Help me sell a car
May 9, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I have a car with damage that was returned to me as part of a divorce settlement. My lawyer says the damage is not worth pursuing in court, so I need your help to sell it and maximize my money.

The car in question is a 2010 Honda Civic w/ 27,500 miles. It has cigarette burns on the interior upholstery (front and rear), a large dent on the front fender, and various other dings and scratches.

I've priced it in KBB and Edmunds, but they seem to vary by $1000-2000 dollars. Is KBB still the standard? (I reside in California.) The car is also in need of new tires, front brakes, battery, and a new driver's side visor.

My questions are:

Should I sell it as-is, or is it worth repairing the exterior appearance given the damage to the interior? Estimates have ranged from $1200 to $3000.
I've been told I would be better off putting money into the appearance rather than the brakes, tires, etc. True?

Any advice would be appreciated!
posted by entropicamericana to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Sell it as is. Sounds like it has systemic damage across the board and fixing it is not going to be worth the money you get out of selling a 4+ year old car.

KBB is pretty good, also check out Autotrader and Edmonds to price similar vehicles.

Craigslist is your very good friend, particularly in CA for selling used cars. Price it fairly, take a LOT of pictures of it freshly cleaned in good lighting (including numerous ones documenting the damage with a ruler) and post it ASAP.
posted by arnicae at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tip: Have it detailed, and take your pics post-detailing. A good detailer can minimize a lot of the ugliness, and you'll have a much easier time selling a clean-but-banged-up car vs. a car that looks and smells like hell.
posted by mosk at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are people really so dazzled by a shiny car that they don't see the dents and scratches? I'm not being sarcastic, I'm genuinely curious. Wouldn't a regular wash suffice?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:52 PM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Put no money into it.

You might get more in a private party sale, but it will be a lot more hassle free if you sell it directly to a dealer or CarMax. They have access to the body shop and the mechanic and can put it in fantastic shape with very little investment. They'll also take care of all the paperwork for you. A Dealer will make his money on upselling crap and financing, so having a car in decent condition with either maintenance or cosmetic issues is a sure money maker for him, especially with low milage.

Shop it around to a couple of Honda dealers, as well as Carmax and then see what you're offered.

You should be able to get about $8,500 to $9,500 for it. This car is in demand and you don't HAVE to sell it to a dealer.

KBB even has a thing where you can get dealers to bid on the car.

FWIW, when I sold my car to the dealer, I was told it made NO difference that I had replaced the tires, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

God yes. Detail it. If there are burns or bloodstains on the upholstery, get seat covers.
posted by Malory Archer at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dings and scratches happen, especially in an older car. If you're selling it at a dealership, it won't matter as much if you don't do anything, because the markup between what you get and what they're going to sell it for doesn't really make it worth it.

However, if you're going to try and sell it privately via Craigslist or eBay or what have you will, then yes, absolutely, please clean/detail it. Look for a Groupon or a discount if you'd like to try and do it cheaply. Making the car look neat does seem to dazzle people, at least enough to be interested in digging more deeply into the matter. First impressions and all of that.

Still, I wouldn't put more than $50-$100 or so into it, though. It won't necessarily raise the value of the car overmuch, but I think that detailing the car would help you sell it much faster for what you think would be a fair price for it. I know I wouldn't want to waste my time looking at gross cars. To me, a gross looking car means that it probably wasn't taken care of.

If I were going to be buying a used car from a private seller, I'd be a heck of a lot more concerned about having the car be semi-maintained. I'd want a work-up from my trusted local mechanic so that way I know it's not going to need an engine replacement in 500 miles, or something else that's fairly major. My second priority would be to see that the interior of the car is not too smelly/icky (because of my allergies), then I'd care about scratches and dings. The dents don't look too pretty, but if it runs, then that's what I care about.
posted by PearlRose at 1:16 PM on May 9, 2014

If the car is mechanically sound, a good wash and some decent seat covers might make potential buyers be less concerned about the dents and scratches. Shouldn't run you more than $50 or so (depending on region) and IMHO would be worth it if you're going to be selling the car yourself.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:47 PM on May 9, 2014

Definitely get the dent "bumped out" of the front fender. If it is visibly dirty, definitely get it detailed, but if it's of average cleanliess, I don't think it makes a big difference.

I reecently sold my '08 Civic. Here is a brief timeline of events:

The first weekend I put it up on craigslist, I had no pictures, just a description and mentioned a dent on the front bumper. Mentioned it had some minor interior and exterior scratches. No response.

A weekend later, I put up pictures of the car from all angles and a close up of the dent. Added a few more brief details. I got one phone call.

A weekend or two after that, I had the dent bumped out and changed the front bumper pictures to reflect this. Description stayed the same. I could hardly believe it - I had 10-12 people interested and sold it that weekend.

Honda Civics always seem to be in demand. I'm pretty sure you could sell it private party for more than you could get at a dealership. The small inconveniences of selling it myself sure beat letting a dealership take $1,000 of the profit.
posted by sevenofspades at 1:51 PM on May 9, 2014

It sounds like you don't actually need the car or need to sell it so that you can buy a replacement, nor does it sound like you need the money right away.

I would clean it up as best as you can (or pay to have it detailed) and then take it to some dealers to get some bids on it as Ruthless Bunny says. Tell them that you need to think about it as you might try and sell it yourself instead. It might even be worth while to ask them how much that bid would change if it's didn't have the dent.

Now, look at Craigslist, Autotrader, or any other local and popular used car listings for similar cars to see what they are listed at (knowing that those prices will get negotiated down some) and estimating how much that dent is detracting from the value.

Now you've got a decent idea of how much you can get for it right now (on the low end) and how much you can get for it if you really work at selling it yourself. Split the difference and see if you can get it sold for that much within a couple of weeks.

I had a similar situation myself in that I had a car that I wanted to sell but didn't really want to sell it myself. But I wanted to get as much for it as I could. They getting listed for $11,000 and I had a buy bid for as much as $8,500. I listed it for $10,000 and sold it for $9,500 a week later.

Yes, the appearance makes a much bigger difference than the mechanical stuff for a couple of reasons. Body work is fairly specialized, there are lots of people who are totally comfortable replacing brakes on their own that don't have the tools or the expertise to fix a dent. A lot of other people don't really know what worn brakes should feel like and/or can accept that a car of this age will need some maintenance. But they can see that dent. You don't have to know anything about cars to know that that dent is an issue. And, while brakes and tires mentally fall into the category of "routine maintenance", a big dent is "big, scary, expensive body work". Even if, rationally, you know that they will both have the same cost to fix, there are weird, irrational things that people think when they shop for a car (I say this as someone who sold cars for a living). Some people can be totally dispassionate and rational about the whole thing but those people are rare and you can't count on them to come and buy your car.
posted by VTX at 7:53 AM on May 10, 2014

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