I’m trying to sell my car privately, but I’m worried because there will likely be people coming around to look at it who know more than I do. I want to be strong in the negotiation. What tips do you have? -Millie in Saskatoon
I assume you’ve done the basics; your car is clean and detailed, and all available service and maintenance records have been gathered for a potential buyer to review.
It’s also a good idea to have a CarProof or similar history report performed on your vehicle to help demonstrate to prospective buyers that it’s free of liens and accidents.
Since you’re concerned about getting the best price for your vehicle, the first step is to determine what it’s worth. To do so, you’ll need to examine some objective criteria.
“Research the market. Look on Craigslist at vehicles with similar mileage, features and overall condition. Price your vehicle competitively,” says Kim Giesbrecht, sales consultant at Brown Bros. Ford in Vancouver.
“Realize that vehicles on reputable dealer lots have been put through an inspection, all problems have been addressed, and they have been professionally detailed – and unless you can say the same about your car, a dealer price might be above the price for a private sale. Look for other private sales and price your car in a similar range.”
Any research you do into the fair market value of your vehicle will be useful in negotiation. Make a list of your car’s advantages, and reference this when explaining to potential buyers how you arrived at your price. Be aware of any common problems with your year, make and model, so you’re ready to address those issues if asked.
According to Allan Stitt of the Toronto-based Stitt Feld Handy alternative dispute resolution firm, the short answer on how to be a good negotiator is take a course in negotiation, though he has some tips when it comes to selling a vehicle.
“Before negotiating with someone you’re trying to sell a car to, have the best sense possible of what’s going to happen if the deal doesn’t work out, because then you won’t make the mistake of deciding to say yes when you have other options. In other words, figure out what your alternative is,” says Stitt.
Visit a few used-car dealers to find out what they’re prepared to pay for your car. If the best dealer offer is $3,200, you won’t make the mistake of selling the car to a prospective private buyer for less – whether or not that person has more automotive knowledge than you.
Try to develop a rapport with the person you’re negotiating with. “This doesn’t mean becoming their best friend, but do talk and find out about them, and you could talk about yourself. Generally, the vast majority of people prefer to negotiate co-operatively. They assume people are going to be aggressive, but deep-down they prefer to be co-operative,” says Stitt.
Listen carefully to prospective buyers. “It’s the kind of thing people think goes without saying, yet they really don’t do it very well,” says Stitt. “You can get a lot of valuable information by asking questions, listening, and showing people that they’re being heard.
“They like to talk about their situation, and their underlying needs or wants. Sometimes you can find creative ways to deal with the concerns they have. For example, maybe there is a payment plan that would make sense for you and the buyer; maybe they can only afford $1,500 because their payday isn’t for another three weeks, but at that time they’ll have more money. It may be a timing thing; listening and making sure you hear the things they say about their needs and what’s important can be really helpful.”
Remember, when selling your car, you need to be realistic about its value. Be prepared to be clear and transparent about how you set the price, and don’t be afraid to say “No.”
Send your car questions to Ask Joanne at firstname.lastname@example.org