How to Sell a Car That Needs Some Work
Selling your car can be tough. You have to figure out a price, get the car cleaned and, most importantly, find the right buyer. Depending on the age of your car and how you took care of it (or didn’t take care of it), you may also have to tackle one more step: repairing your banged-up ride.
Whether to repair the car you plan to sell is a difficult thing to sort out. What should you fix? How much should you spend? Who should do the repairs?
Assess the Damage
If you’ve owned your car for years, you may think you know a thing or two about its problems. Even so, it’s always good to double-check what’s going on and maybe even get a second pair of eyes to help you out.
It’s important to be honest in this examination in order to determine the price of your car and whether or not the money you spend on repairs will make its way back to you after the sale.
Cost vs. Benefit for Repairs
To figure out how much your car is worth, we recommend using Kelley Blue Book’s pricing tool, which can be found on Freebo. Enter your car’s make and model, check off the appropriate boxes, and think long and hard about whether it’s in fair, good or excellent condition.
Kelley Blue Book lists one more condition category that’s worth mentioning: Poor. This designation is assigned to cars with severe mechanical and/or cosmetic problems. They may also have harder-to-fix problems, like frame damage. A vehicle in Poor condition can’t be priced on KBB because of how much a wide range of damage can affect a price. If your vehicle falls into this category, you may have to bring it to an independent appraiser to assess its value. These cars can gain the most value when repaired properly.
Keep in mind that the older a car is, the less likely it is that expensive repairs will be cost-effective. It might be best to sell the car “as is,” or sell it for scrap (depending on its record and condition). Both of these options will dramatically reduce your asking price.
A car that should be repaired is one that is relatively new or valuable and has a major but fixable mechanical problem, or minor cosmetic issues that will be cheap to fix.
For instance, if the difference in value between a Fair-condition Honda CR-V and a Good one is $1,100, then spending $450 to replace a faulty power window is worth the trouble, as that could earn you $650.
If you’re very lucky, your vehicle could still be under manufacturer warranty for the issue you want to fix, although most common maintenance items, like oil changes and brake pads, typically aren’t covered.
Fixing Your Car
Now that you’ve figured out whether your car needs repairs, it’s time to find a good mechanic. If you’re the ambitious type, you could even fix it yourself, but unless you have substantial experience repairing cars, we recommend handing it over to an expert. You don’t want to unintentionally cause more damage and dig yourself a deeper financial hole.To find a reputable mechanic, you can do one of the following:
Using a combination of these methods should ensure you get a reputable mechanic who does the job you ask and doesn’t try to drain your life savings.
When you find the right shop, it’s important that you communicate with the mechanic about the problems you’re there to fix. Your own examination should have helped you identify funny noises, leaking fluids or warning lights on the instrument cluster. If you’re going to a body shop for detailing, make sure you point out the dents and scratches you want fixed.
Before you hand over the keys, get a quote and be aware of their labor rates, guarantees and any warranties. At this point, you may decide not to get the car fixed, but rather to deduct the cost of repairs from your asking price instead.
Remember, you’re investing in the car to sell it. If the mechanic tries to “upsell” you helpful but unnecessary repairs, like a chassis lube or rotor turnings, promptly turn them down.
Use the Repairs as an Asset
Once repairs are done and you’re ready to sell, make sure you tell the buyer about all the work you put into the car. New tires and brake pads or topped-off fluids show the buyer you really put care into your vehicle.
A rebuilt transmission or engine block and other chassis work should also be mentioned as a selling point. If your mechanic had a warranty on the repairs (most have ones ranging from 30 days to six months), be sure to bring that up, too. Make sure you keep the paperwork to prove the repairs were actually done. Cosmetic repairs probably don’t have to be mentioned – the body should speak for itself.
If you’ve opted out of repairs, be honest and tell potential buyers about the problems you discovered during your examination or the auto-shop assessment.
Essentially, make sure you know your car before you sell it. Discovering a car’s weaknesses and strengths, and fixing basic problems before you sell, will almost always translate to a better payoff for you than if you did nothing at all.