Craigslist. Or the internet. Or even computers.

    The secondary market for whom this car may appeal  (kids looking for their first set of wheels) knows all about Craigslist. However, they’re not going to download an ad for Grandma’s Buick, hit print, then run to Mom and Dad going, “I found it, I must have this one!”

    Just try my super cheap sales method for two weeks. Have your Edmunds and Blue Book appraisals of your car printed out, so you’re ready to haggle. You may find this method works for you as well as it does for me.

    • 0 avatar

      That is a great way to get the word out.  Check local ordinances first.  In some cases such “advertising” is illegal…or parking in business lots might be…despite them being closed for the weekend.  I’ve seen tickets on parked cars on Woodward, but it might be because they were left overnight.

    • 0 avatar

      “As for Craigslist for a Buick…let’s face it, the primary market to whom this car appeals has never heard of Craigslist. Or the internet. Or even computers.”

      You’d be shocked. Shocked.

      In any case, post some details (mileage, color, equipment – console/12-disc/Rainsense/etc) and how much you’ll really take for it. I may bite if the distance isn’t too great.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse


      I’m afraid my comment, in retrospect, is a bit ageist. Sorry.

      I use my mother (74 years old, college educated, retired teacher) too often as my reference. She has difficulty loading the VCR (DVD — now we’re talking rocket science), using the TV remote control, and changing the radio station on her car radio (she specifically wanted the Forester without the CD because that’s just too complicated) and using a cell phone (yeah, she’s got a Jitterbug).

      Computer? Forget it. Seriously. I’ve tried to get her to use simple email. Can’t get her brain around it at all. And can I please change the digital clock in her Subaru? It hasn’t been correct since the last Daylight Savings time change.

    • 0 avatar

      My buddy recently sold his mother’s raggedy-ass 2001 Buick Park Avenue for $1500 on craigslist in less than 3 days.  Granted this is Houston and we love them older Buicks, but still: people on craigslist do indeed buy Buicks.

    • 0 avatar

      @ everyone: Thanks a ton for the thoughtful posts, lots of good ideas here.
      @Flybrian: The car has about 15,600 on it. I can’t remember exactly but it is less than 16k. Options: I think it is bone stock, sadly. And this isn’t the Ultra. The color is off-white or cream… like Grandma’s cream chipped beef. Condition inside and out is great with the exception of one small dent on the rear beside the trunk. I think Grandma must have backed into something and there is a dimple about the size of my palm there. I’m going to see about getting that fixed before I sell it. I’m hoping it’ll go smoothly as it isn’t bad and the paint is fine there.

      How much would I take? BB is about $10k and that is where I would start if I was putting up a sign, but I might take $8750 if a TTAC Buick fan happens to be in the Seattle area.

  • avatar

    Due to the nefarious scoundrels infesting Craig’s List I would look at your locality.
    Any firms that charge a fair fee for doing the selling for you? Reliable firms in business for awhile or do it as a side-line along with selling used autos/trucks purchased for resale?
    Do your homework.
    Then there’s the park the critter in a well-lighted high-traffic area with the “for sale” sign upon it; preferably with a taped-upon-the-window factoid sheet  extolling the critter’s virtues.
    Perhaps a URL directing those interested to a Web site you toss together with pics and info.
    Many buyers lust after cleanliness. A thorough cleaning of interior/exterior/engine compartment/trunk could pay dividends.
    Records of past maintenance MAY be appealing to some buyers but over the years I have noticed that some buyers shrugged off that part of my presentation, seeming to be unconcerned.
    Follow all the various “rules” and precautions to avoid criminal activity.  A Web search will inform of threats and hazards of interacting with the human herd while selling a conveyance.
    A Web search will also reveal other sites with auto selling advice.
    Compare asking prices in your area for same/similar cars.  Think of reputable reasons your particular critter is worth more.
    Auto value guides
    Prices therein NOT “Biblical truths.”
    Watch for scams and criminals.  Not likely but always a possibility
    If Craig’s List used take extra care for scammers contacting you.
    It IS worth doing a Web search for more advice/opinions/etc.
    Good Luck!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    I truly wish you the best of luck. I am somewhat in a similar situation myself, but different. My grandparents are giving me a Mercury Mystique (newer V6, new trans) that’s been passed around the family since new, so I am trying to get rid of my HHR, so I can get rid of a car payment for a while. I have listed it on Craig’s, Auto Trader, and have it parked out front of where I work with a big sign on it (HIGH traffic area), and I have had a total of….ZERO inquiries on it. I can’t give the car away, despite the fact that I have it priced almost $2k under NADA, and $1k less than I owe on it. And it’s a nice, clean car too.
    So like I said, good luck, you’ll need it!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Up your price by 2K. Many people shy away from cars that are undervalued as they think there is something wrong with it. Re post you add on Craigslist at least weekly as the add quick disappears in the volume of adds that are posted daily – make sure you sell it – lots of photo’ highlight the good and the bad and be honest.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Ah Park Avenue.  When a Buick (although not RWD) was still a Buick damn it.  Thanks for expanding my car vocabulary Sajeev.  Now I know who I’ll be competing with depending on what direction I go in the used car market.

  • avatar

    Why not I’ve recently sold a car on there: For about $70 the ad runs until the car sells, you can put up lots of photos, and I got calls from all over the country. I love searching on there for dream cars….

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve sold four cars over the years through Autotrader, and was very happy with the experience.  With Autotrader you typically get people truly interested in the particular car, rather than the bizarre offers one gets from posting on car enthusiast forums.  Although nowadays, the scammers will immediately offer you impossible big dollars if you just deposit their check for way more than the car is selling for, ship it to them, and keep the supposed change.  You’ll also get stupid low ball offers.
      But if you price your car fairly, describe it honestly, take decent photos, Autotrader will come though and be worth the modest investment.

    • 0 avatar

      First testimonials I have had on Autotrader… Thanks guys!

  • avatar

    In my neck of the woods there’s a Costco where people park for-sale used cars along the street leading into the parking lot. Good venue for bargain hunters and/or people who just can’t buy too much stuff. Most military installations have a “lemon lot” with a large pool of car admirers/desirers with steady paychecks.

    One thing I’m always curious about:  how do you accept payment from the buyer? Accept a personal check? Drive with him to his bank to cash it? Insist on a cashier’s check?

    I had a prospective buyer give me a small check to hold the car over a weekend while he had a mechanic look at it. Big mistake–that guy decided not to buy, and in the meantime I had to turn away others.

    • 0 avatar

      Having sold a number of vehicles as well as working for a dealership for awhile, the most important thing is to make sure you actually get paid.  When taking payment, accept only cashiers checks, and then only give a bill of sale until the check has cleared your bank.  Only sign over this title when the funds of any kind clear your bank. As long as you hold the title, you still own the car.

      You don’t want to take cash because you could easily be robbed after the sale, and due to check fraud you cannot take a personal or business check.  Cashiers checks can be forged, and your bank may initially take the check but subsequently remove the funds from your account when the check proves to be fraudulent (the bank will probably not give you cash for a cashiers check).  Again, only sign over the title when the funds clear your bank.
      There is too much fraud out there not to be very careful, and once you sign over the title it is hell to undo a sale.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend suggested going to the buyer’s bank and being there while he had a cashier’s check made up. You’re in a secured area to do all the paperwork, and if you are there when the document is drawn up, you should be safe to split and deposit it once you have handed over the keys. Just have your own ride there, I guess.

  • avatar

    I’ll go ahead and rain on the Craigslist parade. I sold my 2003 Chevrolet S-10 earlier this year. I tried Craigslist first and got exactly zero serious offers and a ton of spam cluttering up my inbox. I even cheated a little by listing it in the Lexington, Louisville, and Eastern KY Craigslists simultaneously. Even with triple coverage I didn’t get any hits.  

    After trying to get something (i.e., a sale) for nothing for a little over a month I paid my $60 for a run- it- for- a- year ad with 9 color pictures and sold it to a lady in Florida in less than a week. I put the ad up on a Saturday, her husband called me about it on Tuesday, and they drove up to pick it up on Friday.

    My feeling after this experience is that Craigslist works best if you have a total piece of junk for sale, i.e. something in the $2000 and under range that most people could figure out how to pay cash for. If you’ve got something that’s worth over 5 figures, you probably want to go with Autotrader or  

  • avatar

    It’s a perfect situation for Horseflesh – there’s no urgent need to sell the car, and there’s many free venues to advertise. Even if the wait is several months it will definitely be worth waiting out the right offer.

    To be frank, it’s a decent car. The 3800 is virtually bullet proof, and even if the interior standards aren’t as posh as a 1986 model, it’s still upscale and a good ride.

    I wonder, however, if it’s an Ultra, with the turbocharger? That may limit the market.

  • avatar

    Many months ago I had the same problem trying to help my sister sell her 03 Q 45 with 10,000 miles. ( remember Sajeev ) It was priced very resonable and yet people wanted to haggle. She raised the price $1000 to allow for the haggle. She sold it to a fellow next door for full price ,no haggle. There is always a buyer for a low milage clean car. Three months earlier this nieghbor was not interested but when his son got his drivers license they needed another car. Dad drives the Q45.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    My most satisfying car sales have been when I’ve sold my well cared for car to a friend when I decided to get a new car. I’ve done this a few times, and every time everyone went away happy. I generally buy my cars new, maintain them obsessively and then send them on to the next person in ready-to-drive-cross-country condition (once a buddy actually did just that!). In those transactions I set my selling price right about at the average private car sales price for the vehicle by looking at both Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.
    So, my first recommendation is to put the word out to your network of family and friends about what you have and what you believe is a fair price for it. Obviously this is only a good plan if the vehicle you are selling is indeed a great vehicle in great condition.
    For example, when we decided to dump our GM minivan I most certainly did not offer it to anyone I knew, even though it was completely up to date on maintenance and repairs, had fresh tires, etc.. I traded it in at a dealership in hopes of putting as much distance between myself and whoever got the thing next as possible. Those GM minivans did not age well at all.

  • avatar

    Ah, swanga. At last I can put a word to that most tasteless of automotive affectations. Although mostly, I just hate the wire wheels.

    Putting a sign on the car can be the most effective way to sell it, as others have suggested; I sold my ’97 QX4 that way, as did my mom with her ’02 Sienna. IIRC, both cars were sold within 2 weeks.

  • avatar

    You don’t say how long you plan to keep the car or the proposed price range.  If you don’t plan to keep it that long, I would invest in a couple of “For Sale” signs that you can keep in the rear side windows.  Run some fact sheets with a photo through your printer and keep a sheaf of them in the back seat.  Make sure that your asking price, number of miles and a cell phone number are easily seen.

    One idea I have not seen yet is the newspaper classified ad.  I stopped running these quite some time ago, but my typical sale is the under $2k demographic.  If you are targeting the over 60 set who may be looking for a nice late model car, these are the folks who still read the paper.

    One word of warning:  spend some time in this car and you may wind up selling the Subie!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m keeping the car until I find the time to sell it but there is no strict timeline. I have parking for it, insurance isn’t that much, and I like driving it once in a while so there is no rush. Price? I’d probably go 10% under BB but if I don’t run into a motivated buyer by chance, my for-sale signs will start higher than that and we’ll see what happens.
      > One word of warning:  spend some time in this car and you may wind up selling the Subie!
      Well, it’s a fine freeway cruiser. If I have to go more than 20 miles in a straight line, it’s a good choice. But for daily driving? My agile, aged Subaru remains my first choice, especially when weather is bad.

  • avatar

    I’ve had quite good luck through Autotrader in the past.  I usually buy the middle-priced package and I’ve never had to renew my ad listing time (an additional cost with one renewal putting you over the “run for life” price I believe). 

    My first experience with Autotrader was in selling my ’98 Z28.  One of the listed benefits of buying the middle priced package was free listing in the Autotrader print periodical.  I was shocked that that thing was still printed but in buying the middle package mainly for the extended run time and extra pictures it was a free bonus.  A few weeks later I got a call from a guy from the Pocono area (I was living just north of Philly at the time) who was extremely interested in purchasing the vehicle.  Before I got off the phone with him his last question was “What color is the car?”.  It didn’t strike me until after I hung up that the old fashion, black-and-white, at-your-corner-store Autotrader magazine was where he found the listing!  He showed up with my asking price in cash the next day.  You just never know sometimes!

  • avatar

    In the last few years has become a huge hit here. Free, easy to navigate, decent pics quantity and quality…
    I do shop for cars pretty often and now use only kijiji. Other “trad” sources like trader or local newspaper classifieds with their 60CAD per ad rate just do not worth any attention any more.

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