Lessons Learned From Selling Two Used Cars

by Chris Bjorklund

For reasons I won’t go into here, my husband and I recently found ourselves in possession and taking care of five automobiles. For a while, my nickname in the family was “Fleet Manager.” One of the vehicles was sent to the East Coast by transport to our son, but that still left us with two extra used cars. We decided it was time to sell my 2015 Honda Fit and my husband’s beloved ’69 Volkswagen Beetle. (He was the original owner!)

It had been many years since I sold a car to anyone but a friend or relative. Where would I advertise it? How would I arrange for test drives during the pandemic? What’s the fair market value and how do I find that out? Here’s what I learned over the past few months.

First, I determined each car’s value using sources like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, craigslist, CarMax, eBay and Facebook Marketplace. You can get a pretty good idea of what a particular model sells for, depending on its condition and mileage.

Second, our mechanics evaluated both cars so we could give an honest, up-to-date assessment of their condition in the ads. For my Honda, I had them replace a belt and the windshield wiper blades, and I disclosed that new tires were needed. For the ’69 Beetle, I had them repair a pedal, steam clean the engine and perform a tune-up. I kept the invoices for the work to share with the future owners along with all the maintenance records.

Third, I considered all the ways to advertise the cars and tried many of them, ranging from a sign on the parked car’s windshield to listing with an auto broker to posting on Nextdoor in two different counties. Nowadays, there are many low-cost ways to market a used car, and I’ve listed some of them above. If our cars hadn’t sold as quickly as they did, I would have tried one of the big consignment operations where you pay a monthly fee to keep the car on their lot.

The final lesson is that the car-selling process requires lots of time and patience. At first, I was discouraged when I had bites from people who didn’t follow up or cancelled test drives at the last minute. One woman simply didn’t like my car after she tried it. But in the end, our patience paid off. My car sold in about three weeks for a little less than my asking price, and my husband’s Beetle sold for more than he expected through a broker. It was scooped up in less than a week!

There are a few last-minute housekeeping details that you don’t want to forget. Make sure you send the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (the top of the pink slip) to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Also, remove your sold vehicle from your insurance policy and FasTrak account.