What's the best market to sell my lemon?
September 16, 2009 4:14 PM   Subscribe

How should I go about selling a car with some mechanical issues?

I've had my Subaru Outback for about 5 years - I've been thinking about replacing it with something more fuel efficient (I really don't need the AWD), compact, and fun to drive.

Within the past few months, some mechanical/electrical issues have been showing up sporadically - which makes me think now is a good time to finally sell it.

The issues are:
1. Possible starter/solenoid problem - sometimes it takes me 5 or more turns of the key to get the engine turning over.
2. Strange shifting issue in low gears - sometimes the car will struggle to throttle up/get out of first gear - even when I'm trying to give it full gas.

These first two issues seem to go away once the car is warmed up.

3. Electrical/security system issue - can't use power locks without triggering alarm system

I also have been driving on mismatched tires for the past couple of years - which I've recently heard is a bad, bad thing with an AWD vehicle.

So, considering all the above - how should I sell this car? Should I go to a dealer, not say anything, and see what they offer? If I try to sell it on Craigslist, advertising all the above issues, am I going to get any decent offers? Is there an another option I'm not considering?
posted by pilibeen to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
I had a minivan's transmission die on me visiting my relatives in Wisconsin - it was siezed up so bad that if the engine was running, it wouldn't roll, not even in neutral. We sold it by putting up a Craigslist ad up at 9:30am, clearly honest about the problem, but also positives (new tires, new battery). Very honest price, $200, recognizing that whoever buys it is going to have to put two grand into it to get it moving. The first two guys I had to say, "dude, what do you expect for $200," when they tried to dicker about the price and the ad had only been up a couple hours. At 11:30am a guy showed up with ten twenty dollar bills in his hand and a auto trailer on the back of his truck, and we waved goodbye to the minivan. YMMV, and I think being in a large metro area helped; here in Fargo I doubt there'd have been as fast a response. So, be honest on Craigslist, don't expect to make a mint off of it, but don't let people try to talk you down from an already reasonable price, because somebody'll come and take it of your hands.

As for the dealer route: given places are going to want to keep their sales figures up after a good Cash for Clunkers run, you might be able to get more for it in trade and a better deal on a nice car than you would walking in with a cash down payment from the Craigslist sale. More personal anecdotes: after my divorce, we lost the leased car, and all I could afford was a $500 1978 Plymouth Volare. Eight months later I was doing better financially, and a dealer gave me $1500 in trade for the Volare; I'm sure it went right to the junk yard, but they still got the sale.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2009

With craigslist be BRUTALLY honest, price it reasonably (e.g., KBB - cost of repairs - something extra for the hassle factor) and it will sell. Pick out every flaw you can think of. For some reason, that seems to inspire trust (or has in my experience in west coast craigslist markets).
posted by arnicae at 4:38 PM on September 16, 2009

Offer it for sale through the usual channels. If asked about specific issues by a potential buyer, you can disclose those issues (which makes you an above-average person) or not as you see fit. Buyer beware is the name of the game in this country, and anyone buying the car should be getting it assessed before they purchase it, anyway.

Trust me on this, though: if people could only sell cars with no mechanical issues through the normal channels, nobody would be selling cars through the normal channels.
posted by davejay at 4:39 PM on September 16, 2009

Last month we sold (via Craigslist) our daughter's Honda Civic that had a blown head gasket, among other problems. We were completely upfront in our description of the car and its condition. Within 4 hours, a gentleman who had a side business fixing and then selling cars showed up, cash in hand, and towed the car away.

However, during that 4 hours we received numerous calls and e-mails asking us the typical idiotic Craigslist questions, trying to dicker the price down after we confirmed the needed repairs. Just be as accurate as you can about the vehicle's condition, think of a fair price, and be prepared for the dumb questions that will come along with the serious inquiries.
posted by doh ray mii at 6:51 PM on September 16, 2009

We sold our pretty shot old Camry a couple months ago on Craig's List. As long as you are looking for a fair price and tell people what's wrong up front, there are A LOT of people who will want to buy it either for parts or to fix up themselves.
posted by teishu at 9:00 PM on September 16, 2009

I, too, sold a vehicle a few years back by offering the car on Craigslist at a very attractive price, well under the Blue Book value. I was completely honest about the problem with the car and what my mechanic said repairs would cost. I had multiple calls in no time. The car was gone within days.
posted by Elsie at 7:26 AM on September 17, 2009

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