Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hard Sell

I have to tell you, I hate trading cars privately. It is a necessary evil, since forecourt dealerships are such a rip-off in this country, but it's not a pleasant business. It is a world full of sharks.

Everyone thinks it is acceptable to haggle the price of a car and you end up in a Catch 22 situation. You put your car up for several hundred pounds more that you actually want, to account for the inevitable, and no one comes to look. So you put it on at a fair price for the car and everyone still tries to knock £1,000 off of the asking price, even though they know it is fair.

Even eBay seems to be mostly populated by time-wasters and tyre kickers. I shan't try to sell a car of any value on eBay again. I think the problem is the classics market isn't really there. Your car ends up "watched" by four dozen dreaming teenagers and a couple of bargain hunters, none of whom can actually afford/are prepared to pay the reserve price of the car. At one point I was fielding daily offers of £6,000 cash for the Lotus. Eventually I stopped replying to these jokers.

Now, I'm no fool and I have done my research. I have valued my car fairly and I know my valuation is based on my own, extensive market research prior to deciding to list my car. When forecourt dealers are asking over £10,000 for a decent car, my £8,500 (or near offer) price is perfectly reasonable. That said, this sort of haggling nonsense continually undermines your confidence in your asking price and makes one of even the strongest resolve start to question if he or she is asking for too much money.

Fortunately I have sat tight and I finally got an email from a lovely chap called Dave the other day, which I will quote:

[Re: Your Car and Classic Ad: Lotus Elan +2S 130/5]

Greg, we have looked at some total dogs this last week.

There was one that looked like the interior had been done by the Scouts adventure group and the paintwork was put on with a lot of cans. We found another JPS that some Philistine had painted gold very amateurishly, and the interior was a bag of rags.

We are looking for a car that we can get in and drive, that will start, won't misfire that has the servo on the brakes still and that doesn't look as if it was last used at a storage for a big dog . From what I have seen, and have found your car on a number of sites, it is in good order and used and that is what we are after.

So do keep in touch, don't sell it for less than you have it up for and as soon as I get the chance we will drive down and see it for ourselves.

Isn't that nice? Just when my confidence was waivering Dave reminded me what I already knew but had almost forgotten. All the Plus 2 cars out there for £5-7,000 are dog rough. All these jokers offering me £6,000 for mine haven't a prayer of finding a car half as clean for the same money - they are simply taking a chance and hoping I'm desperate.

I guess the moral is if you've done your homework and you know your price is fair, hang tight. Selling luxury items is hard. They are expensive and exclusive so by definition the market is small and extremely sensitive to economic conditions. It also often takes a long time to shift luxury goods. Our local classics garage has not rotated any stock for months now. So, confidence restored, I am still hanging in for on and around my asking price and to hell with anyone who offers me a grossly reduced cash settlement.

For reference, the best avenues I have found are a couple of specialist classic car sales sites (this one and this one) who offer free advertisements and a free London-based noticeboard called Gumtree. In combination these websites are now spawning a couple of enquiries a week and finally I have a couple of "viewings" when I get back from Italy.

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