Why Most Used Cars Should Be Sold As-Is

By on December 25, 2016

 

Last Friday I sold a 15 year old Pontiac Grand Am for all of $2000. Yesterday I got a call back from the new owner.


New Owner: “My car won’t start.”

Me: Are any of the lights turning on?

New Owner: “No. The car is dead. Hey, are you going to pay for whatever’s wrong with this?”

Me: “No, I always sell older cars AS/IS. But I’ll be happy to help you out.”

(three minutes later)

Me: “You see that headlight switch that’s on the left hand side?”

New Owner: “Yep.”

Me: “Is it on?”

 

New Owner: “Uhhh… yeah. I think it is.”

Me: “Okay, switch it off. Jump start your car. Drive it for about 20 or 30 minutes. If you’re still having trouble, give me a call back.”

That was about 11:00 Saturday morning, and now, thankfully, twenty-four hours have flown by without a peep.

About two weeks earlier I had another much older guy call me about his driver side mirror not working on his Honda Prelude. I told him to find the little red button on the driver door panel and switch it from the passenger side to the driver side. He was thankful, and then he asked me if I could pay for one of his keys since it apparently didn’t open his trunk.

He didn’t understand what a valet key was. After I told him how they worked, he was fine.

I was a bit “Meh.” at this point though. This was a guy who, I not so fondly recalled, tried to buy a car by nickeling down every little thing he could find and opted for that me vs. you mentality that makes selling older used cars a true misery for far too many of us.

Questions like…

“Are you sure you can’t sell it for less?” (Didn’t I just offer you my bottom line price 10 seconds ago?)

“I found the same model on Craigslist for only $1300. Can you sell your $3500 car for anywhere close to that? (No, because I don’t own a junkyard and I don’t compete with curbstoners.)

And the number one question that comes up when it comes to selling older cars if you’re a dealer.

“Can you sell your car with any type of warranty?”

The answer is yes. I can sell it with whatever warranty comes from the manufacturer and I can offer a warranty through a third party. Just like Carmax and most other established used car dealerships furnish.

What I can’t do is offer you something for nothing. Especially when it comes to the average used car which is 11.5 years old according to R.L. Polk & Co., and likely has somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 miles.

 

Products with that level of age and use generally don’t get warranties. And they shouldn’t unless you are willing to pay for the premium that comes with providing it. In my experiences, nearly everyone is unwilling to pay that premium which is why most sellers opt to sell these cars AS/IS.

AS/IS is the ultimate finalizer of a deal unless you’re willing to pay a bit more.

 

As a seller, When those signatures are signed and you hand over the keys, car and a clean title to the new owner, you are done. No more. It’s out of your life, and something better can get into your life.

Does the buyer have rights? Yes. He has the right to pursue all the things that come with buying any big ticket item.

These rights can make or break many deals, which is is why I always let folks do three things when they buy from my dealership.

1) I always let the vehicle be independently inspected.

Any reputable dealer or seller should let a vehicle be inspected within reason.

You should always get this done, and I don’t care how much of an expert you think you are or how much you trust the seller.

 

I spend an inordinate amount of the last 15 years at the dealer auctions inspecting, appraising and liquidating vehicles. I have even liquidated over 10,000 vehicles a year for an auto finance company and… I still have every single vehicle go through a secondary inspection by an experienced mechanic before putting any of them on the front line.

Nobody’s perfect. So don’t be cheap. Get the car inspected by an expert. Sadly in my experiences, more than 90% of car buyers never bother to do this.

2) I always let people take a long test drive.

 

If you can’t drive a vehicle for twenty to thirty minutes and meticulously go through it, you’re setting yourself for failure. Many of the fatal issues, such as a bad transmission or a blown head gasket, don’t become evident until after the vehicle is driven for a while.

When you take the time to go through a vehicle, you are no longer just, “Buying with your eyes.” You are performing the basic due diligence that may save you from investing money into a bad car.

3) I always offer a Carfax history. But more importantly…

I take the time to interpret that history. This isn’t easy to do but again, the information is out there.

When you sell a car, you’re dealing with everyone from the hardcore enthusiast to the automotive oblivious.

The good ones are easy, and when I get the rare chance to sell one to a fellow enthusiast, I enjoy the hell out of it.

The bad ones are the real pain in your tailpipe. They will try to nickel you down even before seeing the car, lie to your face about problems that don’t exist, abuse your property, offer lowball prices with a cunning smile on their face, and then try to flag your Craigslist ad on the belief that a sudden mysterious drop in demand will cause your price to suddenly crater.

This type of me vs. you mindset drains a seller’s soul. What makes these people go away?

AS/IS.

If you want anything better than AS/IS when buying a used car, any used car, do your homework or pay for a warranty. The marketplace seldom helps those who can’t help themselves.

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