Selling an Unsellable Car? Here’s How

How do you find a buyer for a really old, seemingly undesirable car? Here are some tips to help you find the person who’s looking for what you’re selling.

How do you sell the truly undesirable, unsellable car? Take, for example, a 23-year-old Plymouth minivan that is missing both rear seats and has more than 219,000 miles on it. Who would pay money for that? You may be surprised. A lot of people are on the lookout for vehicles shunned by the masses. To find those buyers, here are a few key rules:

Start Your Ad with the Most Popular Words

There are plenty of folks with a large family, or a need to haul stuff in an enclosed space, who just type in the word “minivan” on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Keyword-search terms are not just limited to model segments, of course. And it’s important to remember that lesser-known vehicles could have siblings with more name recognition. In these cases, adding a backslash in the listing’s title can go a long way. For instance: “Chrysler Minivan/Caravan/Grand Voyager SE/1 Owner/Cold Air.” The Plymouth Voyager hasn’t been around since back in 2000, but the Dodge Caravan is still out there as a Grand Caravan. For every Isuzu Ascender that got stuck in SUV anonymity, there is a near clone Chevrolet TrailBlazer that sold in the millions. So if you have that association, use it.

Take Too Many Pictures—Especially of the Faults

Want to do better than the other sellers out there? Show you have nothing to hide by being honest about the vehicle’s flaws. Take about 40 pictures, starting with the front of the vehicle, and then do a full walkaround from beginning to end. If someone wants a Carfax or more photos, hand them over. Buyers love it when you eliminate uncertainty and give them full disclosure.

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness in Used Cars

Before you shoot pictures, give the car a good cleaning. Cars priced in the $10,000 range should come standard with a detail job. Most shoppers will shop first with their eyes before seeing it in person. So if what you’re selling is pretty, make it shine and stand out.

But what about a $1500 car? Take that scroungy mutt through a $6 carwash and bring some cleaning supplies so that your rolling relic can bring its best tires forward. Speaking of which, it’s always smart to take care of the little things on an older used car that help you make the first impression online. Clouded or cracked headlights should be repaired or replaced. Most are cheap on older, nonluxury vehicles, and they’re easy to install. Same for the floor mats. To replace both on most older cars typically comes out to less than $100. For small blemishes that don’t pierce the paint, I have used a Magic Eraser and soapy water and found they can do absolute wonders. (If you are worried about the possibility of damaging the finish, test first in an inconspicuous place like under the hood or trunklid.) You don’t have to go nuts, but do invest in those little things.

They Are Buying the Car, Not Your Politics

Do you use the rear of your car as a rolling billboard? Bumper stickers should never “coexist” with the car you’re selling. Anything that’s too personal, humorous, or political needs to go if you want a good price and a quick sale.

Old Records and Documents Are Highly Desirable

Give someone a nice folder filled with maintenance records, and that car will spin out of your driveway faster than a Stevie Ray Vaughan blues lick. Don’t be afraid to call back places that did services if you need new printouts. Nothing inspires confidence like a fistful of repair records.

Problem Tell and Problem Solve

No 23-year-old vehicle is going to be perfect. Hell, it’s lucky that it hasn’t already been recycled into a small army of washing machines. When it comes to old cars, telling folks about problems and offering reasonable solutions is a fantastic one-two punch.

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