After owning and enjoying my 1994 Mazda Miata for a year and a half, I decided that I needed a sporty car that also had a backseat. So I began the process of getting my Miata ready to sell on craigslist. The steps to do this included some elbow grease and then some planning and organization, but the result was well worth it because I ended up selling my car to the first person who came to see it, for every penny of my asking price.
A word about the timing of my sale. I was planning to list my convertible in May so that I could quickly make a sale for top dollar. I had owned the car since February 2009. I timed the purchase and the sale in such a way that I paid no seasonal premium, but was selling exactly when the largest number of people would be interested in buying a convertible. Similar considerations would apply to selling an AWD car as you head into your area’s snow season. Basically, for many vehicles, there will be a time of year when the selling price will be at a temporary high and if possible you’ll want to take advantage of this.
Having waited until the timing was right, the next step involved cleaning the car up and getting it in the best shape possible before I took pictures . In addition to the normal wash, I used a vinyl treatment on all of the plastic surfaces. Things still weren’t 100 percent and so I decided to break out a Sharpie pen and invest $4 in some Duplicolor black “vinyl and fabric” spray paint. The strategy here was to re-dye the seats with the Duplicolor and use the Sharpie to touch up the blemishes on the leather steering wheel wrap. After about 2 hours of effort in total, I might not have taken “1st in show” but the overall impression the car made was much improved.
Next, I used Meguiar’s spray detailer to shine up the outside of the car. This went a lot faster than a traditional waxing and gave a similar result. Some Black Magic wheel cleaner as well as more scrubbing was next, and then finally a few minutes work to clean all of the exterior glass completed the pre-photo prep.
I took about ten high-res photos of the car, making sure to capture every angle, plus the interior and under the hood. Since the car was 16 years old and also had some minor scrapes and dents, I decided to make very clear photos of the problem areas so that potential buyers would be fully informed ahead of contacting me about seeing the car. Then, I posted the photos into an album on flickr.com so that I could link them to the posting on craigslist that I was about to make.
So after approximately 4 to 6 hours of preparation and planning, I created an account on craigslist and posted my ad on a Thursday night. I expected that I would be showing and selling the car throughout the upcoming weekend. At this point I had all of the spare parts for the car stowed in the trunk, and a folder full of repair receipts plus the clear title in a handy location.
As it turned out, I had about 15 people respond to the ad via e-mail in the first 12 hours. I scheduled two showings for that Friday at lunchtime. After I met the first prospective buyer at a nearby Target parking lot to show the car, he took it for a test drive with me and within 15 minutes of looking the car over, he agreed to pay my asking price. We exchanged cash for title and within 18 hours of listing my Miata I had funds ready to roll into my next auto purchase.
I finished up by deleting my craigslist posting and e-mailing everyone interested in the car to let them know that it was sold. In all, after the preparation and planning, the experience of selling the car actually took a small amount of time.
One point to consider is whether it would have been better to ask more for my car and show it to a few more buyers in order to get a higher selling price. In my case, with the car having some cosmetic blemishes and being somewhat older, I decided my priority was a fast sale and so I priced aggressively low to generate a lot of interest. If your preference is for top dollar and you don’t mind showing the car to more buyers, you may choose to price at the top of what would be considered a reasonable price.
I believe the time and effort to prep the car and make a detailed ad paid big benefits by leading to a quick sale. I did as much as I could to ready the car without investing more than a few dollars. I also made sure to write a highly detailed ad that let interested buyers judge the car ahead of contacting me. The experience of actually showing and selling the car practically took care of itself. Best of luck in your own efforts!