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Disclosure when selling a car
August 27, 2005 3:34 PM   Subscribe

How much disclosure is too much when you're trying to sell a car?

I've got an 1989 Subaru Legacy wagon I'm trying to sell, but I don't know how much information about repairs etc. I should put on the ads, or even make a point of when people come to see the car. In particular, should I make a point that the car has, in the last year, been given:

- A new water pump
- A new radiator
- A new head gasket

I can see the positive side of pointing these things out - "Hey look at how much money has been spent on this car recently - look at all the brand new parts!". However, it could also say "Hey, look at all the shit that's gone wrong with this car recently!" I guess what's pushing me towards pointing these repairs out is that I've spent almost as much on them as I'm going to try and sell the car for - but is it really a good idea to reveal the car had a corroded head gasket?
posted by Jimbob to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
 
You don't buy a 16 year old car and expect it to be running on the original parts. You expect it to have been serviced and taken care of. Most 16 year old cars have new radiators and certainly new water pumps.

Of course, don't be too transparent. You don't have to come out and say "Oh yeah, this car had a corroded head gasket" while telling them it has a new one. Focus on the positives. Say you had some work done to improve your chances of sale or something. Never come up with negatives.. the browser will have enough of their own already.
posted by wackybrit at 3:39 PM on August 27, 2005


Yes it is - because any person whos serious and intelligent about buying the car is goign to get it checked out by a mechanic (or hell they might even been somewhat knowledgable) and will be able to tell. Major repairs need to be forthcoming info.
posted by crewshell at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2005


Tell people everything you would want to be told if you were considering buying the car, everything that, if you found out about it only after you bought the car, you would call the seller a bad name.
posted by pracowity at 3:44 PM on August 27, 2005


Tell people everything you would want to be told if you were considering buying the car, everything that, if you found out about it only after you bought the car, you would call the seller a bad name.

Well this is really the kind of attitude I have and why I do want to be completely honest - I guess I'm just worried about people seeing "new head gasket" on the ad resulting in me never receiving a call.

(As you might have guessed, the yard who sold me the car a few years ago could have shown a bit more honesty too...)
posted by Jimbob at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2005


I guess I'm just worried about people seeing "new head gasket" on the ad resulting in me never receiving a call.

Don't put it in the ad. Keep the ad short. If the people come to look at it, say that you have the repair/maintenance records for it, have a short list of what you did to it [I'd print this out even so that you know you have it all on there], have a good reason to explain why you are selling it, and be as honest as you can. Make sure it's priced reasonably for the shape you think it's in and then you can sell it with a good conscience and get rid of it.

I don't know what the laws are like where you live, but there are a Lemon Laws in the US that could govern selling cars [usually new, sometimes used] with known defects that are not disclosed.
posted by jessamyn at 4:01 PM on August 27, 2005


When I sold my car a few weeks ago, with 114K miles, I pointed out that the tires, the transmission and the AC refrigerant were all new in the last 10,000 miles. Other things had been fixed, but I only mentioned those that I thought would give the buyer peace of mind. I don't think "replaced the head gasket" gives peace of mind as much as it says, "this car has been draining my wallet lately, so I'd like for you to own it instead." It's subjective, I know.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:11 PM on August 27, 2005


I agree with everyone that has said you should disclose this. If I were buying the car I would want to know that it was well-maintained and that the owner didn't try to skimp on not fixing things.

If you're placing a newspaper ad then you could abbreviate things and just say "well maintained with records" or something. If you're posting an online ad though I would provide as much detail as is reasonable, which would include listing the major repairs that have been done recently.

I don't think you would be scaring away anyone by disclosing this. In fact, anyone that would expect to buy an 89 without things like this having been replaced probably doesn't have a clue about maintaining automobilies and might have unrealistic expectations. These are the kind of people you don't want to deal with, so this is a good thing. (E.g., some idiot that comes to you 4 months after the car has been sold and complains of a flat tire and tries to get you to pay for it.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:51 PM on August 27, 2005


The nice guy in me is cheering. The curmudgeon in me is scoffing. Caveat emptor, anyone? As in, if the potential buyer cares about the head gasket, let 'em ask. Robert Heinlein had a great line (that I will proceed to butcher here because the source material isn't handy) about selling a horse. He said something like "I'll answer every question truthfully, but the buyer had better check to make sure that sucker's got 4 legs." My curmudgeonly point: Are you trying to make a friend, or sell a car? Were it me selling, I'd just point out that service records are available and leave it at that. If the potential buyer isn't interested in looking at them, so be it. If the potential buyer looks at them and raises an objection, you can (a) lower your asking price or (b) not sell them the car. To avoid the stalker "my flat tire is your fault" bit, meet em at Wal Mart. You might even consider getting a disposable cell phone for the duration of the sale to avoid all the after-the-fact, no-it's-already-been-sold phone calls. Good luck. BTW, I love Subarus. If I didn't have too many old beaters already, I'd make you an offer.
posted by ZakDaddy at 9:52 PM on August 27, 2005


This is too much disclosure.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:53 PM on August 27, 2005


I think the head gasket is not a selling point, but the radiator and water pump are. The first is an unusual item to replace, unless you had the head decarboned, which would be a selling point. If the head gasket was defective (or the head warped, or some other problem forced you to replace it), I would not bring it up.

You are not required to disclose problems that have been fixed. You are only required to disclose current defects, and then only the ones that affect safety or normal operation of the car. You don't have to say if the cigarette lighter is broken, or the tape player eats tapes (but I would disclose that one), or that the gas mileage is subpar. Brakes, steering, suspension, fuel or oil leaks, bent wheels - those are the kinds of things you must disclose. I believe you also have to disclose that the car has been submerged, because that's pretty much unfixable.

Sellers who are not naive assume there are things you aren't telling them. If you talk about a lot of stuff you aren't required to, it may reassure them, or it may make them more suspicious.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:21 AM on August 28, 2005


Are you trying to make a friend, or sell a car?

Exactly. I'm impressed with pracowity's morals but they're irrelevant to buying and selling. Or much of life, for that matter: do you feel compelled to voluntarily disclose to potential employers anything that might make them less likely to hire you? I didn't think so. Life isn't a seamless web; we all apply different standards to personal and business interactions, and rightly so. If I buy a used car without doing sufficient checking, I deserve what I get.
posted by languagehat at 5:54 AM on August 28, 2005


Change "Sellers who are not naive . . ." to "Buyers who are not naive . . "
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2005


ZakDaddy writes "To avoid the stalker 'my flat tire is your fault' bit, meet em at Wal Mart."

Personally I wouldn't buy a used car from someone unwilling to give out a home address, it just screams shady dealing.

Kirth Gerson writes "I think the head gasket is not a selling point, but the radiator and water pump are. The first is an unusual item to replace, unless you had the head decarboned, which would be a selling point"

Do your research though, for example a head gasket is a routine item on a turbo dodge 2.5, good thing they are cheap and easy to replace :).

One of the advantages of buying private vs. from a dealer is you can get some vehicle history. Personally I'd disclose any significant work done recently, where "recently" and "significant" are on a linked sliding scale. For example I would mention brakes done 3 months ago or transmission work last year but I wouldn't say much about brakes done 12 months ago.
posted by Mitheral at 8:48 AM on August 28, 2005


To agree and jump off from Mitheral's point above:

As a buyer, I'd certainly want to hear which things have been replaced recently, especially if they're relatively expensive repairs. That way, for instance, if I hear the water pump has recently been replaced, I know that that's one piece I won't have to worry about for a while.
posted by Vidiot at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2005



If i was buying a subie of that vintage i would hope the waterpump and timing belt were recently replaced. I think the head gasket(s) are also a selling point. Other than the wheel bearings, i can't think of another 1989 car that would be more reliable. You should be able to get rid of it quickly for a decent price.
posted by freq at 8:22 PM on August 28, 2005


... and to dive back in, Mitheral and Vidiot are excellent examples of non-naive or "cautious" buyers, and more power to 'em. If you're speaking with a potential buyer, and they ask you these kinds of questions, I certainly think you're obligated to tell the truth.

I think the root question, here, though, is how much / what you should volunteer in the absence of questioning. Kirth Gerson's post is pretty good.

I stand by my original Wal-Mart suggestion for the simple reason that I've sold cars before, and some of the people who sound perfectly reasonable on the phone turn out to be somewhat ... well, look at it this way - any psychotic idiot can buy a car. And many of them do, or at least will try to. YMMV, of course.

-Zak-
posted by ZakDaddy at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2005


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