By on September 3, 2012

Editor’s note:  There is a review of this model back  from the Farago days. We have an awful lots of old reviews. So feel free to read up on them.


Hello again, Steven,

You may recall our email last March regarding our 1992 Lexus SC300 5-Speed. Thanks for the reply; guess the timing was bad for you with tax time coming up. As you may recall, the car is all original, black with gray interior, looks and runs great, and has slightly less than 25K miles. Here’s the backstory:

In 1994 my wife Jane went back to college and decided our Avanti II air conditioning was not cool for mid-day use in Tucson. We sold the Avanti and bought her dream, a 1992 SC300 5-speed, VIN JT8JZ31C1N0004164, Black with Gray interior, only 10,700 miles. We purchased the car in May 1994 from a detailer who had bought it at auction after the original owner drove it partway into a Phoenix, Arizona, flash flood. (The water reached the floor under the rear seat and partway up the engine, but never into it.) The detailer dried everything out and we have never had a bit of trouble with electrics or mechanical. The car was given a ‘restored/salvage’ title in Arizona which carried to a California ‘salvage’ title when we moved here in 1997.

Jane commuted to Jr. College for a year, and we used the car for pleasure through 1995. But from 1997 on it has been garaged with a cover and seldom driven, so it now has only 24,850 actual miles. This car is all original (including CD changer and phone), smells and looks new (even the light covers sparkle!). It has a few dings and scratches (see photos) but runs great (just passed CA Smog Test with flying colors in January).

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to riding in a taller (read SUV) vehicle and think its time to give the baby a good home. From your columns I see you are an auction buyer and dealer, so I hope you can give me good advice on how best to market this rarity. I’m also looking for advice from Lexus Club forums, but much of their emphasis is on highly modified SCs in the “drifting” game.

Steve Says:

Back in the 1990’s this would have been my ideal road car.

Gas was cheap. The interior on the SC was simple and luxurious, and the overall quality of the first generation models were two ticks above anything else in that price range (click for a review here). I had to commute through three different states in my auction travels, and this would have fit me better than OJ’s glove.

But now it’s time to sell, and here’s how to do it.

1) Clean.

You want your used car to look as new as humanly possible.

Leave no stains or personal items, and condition the leather a bit. A lot of folks pay short shrift to the interior carpet and the trunk. Pay special attention to those areas because the pictures of these areas online play a more prominent role in the perception of condition than most sellers realize.

2) Sell… but tell a story.

People want to know the history of a vehicle. Mainly because they prefer to buy from owners who have taken care of their future ride.

When it comes to salvage titled vehicles, a story is truly worth at least a few hundred words. Tell the story of your car and perhaps put in a Carfax history to show that the vehicle has been spared of accidents since that unfortunate flood of 18 years ago.

3) Aim for multiple mediums

Sometimes your best buyer will come from Ebay. Other times it is or Craigslist. I would put the vehicle on all three outlets with the other two displaying what you would consider a fair price.

On Ebay, I would sell it with NO RESERVE NR in the heading and offer 24 nice pictures with varying angles and close-ups. Those auctions sell for more money and are usually a fair arbiter of the vehicle’s worth. But make sure to take the non-Ebay listings down if the Ebay bid price exceeds it. Or you can simply adjust the asking price on Craigslist and Autotrader accordingly.

4) Keep the transaction time short, and get everything signed.

If you sell it on Ebay, make sure your payment terms are mentioned in the description. I usually ask for 10% of the funds to be wired or sent next day mail within 72 hours. Also offer a two week time frame in addition to the three days worth for the deposit so that the buyer can fly into your city on a reasonable air fare.

If the Lexus sells on Craigslist or Autotrader, congratulations! They can meet you at a nearby bank, pay you the cash, and you can give them the title and the keys.

I prefer having video cameras for the financial transactions because you never know if someone is going to try to be a bit screwy with you. Banks will offer this security and an employee may even oversee the transaction as well. I’ve had bank employees verify certified checks… and even disqualify one a few years back. The bank can also verify with a special marker the nature of the bills you receive as well.  I’ve never experienced a problem with cash payments. But I still encourage you to cover your bases.

Also, always make sure they sign off on the back of the title as the buyer before leaving with the car. Curbstoners have a nasty habit of selling cars with open titles and you don’t want someone out there pretending to be you. The contract should be a simple one like this, that mentions the vehicle is sold AS/IS.

Good luck!


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8 Comments on “Hammer Time: Sell! Sell! Sell!...”

  • avatar

    I guess some sort of auction is the best idea. Selling it on a venue like Craigslist seems impossible, as there is no mention of a selling price. Selling cars without a price on Craigslist rarely works.

    It all hinges on whether or not you believe the seller’s story. People have been known to lie when selling a car, especially with a branded title.

    If the story is true, the car is a steal at 3 grand, at 10 grand it will sit for a while. I guess the sweet spot is somewhere in between.

    I would start by joining a Lexus enthusiast forum. If there’s a market for this car, that would be the place to find its value (and maybe sell it!)

  • avatar

    A no reserve eBay auction with a required instant PayPal deposit is the only way to go with this one. With a branded title your options are pretty slim-although if there is such a thing as a SC enthusiasts forum then you may get some interest there as well. GLWS.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Your mention of curbstoners piqued my interest. I tangled with what I now realize was one when I was looking for my truck. He had the open title and flipped a couple of vehicles in the same spot until I started stopping whenever I saw him with a sucker and warned them. He always had an open title and claimed he had just bought the vehicle but changed his mind before titling it. He disappeared after the second time I broke up one of his transactions with “let me guess.., he has a title that’s already signed with a blank buyer name and claims he just bought the car and changed his mind…”

    Would be interested in an article fom you on this practice. Would be a nice public service that we could refer friends who are about to get taken to.

    • 0 avatar

      For real, though– it’s not that hard to combat. Just don’t call about any 1983 Volvo 245s with pictures taken while it’s curbed on a fancy street. Also– 1980s-1990s MBs, BMWs– or anything else that doesn’t belong in front of a $400,000 home.

      If it is not parked in the driveway– front toward the garage door– I just laugh and ask myself if they’re serious.

      Any of these ads wherever they write a paragraph for each photo are also suspect.

  • avatar

    SC300 with the 5-speed is pretty interesting. Mr. Lang, where in CA is the OP located and has he mentioned a price range?

  • avatar

    Would someone be so kind as to explain what an “open title” is and what the issue is ? In my part of Canada, we don’t have ‘titles’, just a registration card.
    I have bought a vehicle from the USA, and was impressed by this title business – it was such an official looking document. Way more impressive than our little piece of cardboard.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      I think it means the seller has signed it but the buyer has not. So it’s sort of like a blank check, anyone who gets their hands on it can put their name on it as the buyer.

      Legally the buyer and seller are supposed to sign simultaneously.

    • 0 avatar

      It is whenever someone purchases an automobile and has the seller sign the title and leave everything else blank. The buyer is then not registered as an owner and doesn’t have to pay for fees/taxes/insurance– they can then potentially make more than Mr. Lang on the same car.

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