What do you think is a fair asking price?
April 6, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I price a used car that *might* need to have the transmission replaced or rebuilt soon? Looking for tips, guidelines, experiences, etc.

The car is a 2001 Saab 9-3 (the 2.0 liter, 185 hp automatic transmission hatchback version). It has ~120k miles, not bad for a ~12 year old car, and is in what I would describe as 'OK' to 'Good' condition.

There are a few problems with the car -- the antenna mast is broken, the A/C compressor is kaput, the front rotors should be replaced soon and, most significantly, the transmission *seems* to be on it's way 'out.' There's also a smallish dent over the left rear wheel well. Otherwise the car has relatively minor wear and tear and the tire treads are acceptable.

The transmission *seems* to be on it's way out because back around Thanksgiving when I was at a friends, the car would not shift into reverse. I ended up having to have it towed and even when put into neutral the front wheels wouldn't spin -- like the parking brake was stuck. I ended up buying a used car as a result of this.

I had my mechanic buddy look at it for me and he tells me that he's pretty sure it's the transmission because they could hear odd sounds when it was on a lift. My dad thinks it's the rotors sticking to the parking brake but my mechanic friend doesn't think this is the case. Eventually it did start to function, but I would not consider it reliable.

Now I'd like to sell this thing but I don't know what is a fair asking price. KBB values it at ~$2,000 (Fair) to ~$2,500 (Good). A local Saab repair place tells us that replacing the transmission with a used transmission (which run $300-500 depending on condition) would cost $1300-1500.

I don't have any amount of money I *need*, but rather I want to get rid of it and could use the money, whatever amount is fair.

Ideally I'd find a motivated individual who likes working on cars, but that isn't a guarantee. What's a fair price, MeFi? BTW the geographical region is Maine, USA.
posted by imagineerit to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't pay more than $1,000 for it, and I doubt anyone who (unlike me) was going to do the transmission work themselves would, either. Honestly, I'd price it at $800 just to move it out of your driveway.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I wouldn't pay more than KBB "poor". It *will* need a transmission (this is a Saab, after all). KBB "good" cars might have a little fluid leak, some scratches, etc. Nothing that would cause you any worries on a long drive. "Fair" might need suspension work and/or a brake job. Stuff any schmuck can do with a jack and some patience. Transmissions are a *whole* lot less fun to do in your driveway. Fixing A/C is also a pain in the ass yourself. And whatever you say here, anyone interested in taking on all this work because they're a Saab nut is going to find another dozen things wrong with it.

Ask $1500. Take $1000.

Complicating factor: nuts like me that are willing to put in a transmission more often than not will view an automatic as a deal killer.
posted by pjaust at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2012

List for $1500 as a mechanics special on Craiglist, you'll probably get knocked down from there to an amount close to double what you'd get from a scrap yard.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2012

This has already been said, but just for emphasis: your car is not in KBB Good condition. And it's not that it might need transmission repair soon, it's that it does need it right now. And while there are certainly plenty of motivated individuals who like working on cars, it's only a vanishingly small portion of them are going to be into a 2001 Saab, with an automatic transmission, in Maine.

How quickly would you like to sell it? How do you feel about dealing with insulting lowball offers and flaky CL people and suchlike? Have you asked the people at the local Saab repair place if they'd be interested in buying it? Are there any web forums dedicated to the make/model?
posted by box at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2012

The equation for pricing risk is Severity * Frequency. So if the transmission costs $1,000 to replace and has a 50% chance of going in the next year, the cost of the risk is $500. If you're talking about risks farther out than that, you have to figure in the time value of money too, so the same risk in year two costs less than it does in year one, because you're paying up front.
posted by valkyryn at 2:25 PM on April 6, 2012

If you can get $1000 for it, walk away happy. You might have to go as low as $800.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2012

As long as the asking price isn't ridiculously high, the exact number doesn't matter much. Anyone who's even remotely interested in buying an older Saab with problems will read the ad, which ought to say something like, "Here's what I know and suspect about the car. I'd like to get $1,500 for it, but I may be wrong about what it's worth. I'm eager to get it out of my driveway, so I will entertain lower offers if it doesn't sell in the next few days. Drop me a note if you're interested, and let me know what you think." The rest is just conversation.
posted by jon1270 at 5:19 PM on April 6, 2012

Everything you mention is stuff that a Saab enthusiast would expect to have to deal with on a 2001 9-3. The curse of GM. (Had one myself. Argh. Eats rotors like mad, antenna wouldn't last a winter, A/C compressor wouldn't last a summer, and for me it was the torque convertor rather than the transmission.)

I'm 99% sure the parking brake on a 9-3 uses rear drums, so the parking brake wouldn't have anything to do with the front wheels spinning.

I haven't watched the secondhand Saab market since I sold mine but I would pay a bit of attention to what's happened ever since GM shut down the brand. (Yours is GM, Spyker bought Saab in 2010, they're in bankruptcy protection now.)
posted by mendel at 9:18 PM on April 6, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input, exactly the sort of advice I was looking for.

And I didn't mention it before, but yea one of the reasons why I gave up on this car and bought a different car when the transmission appeared shot was that this car has been a huge headache ever since I bought it in 2008. But, I won't mention that in the ad -- just what I know or suspect is wrong with it. Anyone buying a Saab should know that they are rife with problems.
posted by imagineerit at 11:00 AM on April 7, 2012

Response by poster: I asked for $1500 and ended up selling it to the first looker and ended up getting $1200! Amazing! They own an import car shop and have a transmission to put in so it was pretty much a perfect storm.
posted by imagineerit at 9:37 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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