By Ray Tellili
With consumers paying more attention to their pocketbooks, the used car market has really heated up. If you have been thinking about selling your vehicle, now is as good a time as any.
For simplicity, I will stick to dispensing advice as to how you can sell your vehicle on Autotrader.ca, the biggest and most recognized online car marketplace in Canada; but also the place I worked at for four and a half years. My job at Autotrader.ca was to help dealerships (over 40 at any given time) to market and sell their new and used cars online. Naturally, you can apply the exact same principles I will outline here to sell your vehicle to any online vehicle marketplace, anywhere in the world. In fact, these principles apply to pretty much anything you sell online.
As a private seller, on Autotrader, you can post your ad for free online. Car dealerships of course pay to post their cars online based on their inventory levels. To post your car for free, just follow the instructions on autotrader.ca, but first read on. Oh and by the way, Autotrader did not pay me to write this.
Shoppers today are more savvy and do all their research online. They invest a significant amount of time to find the perfect vehicle. They know exactly what car they are going to buy before even walking into the dealership. The old days of having to drive to 5 different dealerships and waiting for the salesman to come back (smelling of cigarettes and coffee) after ‘talking’ to their manager to see if they could get you a better deal for the car they wanted to sell you are over.
Nowadays, the dealerships that market their cars online properly and follow the basic rules and principles that I will outline below outsell all their competitors — and by a wide margin. I know this to be a fact. Your task is to make it so that the buyer knows exactly what they are buying before they show up to check out your vehicle. Here’s what you need to do:
PRICE YOUR CAR
First, you want to figure out what your vehicle is worth. On Google, enter your make, model, year, and look for the vehicles with mileage similar to yours. Then check on AutoTrader.ca and filter by make, model, year, and mileage to see what similar vehicles are selling for and then price accordingly. There is also a ‘what’s my car worth‘ tool on AutoTrader.ca that you can check out.
If, for example, you are going to sell your 2014 Honda Civic Touring with 120,00km for more money than what others are selling the same car for, that’s fine. You just need to explain why you are asking for more money. You will do this in the ‘Description’
When someone is about to spend thousands of dollars, they want to know exactly what it is that they are buying. You want to reassure the buyer by being transparent and providing them with lots of relevant details. An interested buyer will read your description thoroughly and they will gravitate towards ads that have good descriptions. Give them all the info they need.
In the title part of the description, add in as much info as you can get away with (there are a limited amount of characters allowed). That will make your vehicle stand out from other similar vehicles. For example, rather than just ‘2014 Honda Civic Touring CVT’; try ‘2014 Honda Civic Touring CVT, Leather Seats, Heated steering Wheel, or ‘…no accidents, low mileage’ or some such.
In the main body of the description, start with your own description, and then add in the detailed vehicle specifications (specs). For the Specs information, just google to get the details, e.g. ‘2014 Honda Civic Touring specs’. You can also find good info in the driver’s manual.
Your description should be detailed. If you are the type that actually changes the oil when the lube shop recommends it, or you are including a full set of nice rims, this is the time to let the buyer know — not later. If you’ve taken good care of your vehicle; highlight it. If your vehicle was always parked in a garage, and its accident-free, or driven by a retiree; mention it. “Really great car, no issues. Selling because I want to buy the 2021”. “Great car. super economical on gas, and drives well in the city as well as the highway. Selling as I no longer need to commute to work”. “Really comfortable ride. Smoke-free vehicle from clean owner. Tires (new) and brakes are in excellent condition, and oil change and maintenance was all done at Honda only; I have all the maintenance and service records”. If you still have a valid warranty that you can pass on to the buyer – include that.
Remove the fear that potential buyers have by providing good information.
If you are asking for $1100 more than the next 2014 Honda Civic that is listed; the potential buyer viewing the ads should have no doubt as to why your car is $1100 more. Make it clear in the description.
Conversely, if your car has some issues, list them. Be transparent. This shows your are not sneaky and reassures the buyer they are dealing with someone honest. For example, “Solid car, great drive, with no major issues, etc., etc., tires are a little worn – have lowered the price to compensate. I checked with abc auto (ph# 604.000.0000), they will install 4 new tires with tax for $450, everything else is in order, just did an oil change last week “.
After you have written a good description, add in the specs of the vehicle and include everything e.g., automatic, cruise control, even AM/FM Radio. More is better. Autotrader will have all these spec options prefilled – you just need to check off the applicable boxes.
You will need to take about 15 photos. That’s not a random number. There’s a science to all of this. Clean your car thoroughly or have it detailed if it’s worth it. You need to present a clean car. Next, pick a sunny clear day to take the pics. No sun in the forecast? Then find a place with good lighting and no trash cans or other unsightly scenes in the background. In the first pic that you will upload, the car should be facing you at an angle so that you can see the driver’s side front and side. The other 14 pics should show all exterior angles, as well as the front and back; all the interior, dashboard, console, under the hood, the trunk, the rims if they are nice, etc. Remember, the buyer wants to know everything about your car so give them all the information they require.
OFFICIAL VEHICLE HISTORY
This is optional, but I would recommend it. This is a report that shows the vehicle history – any accidents, claims, recalls, etc. To receive the report, you will need to provide your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can find the VIN at the bottom of the windshield on the driver’s side, or in your papers – it’s a string of numbers and letters. In some rare jurisdictions you can get the vehicle history report for free, but most likely it will cost you between $30 and $50 online, after which you will receive it in minutes. On Autotrader, you have the option of buying the report from Carfax Canada (the main company that provides the reports in Canada). Personally, I would never buy a vehicle without wanting to see an official vehicle history report, and neither should you. As a seller, be aware that many buyers will filter their searches to exclude vehicles that do not include a free vehicle history report, so make it easy for the shopper to buy your car by providing them with a free report.
Above and beyond applying these simple principles, you have other advantages over other sellers; primarily, that you are in charge of your customer service — this is your baby, so make yourself easy to find. Some buyers only use text, others only like to use a phone; others email, so it is best to provide both phone and email.
If you answer your phone or respond immediately, this will give you an edge also. You would not believe how many deals are lost everyday at dealerships because an interested buyer was put on hold for too long, or simply because they just did not sound friendly, or sincere enough to justify handing over hard earned cash, but you already know these kind of details, so, let’s just recap on the 3 essentials for selling your vehicle online, and they are: 1) Price you car right. 2) Write a proper description. 3) Take quality photos. 4) Optional – Include an official history vehicle report.
Best of luck.