How to sell a classic car

When you choose to buy a classic car it should be one of the most exciting purchases you make (well, if you like classic cars it should be).  A few months ago I posted some advice based on our experience of buying classic cars. Selling a classic car is an entirely different experience, here’s our advice from the other side of the fence.  At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we aren’t a trade dealer, but we have probably bought and sold more cars than most people in the process of runing our classic car hire business. If you have owned and sold a few classic cars then you’ll know that the selling experience is often akin to removing your own finger nails. It’s horrible. It rarely goes smoothly. Potential buyers would distrust you only marginally less if you dressed in a sheepskin coat and gold chains and dragged a pitbull around. But there are ways to make it go much more smoothly and ensure you get a better price, with less risk of hassle months or even years down the line. Here’s our guide.

1. Be Honest

You are legally obliged to describe the car you are selling accurately to the best of your knowledge. If you say it has a MOT it should have, similarly regarding service history and condition.  You aren’t obliged to provide a forensic description of the car but what you do say should be honest and accurate. If you are selling the car ‘sold as seen’ it is up to the buyer to check the car’s condition and satisfy themselves that it represents a fair price for its condition. Take care when selling the car on Ebay – as you are auctioning the car potentially unseen by the buyer you must make sure that what you say is accurate and complete. The buyer may not always agree with you but if you do you’re covered in the event of a dispute when the car is collected.

2. Take care when advertising the car

The internet has totally changed how cars are bought and sold.  Websites like Car and Classic, Classic Cars for Sale and Ebay are now the main route for selling a classic car. When you place your car consider your advertisement very carefully – you are in competition with all of the other similar cars that buyers can easily and quickly access. Your advert is part of a sales proces – you want to convert interest into action, namely getting the phone to ring. This seems simple but it is surprising how few sellers bear this in mind when advertising their cars. The nature and quality of the photographs you show and the content you write are the only details a potential buyer has to go on before deciding whether to call you or pass onto the next car. Take good photographs in a pleasant location.  Wash the car and valet it before you photograph it. Photograph the service history and include it in the advert. Structure your words clearly – avoid unsubstantiated phrases like ‘it’s a great car’ unless you explain exactly why it is. Clearly list the positive aspects of the car and the negative ones, thereby justifying the price you want. If you know these cars well or if you cherish them, make that clear – you are as important to selling your car as the car itself.  Buyers are more likely to buy from a seller who appears honest and appears to love and cherish their car. The more information you provide, the more calls you will get; they will also be better quality. A comprehensive advert may take time to write but it will save you lots of time in the long run and support the price you want. Since the vast majority of classic car sales adverts are very poor and do not conform to these guidelines your advert will easily stand out if you follow this advice.

3. Manage & Control Your Buyers

Selling a car can disrupt your daily life. Buyers will expect to see the car at the drop of a hat. They will travel miles to see it. You will spend considerable time preparing the car for the viewing and meeting the seller. Before arranging a viewing be careful to vet the buyer. Obviously you don’t want to filter out genuine buyer – vetting is not about that, it is about focussing on the genuine buyers. Make sure they understand exactly what you are selling in terms of its condition – is this what they are looking for? Find out how serious they are about buying the car you’re selling – is it the colour, model, condition and specification they want? How do they sound on the phone – are they open and friendly or closed and suspicious? When you discuss the car on the phone or by email don’t oversell it – be honest and accurate and let the buyer do the running. That way you cannot be accused of misleading them.

4. Buyer & Seller Beware

If you’ve described your car accurately then it is up to the buyer to check it over and be sure it is what they want. They should assess the car and identify any issues or problems that you either haven’t mentioned or aren’t aware of.  You aren’t legally obliged to list all of the car’s faults but it is counter productive not to present the car fairly – omissions will probably bite you when the car is inspected (and therefore undermine your price) or further down the line. There will always be a reason why you are selling the car and the buyer will always ask you what it is – often this will be because you’ve spent so much money on it that you’re sick of it.  You may not express it in those words but you may say it has cost you more than you expected – this is not necessarily a bad thing. Canny buyers know to buy cars that someone else has spent money on. If the buyer is not equipped to assess the car properly then it is up to them to bring someone along who is.  You aren’t obliged to provide a test drive or a ramp, but both will be beneficial to you if you have nothing to hide. When the buyer inspects the car answer their questions honestly and comprehensively but avoid waffling and gushing. Give the buyer space to check the car without you hovering over them.

5. EBay Pitfalls

Selling a car on Ebay can be either fantastically easy or terribly fraught. It rarely seems to fall inbetween. Ebay auction winners will arrive to collect the car acting as if they are inspecting it for purchase. Unless the car was seriously poorly described they are contracted to buy it but very few buyers consciously acknowledge this. The solution is to clearly and obviously encourage buyers to view before they bid – if they don’t then legally they have to accept the consequences if your advert was accurate. If an Ebay buyer tries to negotiate when they collect the car, walk away.

6. Get a signed agreement

Buying a classic car is a risky business. However rigorous your buyer’s purchase checks are they don’t really know what they’ve got until they’ve lived with it for a while. Buyers will discover issues with the car that you either never noticed or were only vaguely aware of. Things that you were prepared to put up with and therefore maybe not even bother mentioning they will notice immediately after buying it. Don’t be surprised if your buyer calls, emails or writes accusing you of misleading them – you won’t be the first person to experience this, or the last. To avoid potential comeback you must create a simple deed of sale to which both parties agree. This document doesn’t have to be complicated – just include the names of the parties involved, the date of sale, the sale price and the words ‘sold as seen with no warranty offered or implied.’ If the buyer does contact you after the sale you may feel a moral obligation to assist them, but it is unlikely there will be a legal one.

7. Consider a public auction

If you don’t like the idea of selling your car privately then an auction, such as those run by H&H, is an excellent alternative. This article is not a sales pitch for auctions but I now only sell my cars this way, in order to avoid the problems described above. You may not achieve quite the price you would get privately – although often the price will be very close or more – but the process is considerably simpler and much quicker. If you want a simple, easy sale with no comeback and a guaranteed sale date, auction it. A fairly priced and accurately described car will generally sell at auction – we have a 100% success rate. I can recommend H&H who make the process very easy and even offer a collection service for your car.

I hope this advice is useful. Most of my classic car sales have been smooth and largely pleasant. One or two haven’t. I generally opt to auction any cars I sell now because it is impersonal and straightforward – in return for those benefits I accept that I have less control over the ultimate sale price. That may not work for everyone.

Of course, if buying, owning and selling cars feels like too much hassle and too much cost, at Great Escape we can offer a wide range of classic cars to hire.… Visit or cal 01527 893733. If you are selling a car feel free to email me on to ask any questions.

#buyersguide #buyingaclassiccar #classiccarbuyer #classiccarhire

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