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Selling a car

Selling a car – when and how to sell


Changes in lifestyle often dictate when it’s time to sell your car. It could be that you’re wanting to upgrade to a new car in a different shape or colour, or you’re concerned about possible repairs and maintenance costs with your current car. But when is the right time to sell and how do I get the best price? Read on as we show you how to sell a car quickly and easily.  

When is the best time? 

The optimum time to sell your car is before it reaches the 100,000 kilometre psychological barrier, as once it goes beyond this threshold, the selling price magically drops as there are less premium buyers and more bargain buyers in this pool. Ideally around the 50,000 – 75,000 kilometre mark is the best time to sell your car, or about when your car is 3 – 5 years old. Most cars of this age are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty which will attract more buyers. There are periods in a car’s life when it starts to cost more. Take for example the cambelt service which is usually required around 100,000kms, or new tyres which can cost upwards of a thousand dollars if your car has larger sized wheels. Typically, most cars depreciate around 20% of their value each year for the first 5 years. Car manufacturers update their models every few years. It’s wise to keep an eye on this to know when a completely different version is being released which could affect the resale value of your car.  

It’s a seasonal thing 

You want the best price when selling your car, and this means choosing the right time as supply and demand changes throughout the year. Time factors such as seasons, holidays and even when your car was first registered can affect selling it. Add to this that different types of cars appeal distinctly to certain buyers. Let’s take for example family cars which predominantly sell better in Spring and Autumn, when statistically more babies are born. The best time to sell a sports car or convertible is in Spring, with the promise of enjoyment over Summer. Mid-range cars sell well in the warmer months too. Luxury cars sell well in sound economic times. There is a strong demand for budget priced cars all year round, but often at a bargain price. As these cars become older, they rapidly depreciate especially if they are showing high mileage and require significant repairs. The slowest period to sell your car is in Winter, and during the holidays. Regardless of what type of vehicle you have, if you maintain it carefully to preserve its appearance and have it serviced regularly, you will likely achieve the best possible price.

Best way to sell a car

There are a few avenues available to you when selling your car. Selling privately is the best option in achieving the highest price, which requires you to be available to field enquiries and showcase your car to potential buyers. Selling privately can take a long time, especially if you are after top dollar. Alternatively, you may consider trading your car in with a dealer. This method will dispose of your car more quickly but at a lesser price than what it would be worth privately. After all, the dealer needs to make a profit when selling it on and also has to apply re-conditioning costs, warranty and cover dealership overheads. The trade-in option is worth considering if you’re planning on upgrading to another car.   

Another option is to list your car for sale by auction, either online or with a reputable auction house. Typically prices realised at auction are about 20% less than market value, unless you own a low volume, collectible vehicle. You also have to remember there are auction selling fees.  The advantage here is that your car will sell quickly. Unless your car is an enthusiast vehicle, selling by auction might be a last resort if you’re unable to sell your car privately, and have no need to trade it in with a dealer. 

Getting your car ready for sale 

Factors such as the condition of your car, its odometer reading, its colour, type of transmission, remaining registration and warranty influence potential buyers. Whether you’re selling your car privately or trading it in, it’s in your best interest to present it at its best, with up to date logbook servicing. It is a wise investment having it professionally detailed which includes a polish and steam clean as this can add up to $1,000 to the selling price, and will ensure a speedier sale. Oh yeah, now would be the ideal time to have that parking dent fixed too. And make sure things like tyres are in good condition and not obviously worn – as it could become a bargaining point for potential buyers or may just scare them away.

Advertising your car

If you opt for selling your car privately, good photographs that showcase it looking its best, and an advert description that highlights the features and benefits of it will place you high on a buyer’s short list. Selling your car with long registration and a roadworthy certificate is more appealing to buyers, giving them the peace of mind that there are minimal additional on road costs after the initial purchase.  

Whichever method you choose to sell your car, it will always sell quickly when it is presented as mechanically sound, with reasonably low kilometres for its age. 

Author Bio:

This article is written by Ross Vasse.

Ross Vasse is the author of Car Hunters: The Best Trade Secrets Revealed and compiles the Complete Classic Car Value Guide annually. He is a founding partner of Survivor Car Australia magazine, and performs duties as an ‘expert witness’ in appraising and valuing motor vehicles Australia wide.

He’s has had a lifetime of experience around cars, learning the trade secrets that others in the car industry do not want you to know.

The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.

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