Monthly Archives: August 2016

Price To Sell Your Used Car

Setting the right price for a used car is almost an art — a blend of research and intuition. Set the right price and you will quickly get the full value of your car. Set it the wrong way and you’ll wait weeks for a call or e-mail from a buyer.

Your goal is to list your car at a competitive price, but one that’s on the high end of the price range. This allows you room to negotiate and still wind up with a good chunk of change. So decide where you want to close the deal and work backward from there.

Say you want to sell your car for $5,000. You should list it at about $5,750. With more expensive cars, you need to leave more room, so to get $15,000, you should list the car at $16,500.

There are plenty of tools and resources for finding the sweet spot for pricing your used car. Here’s a step-by-step guide to this important process.

1. Consider the market. Is your car in demand? Can you ask for top dollar? Is this the right time to sell it? Here are a few general rules to help you answer these questions.

  • Family sedans, while boring to many car enthusiasts, are in constant demand by people who need basic, inexpensive transportation.
  • Getting a good price for a convertible or sports car depends on the season in which you sell it. Sunny, summerlike weather brings out the buyers. If you sell in the fall and winter, prepare for the process to take longer.
  • Trucks and vans, which people often use for work, sell quickly and command competitive prices. Don’t underestimate their value.
  • Collector cars take longer to sell and are tricky to price. However, these cars can bring good sale prices — if you find the right buyer.

Take into account any other market conditions that might have an impact on your car. For example, if your car gets good fuel economy and gas prices are high, you will be able to ask more for it than when gas is cheap. Similarly, selling a supersize SUV for top dollar is going to be tough if gas prices are sky high.

2. Check the Pricing Guides. Use Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) pricing to determine the fair value of your car. TMV prices are adjusted for mileage, color, options, condition and even region of the country. Keep in mind that TMV is a transaction price — not an asking price. It’s where you want to wind upafter negotiations. And don’t forget to take a look at other pricing guides for comparison sake.

3. Survey your competition. Review classified ads on such Web sites as Auto Trader, Craigslist and eBay Motors to see the asking prices for other cars like yours. Most sites offer advanced searches to find close matches to your vehicle. But keep in mind that these are asking prices, not selling prices, and might just be wishful thinking by the seller. Compare the cars’ condition, mileage, geographic location and asking price to your vehicle to guide you in setting the right price.

4. Price your car competitively. As mentioned earlier, be sure to leave wiggle room for negotiations. Ask for slightly more money than you expect. If you get your asking price, that’s great. But if you have to go lower, it won’t be a terrible loss.

Also consider the psychological aspects of car pricing by staying just below benchmark numbers such as $10,000 (price it at $9,900) or $20,000 (price it at $19,900). Car dealers take this philosophy to an extreme by listing everything on their lots with a price that ends in “999” ($12,999, for example; apparently, we shoppers are not supposed to notice that the car basically costs $13,000). Still, this tactic demonstrates the psychology of setting prices. A product that doesn’t sell well at $20 might jump off the shelf at $19.95.

As a private-party seller, however, you don’t want to look like a car dealer. Therefore, you might want to take a simplified approach and set your price at round figures such as $12,750 or $12,500.

5. Tap your intuition. Once you have considered all the hard data, it’s time to consult your intuition. Perhaps you have a hunch that your car is desirable, or that the time is right for you to ask a certain price. As you do this gut check, remember that it’s always a good idea to err on the side of a higher asking price. If necessary, you can lower the price until you get callers. On the other hand, if you err on the low side, you’ll sell it quickly but won’t get the car’s full value.

Car for Sale Tips

download-59Many people who have browsed online private-party listings for used cars have run into this. A car catches your attention. You click on the link to see more photos, but there is only one image, with the car not fully in the frame. Or worse, there are a number of photos, but they are blurry and were taken at night with a low-quality cell phone camera.

Poor photos make your car less appealing to a buyer, prolong the selling process and lead to customers who aren’t exactly sure what they’re getting. You don’t have to be an expert photographer to create an effective used-car listing. You just need to know what to focus on and when to take the picture. The following tips will show you how to photograph your car, which creates a better used car listing and in turn sells your car much more quickly.

There are two important points we need to make before you even start. First, wash the car. Make sure it’s nice and clean, and the wheels and tires are shiny. And second, roll up the windows. It gives the car a smooth, solid look.

Use the Right Camera
These days, the most convenient option is to pull a smartphone out of your pocket and use it to take photos of your car. And if you’ve purchased a smartphone in the last few years, it should suffice. But we all know someone who has held onto a phone for way too long. Grainy photos shot on an iPhone 3G or old Blackberry aren’t going to cut it. Instead, use a point-and-shoot digital camera, even if it is a few years old. The image will be superior to any taken on an old cell phone.

The Golden Hour
Where and when you take your photos can make all the difference in your shots. Don’t go out on your lunch break and snap photos of the car in a parking lot. The light is too harsh at midday and your photos will look washed out. Similarly, don’t take photos at night, because a camera’s flash is a poor substitute for the sun.

In photography, the “golden hour” is when the sun rises and when it is about to set. Photos taken at this time are less likely to be overexposed, and the light has a warm look that enhances the colors in the photo. TheGolden Hour Calculator can help you determine the perfect time in your area. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to take photos during the golden hour, your best bet is between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Cloudy mornings work well, too.

The location of your photo shoot can also help the car stand out among the crowded online listings. Try to find an isolated location or parking lot. This allows your car to be the focal point in the photos. The Edmunds offices are a few miles from the beach, so we often use it as a location. If you are landlocked, a nearby park is a good choice. In a pinch an empty parking lot will suffice.

Quantity and Variety
The more photos your listing has, the more likely it is that your car will sell. If the online listing is free, upload the maximum number of photos the site allows. With sites that charge for listings, it’s worth the extra cost to have more photos in the ad. You don’t have to spring for the top package, either. Something that gives you about 10 photos should be sufficient.

Take photos of the car at eye level. There’s no need to get creative with fancy high and low angles. Start out in front of the car and make your way around it, snapping a photo from every angle. You may not use them all in the ad, but you can sort that out later.

Make sure you get the basic car-selling angles covered. This includes the front, back, side profile and wheels. Turn the wheels left slightly so that you can take a photo of the tire tread. Finally, open up the hood and take a photo of the engine.

Close a Used Car Sale

Whether you’ve just sold your used car or bought a used car, you need to make sure to file all the paperwork and close the deal properly. While the laws governing the sale of motor vehicles vary from state to state, the general outline of the deal is similar. For the specific steps, make sure you check with the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in your state.

As a seller, you will need to make sure you receive the proper payment for your car and limit your liability (in case the new owner crashes the car right after driving away in it). Below, we take a look at the sales transaction from both sides: the seller and the buyer.

As a buyer, you will have to prove you are the new legal owner of the car in order to register it. In most cases, this means you will have to get the title (often called the “pink slip”) from the seller or possibly a bill of sale. With title in hand, go to your state’s motor vehicle registry, where you may be required to pay sales tax before you receive the new registration, title and (in some states) new license plates.

When You Sell Your Car

Getting Payment
Cold, hard cash is the easiest way to collect payment for a used car. The buyer might request a receipt for the cash. If you provide a bill of sale, this will serve as a receipt. When cars are sold for amounts above about $2,000, a cashier’s check is recommended. When cars are being sold remotely, an escrow service can be used to facilitate the transaction. The escrow service essentially verifies that the funds are paid and transfers them from the buyer to the seller.

It’s unwise to accept promise of future payment from a buyer even if it is someone you know. If the car is wrecked, the motivation to pay you back is greatly reduced. You are well within your rights to refuse to float loan payments and in most cases, the buyer will understand and quietly back down.

Limiting Your Liability
What if someone drives away in the car you just sold and gets into an accident? Can you be held responsible? There are two ways to deal with this concern. First: Record the odometer reading and sign the car’s title over to the buyer. Second: In most states, a release-of-liability form can be downloaded from the registry of motor vehicles website. For links to the different registry sites, see “What Fees Should You Pay?”

Managing Complications
What if the buyer calls the next day and says he doesn’t like the car and wants you to take it back? Or what if the buyer claims that you didn’t reveal something about the car or that he’s discovered a mechanical problem?

Both buyer and seller should keep in mind that most states assume a used car is being sold “as is.” That means there are no promises or guarantees after the sale is concluded. If you are a buyer, it’s imperative that you thoroughly inspect the car before purchase. Sellers can head off trouble by encouraging buyers to do this.

Car Seller’s Checklist

  • Have a smog test performed (if required in your state).
  • Fill out a release-of-liability form, including current mileage, and file it with the registry of motor vehicles.
  • Provide maintenance records (if available) to the new owner.
  • Receive payment either in cash, a cashier’s check or through an escrow service.
  • Take the license plates off the car (if required by your state).
  • Remove personal items from the glove compartment and other storage areas. Check the CD player for forgotten discs.
  • Hand over both sets of keys to the new owner, along with any warranty papers for the car, the battery, tires, etc.
  • Cancel insurance for the car.

When You Buy a Used Car
If you buy a used car from a dealership, the dealer will handle all the paperwork and register the car for you. In private-party sales, the seller and buyer handle the paperwork themselves. While there are many small steps to closing a used car sale, the big picture is this: You as the buyer need to obtain proof that you legally purchased the car and get a statement of what you paid for it.

Where To Finalize the Transaction
Most people successfully buy a used car at the seller’s home or office. However, since you will be handling payment for the car, a bank’s lobby makes a nice neutral meeting place. Often, you can also ask bank workers to make photocopies of the documents if necessary.

If There Is a Lien on the Car
In some cases, the car you are buying might have a lien on it. That means the bank or lender is in possession of the title. Banks often handle this kind of used-vehicle sale, so check with the bank to learn exactly how to proceed. Essentially, the seller will need to make sure that the balance of the loan is paid off before the car is transferred to you as the buyer. This might take some time and delay the sale.

One way to deal with this situation is to conclude the sale at the bank that holds the title. The seller can call ahead and ask the bank to have the title ready. Then, once money has changed hands and the bank has been paid the balance of the loan, the seller can sign the title over to you.

Beware of Fraud
Buyers need to be particularly cautious when buying a car sight unseen from an online auction. That process is more complicated and you could be the target of scammers.

Used Car Buyer’s Checklist

  • Get a smog test from the seller (if required by your state).
  • Make sure that the registration is current or you could be held responsible for late fees.
  • Ask the seller to sign the title (also called the “pink slip”) and record all the information, such as odometer readings, properly. (In some states you might need a transfer-of-ownership document, which is attached to the title.)
  • Have the seller fill out a bill of sale if required in your state. You can show this to the police if you are stopped right after the sale.
  • Pay state sales tax when the car is registered.
  • Activate or update your insurance policy.

Do you have problem with your car

Whether you are selling, trading in or just plain curious about what your car is worth, it is important to know how to get an accurate appraisal. Edmunds.com is here to help.

Where to Go
You can find the Edmunds used-car appraisal tool in three places: the “wired” or traditional Web site, our mobile site and our app for smartphones and tablets. The order of the appraisal steps is a little different for each, but the same information will apply.

Web Site: From your desktop or laptop, mouse over the “Used Cars” tab at the top of any page on Edmunds.com. When the tab expands, click “Appraise My Car.” You can also access “Appraise My Car” here. (Bookmark it for the next visit.)

If you’re getting the value of a vehicle that’s older than 2001, use the traditional Web site. As of this writing, our mobile data doesn’t go back any further than the 2001 model year.

Edmunds.com Mobile Site: If you visit Edmunds.com from a smartphone or tablet, you’ll most likely see the site’s mobile version. Scroll down and touch the “Used” tab. The “Appraise a Used Car” link is a bit farther down the page.

Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad App: On the Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad applications, start out by choosing the year, make and model of the car you want to look at. Next, touch the “Pricing” button. (On the iPad app, look for the “Options & Packages” tab.)

Edmunds.com Android App: The Edmunds app for Android devices is currently being overhauled. When the major update goes live, its functionality will be very similar to what you see on the iPhone and iPad.

Edmunds.com Live Help: If you have any questions about getting an accurate value for your car, please reach out to the Edmunds.com Live Help team for free assistance. Team members understand the process completely and will be happy to give you a hand.

Style and Options
Once you’ve entered the year, make and model of your car, you will need to supply some more specific information about it for an accurate appraisal. In this next step, you’ll select the style, also called the trim level. The style can refer to the type of engine, standard features, or whether it has four doors. Here’s a refresher on trim levels.

Major features, such as the car’s transmission, engine type and whether it has all-wheel drive, can have a big impact on the value of the car. The same goes for options like leather seats, navigation, a sunroof or automatic climate control. If you can remember your car’s options off the top of your head, great. If not, here are some suggestions on where to get the information you need.

The vehicle’s original window sticker is the best place to find option information. Unfortunately, few people actually hang onto the sticker. Without it, your best bet is to sit in your car and make a note of its options. If you’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop (assuming you’re within WiFi range), you can complete the options check from the driver seat. Otherwise, print out the options page from the Edmunds.com Web site and check off the items as you sit in your car, and then enter the information online. It is crucial to get the style and options right. Without them, you may be under- or over-valuing your car.

Condition Levels
The Edmunds car appraisal tool has five condition levels: outstanding, clean, average, rough and damaged. Most people who use the tool will likely be dealing with just three: clean, average and rough.

You might be tempted to choose outstanding, the top condition level. After all, you’ve pampered your car the entire time you’ve owned it, right? But the truth is that few cars qualify for this rating.

Outstanding condition is reserved for older, low-mileage vehicles, where well-preserved examples are otherwise hard to find, says Richard Arca, senior manager of pricing for Edmunds.com.

“A good example would be a 1996 Chevy Impala SS with 70,000 original miles that has been garaged and still has the gloss on the paint,” Arca says.

Pays To Know Used Car Milestones

Just like Sweet 16 or the Big 4-Oh, a used car has significant turning points in its lifetime. In the case of a used car, these aren’t birthdays but instead mileage milestones, and they can affect the car’s value. If you’re planning to sell or trade in your car soon, keep your eye on the odometer and sell before hitting these significant mileage points. If you’re buying a used car, you should also know about these milestones and understand that extensive maintenance may soon be due — or should have been done already.

While the mileage always affects the price of a used car, and is factored into the Edmunds.com True Market Value (TMV®) appraisal tool, three mileage markers have a greater impact on a used car’s price. Here’s the breakdown.

First Turning Point: 30,000-40,000 Miles
Most cars come with a bumper-to-bumper factory warranty that expires at either 36,000 miles or three years, whichever comes first. This is the point at which many cars are returned to the dealer from the first “owner,” meaning the person who leased the car.

In addition, a car’s first major service visit usually comes in the range of 30,000-40,000 miles. This is when the carmaker calls for more than just an oil change and tire rotation, and it’s not uncommon for this major service to cost more than $350. In addition, certain “wear items” may soon need service. Wear items are things such as brakes and tires that are expected to wear out, as opposed to things that break and need to be repaired.

With this in mind, anyone getting ready to sell a car would want to put it up for sale a few thousand miles before the 36,000-mile mark or before the major service visit. Anyone shopping for used cars in this range should check that the required maintenance has been done. A savvy buyer could use the fact that the service hasn’t been done yet as a bargaining chip to make a lower opening offer.

To find out more about the major service visits for different cars, check the Edmunds.com Maintenance Guide.

Second Turning Point: 60,000-70,000 Miles
The second major service visit is sometimes even more expensive than the first. This is particularly true of cars that have timing belts, which coordinate the turning of the pistons and the camshaft. If this belt is not changed, it will eventually snap and could cause engine damage. This service item alone costs at least $300.

By the time a car has 60,000 miles it will almost certainly need tires and brakes, although more modern cars are going farther with less maintenance. Still, a seller can save money by selling or trading in a car well before this work is required. Edmunds’ article, “Fix Up or Trade Up,” can help guide the decision.

A buyer shopping for a good used car should look up the major service visits for the specific make and model and make sure the work has been done on the car under consideration. Also, buyers should check tires and brakes and use the information on their condition when negotiating the price.

Third Turning Point: 100,000 Miles
Twenty years ago, if a car had 100,000 miles on it, it was likely to be running on borrowed time. But cars are becoming more reliable and long-lived, so today’s 100,000-mile car is likely still in its prime. Perceptions haven’t kept pace with engineering, however, and at the 100,000-mile mark, there is a significant drop in a car’s value. For example, CarMax, the used-car store, will buy cars with 100,000 miles on them, but it won’t resell them to consumers. It will send them to used-car auctions, where other dealers might buy them at deeply discounted prices.

With this information in mind, consider selling your car while it still has fewer than 95,000 miles on it. By doing so, shoppers using online sites will find your car if they set mileage limits below the dreaded 100,000-mile mark.

To Infinity and Beyond
Once a car hits 100,000 miles, the service schedules begin to repeat themselves, requiring a major service every 30,000 or 40,000 miles. But by this time, the car’s interior and exterior condition begin to overshadow other factors. After 100,000 miles, the paint might be showing its age. There’s likely to be some wear and tear to the seats and other parts of the interior. In many cases, it will need other repairs as well, so the standard milestones become less important.

Knowing a car’s milestones and anticipating when your car will reach them can help you get the maximum value for your car when you sell it. The milestones are also important for used-car shoppers, helping them make smarter decisions when they’re negotiating and buying. By keeping an eye on the odometer, both seller and buyer can strike a better deal.