10 Mar 2018, 00:00

Selling a motor vehicle online

I recently sold a motorcycle via online classifieds. It was a learning experience - more accurately a re-learning experience. I’ve sold motor vehicles privately before and encountered many of the same things - it’s just that I do it so infrequently that I forget the tricks and the traps!

What follows are some thoughts and advice to my future self, when next time I go to sell a motor vehicle:

  • figure out what a fair price is in the current market. It doesn’t matter what you paid for it. Sentimental value counts for nothing. All that matters is what are people willing to pay for it today, and that will largely be based on what other vehicles of same spec are going for in your area. This can change from month to month (and even go up!), so it’s important to keep an eye on things and adjust accordingly.
  • negotiating on price is a given: most buyers will ask for a discount, so factor that into your listing price
  • set your lowest price from the beginning and stick to it. It’s OK to adjust it, just not when you’ve got a buyer pressuring you!
  • never disclose your lowest price! Almost every second enquiry asked me outright: “what’s your lowest price?". There are a few approaches to this question:
  • say something like ‘all reasonable offers will be considered’ - throw the ball back in their court
  • say that you’re happy to negotiate but only in person, and suggest they come and inspect the item. I mean, how serious can they really be if their making out like they’d buy it without looking at it in person!?
  • give them a token discount, and say “I’d be happy to take $X” - something well above your lowest price
  • be patient. You’ll likely get a few vultures sweep in early offering a low bid. Hold out and you will be rewarded
  • there are better times of year to sell than others. The warmer months are better times to sell a motorcycle. Also, avoid busy holiday periods e.g. Christmas/New Years
  • commercial buyers (car yards etc) should be a last resort - they will only ever offer you well below a fair market price
  • your time is precious; don’t waste it on people who are ‘tire kickers’:
  • don’t negotiate price via text message. Tell people that you’re willing to negotiate but via phone or in person only. That will weed out 90% of the time wasters
  • Be polite but firm. There’s nothing to be gained by being rude or getting angry with people.

A real life example of a problem buyer:

Him: “hey, can you deliver to [town name]?” (place 2hrs away from where I live!)
Me: “No, sorry"
Him: “ok, what’s your bottom price seeing as you won’t deliver"
Me: “I’d be happy with $X” (my listed price minus a bit, nowhere near the bottom)
Him: (proceeds to ask 100 questions about the bike)
Me: (answer politely)
Him: “hey, I don’t have a ramp to load the bike. Do you?“
Me: “sure no problem"
Him: “OK, I’ll offer you $Y…” (lower, but still reasonable) “including the ramp"
Me: “I can do $XY…” (half way between X and Y.) “including the ramp"
Him: “I’m offering $Y. You sure you still want $XY?” (LOL!)
[…time passes…]
Him: “I’m in another state (News to me! Turns out the place he mentioned earlier was just the half way point.) which means the registration is worthless to me. I’m offering $Z (silly low ball) and that’s my final offer"
Me: (sigh) “The price is $XY minus the registration component, take it or leave it"