How much can you sell a repairable car for?
January 6, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a 1999 Subaru outback with some pretty expensive damage to the passenger side door. I lowered the price to sell it, but received some pretty outrageous offers. I don't know if my price is unreasonable, or if the offer was just low balling.

Hello guys,

I have a 1999 subaru outback 30th anniversary limited edition with about 180k miles on it. I was in an accident and the front passenger side door sustained some pretty bad damages-- local body shop estimated the repair to be $2500, parts, labor, and markup on parts included.

Anyway, since the accident months ago I have gradually stopped driving. For the past month I drove a total of 3 miles. So I am looking to sell the car, preferably soon as not getting driven is not good for the car. I took the KBB value of $5500, subtracted the repair of $2500, and then lowered it a bit for a good deal. I ended up pricing the car for $2850, and sort of figured I wouldn't sell for less than $2500.

Aside from the damage on the door, the car drives perfectly and there's never been any mechanical problems. All in all it's always been well cared for. The title is clean and the car history shows that it's never had any serious problems--at most a light bulb replacement. However, recently I got an offer of $1800. It's really quite a bit lower than what I need to get out of it.

I was wondering if anyone can give me some ideas on

1) whether or not to take the offer
2) how would you price my car if you were me.

I want to sell this car for sure by Febuary

posted by atetrachordofthree to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What you need to get out of it and what people are willing to pay for a damaged car with high mileage are totally different things.

Take the best offer you can and be happy to be rid of it or keep it on the market and hope you get a better offer. You'll have better luck getting the car repaired and then try to sell it is my guess.
posted by iamabot at 5:52 PM on January 6, 2010

Well, it's a 10 year old car, with almost 200k miles on it and extensive body damage. I would take the $1800 and be happy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:53 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

btw - Kelly Blue Book has 3 different price ranges for cars, depending upon the condition. Be sure you are looking at the correct price.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:57 PM on January 6, 2010

Take the offer.
posted by torquemaniac at 6:02 PM on January 6, 2010

The problem that will always hang over this vehicle is the well documented head gasket problem with the EJ25 engines from that era. Notorious problems in a particular vehicle can have a huge dampening effect on its value.
posted by Neiltupper at 6:03 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I drive a similar car, but it's even crappier. You don't say where you are, but in Vermont Subarus retain their value really well. My car is a 1995 Legacy Brighton [i.e. a low end version of what you're driving] with almost 170K on it, and rust, and I bet I could get almost 2K for it. That saidm, it really really depends what the car looks like. Is the door openable? Is it rusting? Is it letting in the outdoor air/weather?

Really your car will be fine if you don't drive it much as long as you start it up and tool around in it every week or so.

If I were you, I'd take the $1800 and consider the problem solved because I'd rather be done with it. That said, if money is really an issue you may either decide to play the waiting game, be more clear in your ad [i.e. $2500 FIRM as opposed to $2850 obo] or put a used door on the car and try to sell it for more like the KBB value. The Crigslist rule of thumb is to relist every few weeks and drop the price 10% or so and you'll be able to see what price level people respond at. People will always lowball you, you may just need to wait them out unless the door damage is so bad it's really turning people away.
posted by jessamyn at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2010

My 1999 Subaru Impreza with 125k miles has a maximum KBB price of $4000, but I'd be shocked if I could get $2000 for it. I think you're really overestimating what you've got.
posted by valkyryn at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2010

Do not take the offer. It is a lowball. Wait for more responses, be patient. If he says he's looking for something "right now" ("this deal will end soon!" sort of attitude), just wait. He's being pushy, probably lying, and you'll get plenty of other offers any way. Mention that you have other offers. Repost your ad (craigslist I assume) as needed, many car ad boards are very busy and people won't look past the ones from before a few days ago.

I recently sold a car with considerable body damage but it drove perfectly (as far as anyone could tell) and had a clean title. I was asking for $2,000, and EVERYONE would ask "what's the lowest I'd go," or then offer me half the amount to do me the favor of "taking it off my hands." BS. I held onto it, emphasized after every visit that I wanted to think about their offer. I eventually got one person to agree to $1,800 after haggling. Two of the people who said they needed the car "right then" contacted me days later with higher offers, after I told them about other buyer interest. Don't take this lowball offer. In selling car, waiting is your greatest asset.
posted by mnemonic at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2010

If there's a CarMax in your area, it might be worth getting a quote from them. I sold them a Ford Ranger with 155,000 miles on it, a damaged transmission, and a trashed passenger side door for exactly blue book (which wasn't much, to be fair.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:05 PM on January 6, 2010

+1 to you'll have better luck selling it repaired. If I am looking at a car with body damage, and you tell me that it is about $2500 to repair, I am not going to take that as gospel. Body repair for autos often seem to run higher than the estimate, due to unseen damage at the time of the estimate.
posted by kellyblah at 6:08 PM on January 6, 2010

The KBB value for your vehicle, if it was in fair condition, and it is NOT, would be around $4K. KBB does not even give a value for an Outback in poor condition, which yours definitely IS.

Either fix the damage and MAYBE get something around the fair condition value, or be realistic and expect continued low ball offers, as I'm sure that's all you will get, as people are assuming you are just looking to sell the car - you said so your self.

I think the $1,800 offer is not unreasonable.
posted by walleeguy at 6:19 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The deal with damaged cars is that many people who buy them have access to cheap body work, either because they own a body shop or know someone who does. For them, it's a fantastic deal. You could repair it, but your profit would be cut by the cost of the repairs, possibly leaving you no better off. Wait a week or two, the worst that could happen is you get more lowball offers. From my experience though, there's definitely no lack of buyers for damaged cars.
posted by mnemonic at 6:25 PM on January 6, 2010

I think you might want to consider taking the offer. Sucks, but even if it was in good shape, you'd have trouble getting anywhere near KBB for it. Cars often aren't selling around book value these days.
posted by azpenguin at 6:27 PM on January 6, 2010

A 99 Subaru Outback with 180k is not worth $2500. That said, the offer of $1800 probably means that person is likely willing to settle on $2000 (a more realistic price).
You can have all the maintenance records in the world but they don't stack up against 180,000 miles.

If you want better luck selling this car, don't take the door to a body shop. Get a mechanically inclined friend to help you install a used door from a salvage yard. It'll be much cheaper and it'll be a fun project.

I also find that KBB doesn't quite have their finger on the pulse of what people will actually pay for a car. To find the true selling price of your car, take the KBB price and subtract about 25%.
posted by Jon-o at 6:34 PM on January 6, 2010

The thing is that people's time is worth money to them, too. Sure, you've deducted the estimated cost of the repair, but most people feel like they should be compensated for the time and hassle of getting a car repaired before the price feels "worth it."
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:38 PM on January 6, 2010

Take it; I just traded in a 99 Subaru Forester, with a nice interior package, as a junker. It got $1500 in trade and needed work, like yours.

It's just not worth it to people, especially not after Cash for Clunkers gave what might have been used-car bargain-hunters a better shot at a decent, new car for a low down payment. Also, the older Subarus are not very fuel-efficient, and people are mindful of that now.

The other thing people have to think about - even if they did the repairs, how much useful life is left in this vehicle? Not that much. Another $2K repair is right around the corner after this one.
posted by Miko at 7:07 PM on January 6, 2010

I also find that KBB doesn't quite have their finger on the pulse of what people will actually pay for a car. To find the true selling price of your car, take the KBB price and subtract about 25%.

Oh - that's true, too. I found the Edmunds True Market Value pricing system really helpful in getting a grip on reality. Online app, free.
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: $5500 is not the KBB value for your car, because your car has serious damage. Even if it wasn't damaged, it would not be worth about half that, because it's got 180k on it and it's 10 years old. That's not even talking about whether you've preemptively replaced the head gasket, which on your car should be blowing about any time now. Everybody I know with a '98 or a '99 Subaru has had this happen around 150-180k miles.

$1800 for a ten-year-old car with 180,000 miles, a damaged door, and an engine that's overdue for a blown head gasket is actually a very good price. You do not stand to make any money getting that door repaired, either. The offers you've been getting are not outrageous, the money you've been expecting to get for this car is outrageous.

Take the offer.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

* (I know you weren't asking $5500 for it, but the KBB for a damaged car is not mint KBB minus cost of repairs.)
posted by dunkadunc at 7:17 PM on January 6, 2010

I had a similar problem once. I had a BMW that had a blown gasket. Was going to cost me $2,000 to fix and I estimated the value of the car at $4400 fixed. I ended up selling it to the mechanic for $2550. He was able to fix it and sell it and he made his profit on the sale. I "saved" $150 from repair and sale and I also saved the hassle of selling it myself. See if a local body shop will buy it. If you know a shop that specializes in Suburu's, they may have a built in market for one.

(Also, make sure that the frame is not bent. If it is, that is a red flag to a buyer, and if it is not, mention that the damage is cosmetic only and no damage to the frame. It will eliminate one fear of the buyers.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:12 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take the offer. Nobody sane would pay more than $1800 for a smashed-up car with almost 200k miles on it.
posted by twblalock at 8:46 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advices! I am going to take the offer-- there are a lot of things that I didn't know about cars that I simply didn't consider. So now I see why my price was probably too high.

Also, my knowledge is that the head gasket is fine (having put in $1000 of repair work already) as is the frame. But the car is seriously ugly at the moment. But like I said, i am not a car expert.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 8:49 PM on January 6, 2010

MeFi clipping service opinion: Jon-o consistently makes excellent & accurate posts on things related to automobiles; Jessamyn consistently makes excellent & accurate posts on things in general. So, some mix of their posts is my ideal post.

I'm probably representative of a large segment of your market: I've always driven beaters; incorporated in this lifelong strategy is that I'm not willing (was: able) to pay a premium for marketing, so I'd be completely indifferent to 30th anniversary limited edition, but 180K would factor heavily in my decision. Also part of this strategy is being mindful that at every major repair event, the cost of walking away could be less than the cost of starting over. It's very hard for me to imagine a 10 year old car with 180k miles that I'd be willing to pay as much as $5k for.

Local markets and support matter -- I've lived in snow country where Subarus, in almost any condition, were very highly valued; now that I'm in non-snow country, it's just another Japanese brand. I've found that KBB quotes are consistently higher than Edmunds, and I consider Edmunds much more realistic. In terms of dickering with the current offer, I think you should generate the Edmunds' number, get a CarMax quote (it's easy & there's one in Greensboro), then call them up and say basically what you said here, and suggest that you compromise with a number somewhere between the $2500 you calculated and the $1800 they've offered.

MeFi clipping service preview: I see you've gotten best answers (I'm a very slow writer), but rather than just toss this post, I'll chime in: (1) If the CarMax quote is higher than $1800, take that -- it's quick, easy, and certain. (2) When my Subaru died, I took that as an opportunity to go car-less; it was a very positive experience, and the only reason I ended the experiment was that a co-worker offered his Honda at a price too good to ignore.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 9:48 PM on January 6, 2010

Just another data point: I just bought a 1999 Honda Accord in great condition with 185,000 miles just this week for $1500. This is a car that drives fine and needs no body work. While you might be able to get $2500 or slightly more if the car was mint, $2500 worth of body work means you are going to have to lower your expectations significantly.
posted by sophist at 10:05 PM on January 6, 2010

It's hard to sell a ten year old car with 180k and body damage, even ignoring the impending head gasket failure. If the damaged door is no longer weather-tight, that goes double. $1800 is low, but not outrageous. $2850 is outrageous

I'd counter offer with $2000, as-is. If he takes it, great. I'd even consider taking the $1900 that he might re-counter with, just to get it off your hands.

If he doesn't take it, I'd go to a junkyard and get a replacement door. If that makes it mostly whole (if mismatched in color), then you might be able to get $2500 for it.
posted by toxic at 10:16 PM on January 6, 2010

Another thing that I wanted to add is that I think the Cash For Clunkers program inadvertently made the used car market much more cut-throat. Before CFC, there was a greater abundance of used cars available in the sub-$3000 bracket. But, since CFC overvalued those cars in respect to their potential trade in value, many people decided to trade them in to a dealer rather than sell them or trade them in at a used car lot. And, once they were traded in to a dealer, they didn't go to auction the way most trade ins do. They were instead destroyed.
So, given that, the used car climate is much different than it was a year ago. If you're selling a car in the sub-$3000 bracket, expect to get low-balled. Since it's harder to buy cheep wheels these days, you'll get low offers by people who will try to resell the car. And if you're trying to buy cheep wheels, you'll likely either be paying $2500 for a car that's worth $900 or you won't be able to find what you're looking for at all.

PS. The above is anecdotal. Working at a garage, customers are always asking about how to get their hands on an inexpensive car. The used-car folks that we're in contact with lament this and our own experience is confirming this. The supply of decent cheap cars is diminished greatly. I worked at a dealership during CFC and it was agonizing to have to destroy perfectly drivable cheap cars. I personally killed a 4.0 Jeep Cherokee with 170k. A perfect $3000 car for someone who needed it.
posted by Jon-o at 4:22 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depends. How much are you willing to go through for an extra 500-700 dollars?
I'd counter offer to $2000, and then act according to the answer to the question above.
posted by rudy26 at 6:15 AM on January 7, 2010

Get a mechanically inclined friend to help you install a used door from a salvage yard. It'll be much cheaper and it'll be a fun project.

Seconded. The power window in my 98 Jetta's driver door was All Messed Up[tm], and it was considerably cheaper [$150 out of pocket] for me to go get a new complete door with working window from a salvage yard. I had to swap the interior plastics [beige vs. black] but the door was already black and the installation was a piece of cake. Trickiest part was balancing it on the hydraulic floor jack while I lowered it onto the hinges, With a helper it would have been mounted in a minute or two.
posted by chazlarson at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2010

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