By Dennis Goddard of DennisBuysCars.com
There are certain tips you can use in the process of selling your car that are specific to California. In this outline we will break it down so you can get the best results and live to tell about it.
Write a Good Ad and Use Spell Check. Nobody will buy a car from you if you don’t know the difference between “brakes” and “breaks”. Include all the pertinent information in your ad. Year, make, model, size of engine, type of transmission, options and any desirable attributes your car may have; recent major service, new tires, etc. Do not forget to include mileage even if it is high. Keep it simple and short. Don’t use run on sentences, people don’t want to read the Magna Carta when looking for a car. Especially don’t use all caps. The idea is to write something appealing that will attract people and not turn them off.
There Are Things That You Need to Know About Craiglist. Craiglist is good in certain ways because it can reach a lot of people for free and bad because you can reach a lot of people for free. The newest trick is that bots will email you asking if the car is still available. Do not fall for this because it is simply a scam to capture your email after which you will be bombarded with spam. There is an option when listing your vehicle to disable emailing and let’s explore this: There are several ways for prospects to contact you.
1. You can omit your phone number out in the item description and request that they email you with their contact number and you call them back at your convenience. I am not crazy about this method because it slows down the process and alienates the buyer. In this manner you will get a lot of time wasting emails asking dumb questions with no phone numbers and even if they do give you a phone number chances are they will not pick up the phone when you call but it at least this lets you do things on your schedule. When using this method the safest thing to do it is contact your provider and ask them for the code to block your number when you do call so you cannot be harassed in the future if something goes wrong.
2. You can include your phone number in the listing and disable emailing. This is a faster way to sell your car but it has certain drawbacks. People tend to call at weird hours, when you’re in the shower or busy talking to someone else, etc. Or, you have now unleashed the strangest and most infuriating individual known to modern civilization: The endless texter who will not pick up the phone under any circumstance. Also, your number is stored in their phone forever; not good if something goes wrong.
3. You can enable emailing and include your phone number. This is the fastest way to sell your car but you will be dealing with emails demanding to know you “last price” and calls from aggressive “curbstoners” (see below) who will try to educate you on price and try to lowball you. Remember, people can be unreliable at best, make appointments, rearrange your busy schedule, and not even show up.
Take Good Pictures of Your Car. There is a method that the insurance companies use to show every angle of your car in only two photographs and it goes like this: Stand back at the right front corner of your car, hold your camera at belt level and take a picture displaying the front and passenger side of the car. Be sure to show the entire car and don’t cut off any part of the car and it should look like this: Then do the reverse from the left rear corner and it should look like this: Add a picture showing the entire driver’s seat because that is generally the part that shows the most wear and people like to see the true condition of a car in picture. Add maybe one or two more at your own discretion. If your car has any obvious damage to the body or interior, be up front and make sure you include it in the pictures otherwise you will seem deceptive.
Under no circumstances do you allow a prospective customer to know your address. What if something goes wrong with the car right after he buys it from you? You don’t want an angry person seeking revenge knowing where you live. Pick a safe, neutral and public place such as Starbuck’s, a 7 Eleven or better yet the parking lot of a police department.
How to Get Paid. Do not accept a cashier’s check under any circumstances. A cashier’s check can be stopped as easily as a regular check. Better than counting out cash in a public place would be to go to the buyer’s bank and have him draw out green cash and hand it to you at the teller window.
If You Are a Woman Selling Your Car. Desperate Lotharios have been known scour used car ads searching for available women. This can result in unwanted contacts whether or not you sold your car. We suggest enlisting a friend, meeting any stranger alone can be unpredictable.
Smog and DMV Back Fees. California law requires that when selling your car privately you must provide a current smog certificate with the title with no encumbrances to the buyer. This means that there is no money owed on the car and that any past registration or parking tickets have either been paid or disclosed to the buyer. There are no such requirements when selling to a dealer.
The Test Drive. This one can be tricky. No one wants to buy a car without test driving it right? The first thing you need to do is qualify them to make sure you are not wasting your time. Ask them “If the car drives the way it way it looks, are you ready to buy it right now, right now?” If they tell you they have a boat in their front yard with a “For Sale” sign on it and then they can buy your car, ask them to come back when they are ready. You have no choice but go with them. Don’t fall for the “hold my keys” routine, which will do no good if he damages your car or if something breaks while he is driving it. Tell them you have cookies in the oven and please make it short.
Setting the Appointment. Now that you played phone tag, answered emails and texts, have found a safe neutral place to meet and arranged to take time off from work or whatever else you were doing that day, it is now time to make the appointment. A trick I learned in my hiring days that if you make an appointment on the hour or the half hour such as 1:00PM or 1:30PM people just don’t take it seriously and show up when they want. Instead, make it on the quarter hour such as 1:15PM or 1:45PM. Because it is more precise sounding it tends to fool people into being on time.
Putting a Sign on Your Car. This can work and sometimes has immediate results. One time I was riding my bicycle and I saw a ’65 Mustang with a “For Sale” sign on it with the phone number. The owner was inside a restaurant when I called and came right out. It turned out that he had the title in his back pocket, I had the cash in mine and we struck a deal. I threw the bike in the trunk and drove home in my new Mustang!
California is an “open title” State and What That Means to You. When you sell a car in California you simply sign your title and hand to the buyer. He then takes the title himself to the DMV and registers the car in his name. You have to trust him to do this in a timely manner which doesn’t always happen. Yes, there is a “Release of Liability” tear-off section on your title which you fill out, include the buyers name and address and send to Sacramento. But the DMV is running about six months behind because of salary and budget cuts. This can result in parking tickets and traffic fines incurred by the new owner which will be sent to you. It is possible to prove that you are not responsible but it requires taking a day off work and going to traffic court because there is no longer an option to resolve these matters by phone.
I once bought a Toyota from a tiny Japanese woman and she told me a story regarding a previous car that she had sold privately. She immediately started receiving thousands of dollars’ worth of red light camera tickets and toll booth violations. She had to go to court, hold up the ticket with the new owner shown clearly driving through a red light and say to the judge, “Your honor, you can clearly see that I am not a large African-American man!”
As a result, this unique loophole in California DMV bureaucracy has created and entire cottage industry called “Curbstoning”. Curbstoners are unlicensed, unscrupulous people who buy and sell cars without ever putting the cars in their names. They will buy your car; pretend it is for them, hold your title with your signature on it until they sell it to someone else. This could happen several times before there is an actual new registered owner resulting in a chain of “owners” incurring violations which will be sent to you.
Releasing Your Liability. The only way to release your liability immediately, and I strongly suggest that you do this, is to go to the DMV yourself with the buyer. Make an appointment at the DMV, accompany the new owner to the counter and witness with your own eyes the transfer from you to the new registered owner. This way nothing can come back and bite you.
Conclusion. Yes, it is possible to sell your car on your own and put a few extra bucks in your pocket if you follow these steps. But if you want to avoid the hassle, get quick cash for your car on the spot then call Dennis! 310-253-9977