67 Ways NOT To Sell A Car

240000 & Still Kickin'


Goodbye, Nissan 240SX.  Hello, $1200 cash.  [This is my happy dance]

I hate selling cars.  Actually I hate cars in general. I’m horrible at them, I don’t understand them, and I don’t do a good job of taking care of them.  Luckily, I’ve been blessed the last few years by the gods of Japan, a.k.a. Nissan.  I did nothing right for 6 years straight and this little thing held strong.

I think it’s important as bloggers to admit when we suffer “epic” fail.  I occasionally fall into the habit of preaching from a soap box (a.k.a. yesterday), but every now and then I take the time to step up and admit I suck.  I sucked today. I just got lucky.  I like being lucky.

You can’t run a car into the ground for 6 years, ignoring check engine lights, changing oil, slowly leaking tires, broken headlights, and impending rust and expect to make a big profit when you sell.  After all the car has 240,000 miles. How much longer can this thing go?

Did I mention we waited until the last minute, threw up a rough ad (good picture thanks to wife, though), and just kind of closed our eyes?  We thought we’d be lucky to get $1000. Actually we said told ourselves we’d take anything over $1000 and run.  We put it up for $1500 “or best offer” (mistake).  I was flooded with calls asking all kinds of questions, especially “what’s the lowest you’ll take”.  I literally had a tough time keeping up with everything.

The first 4 people who looked at it passed without even making an offer.  They were out looking for a steal and weren’t willing to deal with a leaking brake line, leaking oil, power steering pump, weak transmission, dents in the body, rips in the leather seats, and 240,000 miles.  Selfish pricks. I was starting to get really worried.

Then the clouds parted and out dropped a young kid who just enrolled in technical school to work on cars.  Guess what his dream fixer-upper was.  Hallelujah! About an hour of looking under the hood and under the car, he totaled up what it would take to create the next inspiration behind Fast & The Furious and offered $1200.  I countered at $1300, he declined.  I thought for exactly 1.5 seconds before running away as fast as I could with $1200!

I quickly sat down and jotted everything I did wrong in this process.  It took up almost a full page, so I just kept the party going and brainstormed everything I could have done wrong.  I’ll leave it up to your imagination which half of the following I actually did and which I made up.  It’s more fun this way…

67 Ways NOT To Sell A Car

  1. Don’t worry when a little rust starts to form.
  2. Don’t wash the outside of the car. First impressions don’t matter.
  3. Don’t pick up trash from the back seat of the car.  Who rides in the back seat?
  4. Clean the car, but don’t detail it.
  5. Don’t bother checking the fluid levels.  Who cares about oil, brake fluid, and power steering?
  6. Don’t fix minor interior problems, such a knobs, switches, and vents.
  7. Don’t bother with adding an air-freshner.
  8. Let your pets have free reign over the car.
  9. Don’t worry about touching up paint.
  10. Don’t bother cleaning out the trunk.  Instead assume they won’t pop it open.
  11. Add the 16th bumper sticker to your collection.
  12. Continually smoke in your car up until the day you sell.
  13. Don’t replace old, worn out floor mats.
  14. Let your kids eat food in the car.  Would you like fries with that?
  15. Assume waxing your vehicle is over-rated.
  16. Sell your car to a dealer without checking the private party market.
  17. Don’t bother with keeping maintenance records. Everyone will take your word.
  18. Don’t mention that your car has been totaled… twice.
  19. Don’t bother paying off the title even if you’re able.
  20. Only advertise in one medium.
  21. Don’t bother with free online listings. They take too long and people hate the internet.
  22. Clean the car, but ignore the tires/rims.  No one ever looks at the size or condition of tires.
  23. Don’t bother to check the air in all the tires.
  24. Don’t replace broken headlights.  You can just sell it during the day.
  25. Don’t replace broken windshield wipers.  You can sell it on a sunny day.
  26. Let people test drive your car alone.
  27. Tell everyone your reason for selling is “Time to move on from this one.”
  28. Print fliers in black and white.
  29. Forget to mention you’ve been the only owner.
  30. Grant a discount, because it’s “all the cash they have on them”.
  31. Put “Or Best Offer” on every ad.
  32. Forget to mention any other calls or appointments you may have.
  33. Sell your 4-wheel drive in the spring, right after all the snow melts away.
  34. Sell your rear-wheel drive convertible in November.
  35. Donate your car to charity without first testing the local market, solely for the tax write-off.
  36. Start your price slightly above-market, just in case.  That works well for homes, too.
  37. Advertise your price as $13,000 instead of $12,900, even if you’re willing to take $12,000.
  38. Don’t bother getting that clicking noise looked at.  Buyers probably won’t notice it.
  39. Don’t worry about a physical “For Sale” sign.
  40. Forget to mention that you are selling your car to family and friends.
  41. Have an annoying ring-back tone on the number you place in the ads.  Everyone likes Soulja Boy.
  42. Don’t screen buyers by phone.  Just put your address directly in the ad.
  43. Ignore how you look when you meet potential buyers to show the car.
  44. Sell your car on payments.
  45. Answer the question, “What’s the lowest you’ll take?”
  46. Just sign over the title, without checking your state laws.  Isn’t that what Uncle Earl always does?
  47. Forget to look over the glove compartment and trunk one last time.
  48. Don’t cancel your insurance after selling the car.
  49. Don’t study the local market. Kelley Blue Book conquers all.
  50. Post an ad without any pictures.
  51. Ignore all calls from numbers you don’t know hoping they will leave a voicemail.
  52. Be the first to throw out a price once negotiations start.
  53. Accept a personal check as payment.
  54. Underestimate the leverage of an official car history report.
  55. Rush the buyer when he is looking over the car.
  56. Lose a deal over $50, with very little other prospects.
  57. Don’t list all of the obvious issues with the car in the ads.
  58. Over-promise, under-deliver.
  59. Don’t thoroughly include all the details and features.  Who cares about power-windows?
  60. Fail to explicitly state that “car is sold as is” and definitely don’t get that in writing anywhere.
  61. List your car on Monday night.  The weekend is usually too convenient for people.
  62. Wait until the last minute to sell your car.
  63. Don’t worry about getting seat covers for damaged interior.
  64. Lie about known problems.  These things never come around.
  65. Lack knowledge of your car’s gas mileage.
  66. Grow attached to a particular buyer and forget you always have the option of walking away.
  67. Once the sale is complete, sport the Happy Dance in full view of the buyer.

Do you suck at cars half as much as I do?  What are your favorite ways NOT to sell a car?  List them below and I’ll add any original ones up into the post above!

80 thoughts on “67 Ways NOT To Sell A Car”

  1. Hate selling cars. I unfortunately procrastinated selling mine before I packed up for Taiwan. My (false) hope was that my family would get use out of it – the car died within the first month of me being gone.

    Now, it’s sitting in my parents driveway, and my mom’s hassling with selling it.
    (that can go ahead and be #68… leave it for your mother to do.)

    Chase’s last blog post..Creative Opportunities

  2. Very nice.

    A friend of mine recently had his ’93 Civic stolen – 200K+ miles, NO options (not even AC or power steering). Long story short, the cops tried to pull the thieves over for a burned out tail light, and thieves decided to play Frogger with the other traffic, resulting in signficant damage (definitely significant enough to total it).

    Suffice it to say that the insurance settlement was more than he could have sold the vehicle for.

    Kosmo @ The Casual Observer’s last blog post..Retro fiction: Tina

      1. I guess it’s cause Honda makes engines like they do their motorcycles. They REV. I never even got close to redlining mine, cause it sounded too loud to me. I can see a thief having fun with a civic, as he would have no interest in being nice to the car.

      2. Never underestimate the appeal of an early-90’s Civic to the Fast & Furious crowd. The cars don’t have much by way of horsepower or creature comforts, but they’re well-supported by the aftermarket and make a solid foundation for tuning. Plus every other ricer out there has one with a broken bit or two, so theives will often snag a decent-looking car, strip it, dump the chassis, and sell the parts.

        Just FYI. As the owner of a ’91 CRX, I live in mortal fear of car theives 🙂

        Brent’s last blog post..A few 100 Acre Woods photos

        1. You have to realize why people steal cars. They don’t steal them to resell them, they steal them to strip them down and sell the parts. I parted out an RX-7 that I bought after it was totaled in a front in collision and made over $1000, plus I kept the engine for my car!
          The most stolen cars are older cars that were very popular and are now breaking down and need parts – 90’s civics, for example.

  3. Thought you might appreciate my car,- My 1994 Nissan Sentra.

    The cool part about these old Nissan’s is that somehow they heal themselves. Nasty noises seem to go away if you ignore them, they don’t need oil changes(it’s been about 3 years), they have almost no repair bills, and who cares how it looks it just drives.

    I have had the same experience as you, although my car wouldn’t go for anywhere near $1200 bucks.

    The Happy Rock’s last blog post..Importance Of Good Real Estate Listing Photos(With Pictures)

      1. @Kosmo – It doesn’t burn oil for one, which is amazing for an old car. But mostly it is just laziness and a bit of unfounded superstition. Part of me feels like if I pour any money into it is going to ask for more, although I didn’t spring to replace all 4 dry rotted and balding tires. Also it doesn’t get driven far, only like 11-2k in those 3 years, since I mostly drive to and from work and to the store.

        The Happy Rock’s last blog post..Importance Of Good Real Estate Listing Photos(With Pictures)

        1. Gah, 12,000 miles without an oil change? And mostly in town/stop-and-go driving? I know mid 80’s to late 90’s Hondas/Toyotas/Nissans are pretty much bullet-proof, but you’re probably tearing the hell out of that engine by now.

          I hope you never plan to sell that car, because if you don’t tell this to the buyer up front and/or lie about it when asked, you’re a dishonest shithead who deserves a sledgehammer to the genitals, and if you DO tell a potential buyer about this, they’ll probably just turn around and walk away.

          Oil changes are cheap, and if you’ve got something against mechanics, it’s maintenance you can do yourself for $30 bucks in 30 minutes.

          Adem Rudin’s last blog post..blag

          1. I’ve had a number of cars that haven’t needed oil changes. I’d just top off the oil every week or so and after a couple of months (or less!) I’d have put in enough oil to amount to an oil change.

            All you need is an engine that leaks/burns oil at a fast enough rate and you don’t need to worry about oil changes!

    1. I guess so. I had no idea that it would be that much in demand. Everyone wanted to call on it, but no one wanted to deal with the issues. Well, I guess one guy did want to deal with the issues!

  4. There apparently is this whole underground worshippers for 240SX’s. A buddy of mine from high school and loved it. Wouldn’t get rid of it even when a fellow friend offered his corvette for it. I just don’t get it! lol.

    1. I guess I’d rather be lucky than good! I can’t imagine if that little thing didn’t have a cult following. Maybe $250 just to take it away!

  5. You can sell cars to people? The only place I’ve ever sold a car to is the wreckers… after the wheels fell off… and the transmission fell out…
    I can’t imagine selling a car I’ve owned to anyone without a severe mental condition. That’s why they all go to the wreckers. They’re not so picky and I don’t feel personally responsible for someones death.

    1. Mike, I would gladly drive this thing until it fell apart, but we are moving in two weeks out of the country. In this instance, we had no choice!

  6. If you have maintenance records, have them visible to the buyer in a portfolio. Keep a business card handy of where you got your oil changes and checkups (This makes you more credible). If the buyer is serious, they can call in and ask about your car.

  7. Nissan 240 are great project cars for people who want to make drifters. Rear wheel drive, manual transmission and tons of after market bolt ons.
    Sold my wifes which had a leak in the trunk, a missing foam rear spoiler and bad injectors for over 3K.


    1. Tell me about it. I knew a couple people would be interested, but had no idea they would still get decent price with so many blatant problems!

  8. i had an ’89 Nissan 240sx. That car lasted me over 7 years. Turned over 300,000 miles on it. And it’s true, those damn Japs can sure make quality cars.

    I sold it with a bad tranmission, a missing passenger window (car was broken into about a week before i sold it), and all kinds of bad things done to it.

    some old guy bought it from me non-running and paid me 800 bucks for it!

    and all i did was leave it parked in my apt complex parking lot with a sign in the window.

  9. This is a great post on the car selling process. And I can relate to not being a “car guy.” Beyond basic maintenance, I’m useless. I’d drive a Flintstone car if I had one. Regarding tip #1 – Rustoleum makes a great auto spray paint, which when applied after a little gentle sanding, looks quite good. Well, if you don’t mind a two-tone car, that is.

    Frugal Dad’s last blog post..Weekly Roundup: Picking Up The Pace Edition

    1. I really regret not taking care of that rust once I first saw it. Once again, I was just lazy. That stuff can get out of hand really quick if you don’t nip it in the butt!

  10. with those cars all the people are buying is a shell. they’ll fix up the rust, drop a new axle in the rear, new drive shaft and an sr20det, or if they’re really getting crazy with it they’ll drop in an rb26dett, the cars are super light, handle well and drift like no other. if you list one for under 2k it will probably be gone in a mater of a couple days. Check out Nicoclub.com forums classifieds if you really want to see how in demand they are, or just watch any Formula D event.

    1. Yeah, I can see what they do with them. I really just had no idea. Once again, just one area where I am really ignorant. I try to admit it and learn from it though!

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  12. @49 Don’t study the local market. Kelley Blue Book conquers all.


    Dealerships use Nadaguides over KBB

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  18. Nobody Important

    This article was a complete waste of my time. There’s a reason you only got $1,200 for your car — because you didn’t do any of the things on your list!

    I’m someone who’s GOOD at cars — I keep my cars for 8-10 years, take care of them along the way, and sell them for TOP DOLLAR when I do finally decide to sell. Why do people give me TOP DOLLAR for my cars? Because the paint still looks nice (no door dings), all the creature comforts still work (air conditioner, power windows, stereo — you name it, it still works), the automobile has been maintained (no leaks, no funny sounds — again, everything works).

    Maybe someone who is GOOD at cars should write an article that people would be interested in reading — and maybe THAT article would actually help people. :rolleyes:

  19. I sold my car after it overheated and stopped running. I let it go for $50 but neglected to remove the brand new battery, brand new spark plugs, brand new headlights, and 6 month-old tires (about $500 worth of parts) before the buyer towed it away. I was desperate to sell because the tag was about to expire. I had no idea that my state doesn’t require you to have tags on a car that doesn’t run.

    1. I suppose I should mention that the car was over 20 years old, had over 500,000 miles on it, and that KBB put the value (if it were running) at only $300.

  20. I hope that this was a satire b/c this list is all wrong.
    I use to sell cars at a dealership and most of this is incorrect.

  21. I have a 1976 GMC Sprint and was wondering after reading all this stuff. It had turned over 100,000 miles on it when I got it and now it is up to little over 400,000 should I mention that on just let them look an see it has 38,000 miles on it and let them assume what they want?

  22. look i sell cars for a living and the majority of this list is bs no one will pay good money for a car that looks bad and smells horrible poeple love the internet all of you r on it now so post on the internet if it didnt work dealerships wouldnt do it carfax and kelly blue book r important and nada and kbb are great guides but thats all they r they dont take in consideration whats goin on at the auctions dealers do everyone checks fluids and tires if you think you can sell a car with no fluids and bald tires with the wires comin out either you or the guy who buys it is nuts and everytday i hear do u have maintnance records wich r really important if you want to keep your warrenty valid i have been a proffessional car sales man since i was 18 now im 25 and my best way to sell is show the customer everything carfax kbb i mean everything if you have maintnance records show those too cause you want to build value in your car but this is the internet an anyone can put what ever they want on hear like some guy who sells a couple of cars a year so he thinks he is an expert and they best advice i dont care if its a dollar car you show it like it worth a million bucks

    1. You seem to have missed the point of the article. It is “67 ways NOT to sell a car.” Do the things on the list if you DON’T want to sell a car or get top dollar for it. If you DON’T want to sell it, let your kids drop food all over it, let your pets run wild in it, sell it with bone-dry fluid levels, don’t wax it, take a personal check, etc. If you do the opposite of what is shown on the list, you’ll do just fine.

  23. Michael Kaczmarek

    Make sure to hot put your phone number on the ‘for sale’sign. People would love to try and track you down.:)

  24. Recently I have been looking to buy a few old and cheap used cars using Craig’s list to find them. I can tell you I have seen just about every mistake on your list in this journey including some listings by local dealers. Oddly, I did buy a truck that was not cleaned inside or out. In fact, the seats and carpets were black with grease and there was trash in the front and back. It was a good deal for the price and since I was able to clean the grease that other people refused to look past, I was able to get a very low price. It cost the sellers $300. Your list is very accurate.

    A very good list to go by for the potential car seller.

  25. gauge cluster looks like a 97-98 240sx. if you sold one of those for 1k thats a deal. 97-98 240sx sell for a premium there were less than 5,000 of them sent here. i sold mine last year for 7k

  26. Late 80’s and 90’s Japanese cars are very good. My first car was a 92 Accord I purchased in 2000. Paid 3800+ takes from a dealer. It had 190000 miles on it. I added another 70000 miles in 4 years and traded the car for $2000. It was still running good when I sold in 2004.

  27. How do you keep maintenance records when, (if work is hired out) for the last decade, most receipts have been on thermal paper that fades in a year ar so, & (if I do the work) phony ledger entries can look the same as accurate ones?
    Also, pertaining to the thing about not mentioning if a car was totalled, this varies by state. Everywhere I’ve lived (SE US), all used car sales are as-is. Of course, anyone who’s concerned about it & has at least ½ a brain will spot the salvage title.

  28. #68: Don’t change the battery. They’ll come back for the test drive after you get your parents charger on it for a few hours.

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  30. Interesting observations, Baker!

    After reading through all 67 ways “Not” to sell a car, I realized why I have No Problems selling my used cars and getting fair prices over the past 35 years . I really do the OPPOSITE of your list and usually make the sale to the 1st buyer that responds to my ads!!

    Maybe, point #68 to possibly add…Don’t tell the prospective buyer why You bought the car, loved it and kept it for xxx years!


  31. Don’t offer to sell it for your kids. Ours moved to Hawaii, said here sell this for me. But did’nt clean it up at all before he brought it to us.

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  33. Great post! I loved your list and found everything on it very significant. As a professional helping private individuals sell their cars and trucks in the For Sale By Owner arena, I think everyone should see this list! Congratulations on your sale, but I think the 1.5 seconds was way to long to contemplate his offer. You should have just jumped on it!

  34. This is an insightful and fun post to read, Baker. I just had my first car selling experience a few months ago and wish I had found this post back then. I’m not sure I have a new rule, but I would slightly modify rule #42.

    42. Don’t screen buyers by phone. Just put your address directly in the ad.

    This is a good start, but I would take it one step further for safety’s sake, depending on where you live:

    My 42. Don’t meet in a mutual place with prospective buyers. Just let *everyone* know where you and your family lives.
    .-= Broke MBA´s last blog ..Weekly Roundup =-.

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  36. Baker this post makes me laugh Never had a job selling cars bought and sold my share though. My best friends dad owned a junk yard and I normally just drove my piece of crap there and let him sell what was left of it. I normally got my monies worth out of my rides on the other hand were never new. I even drove my 280sel into the ground and junked it because I didn’t want to deal with selling it. Love buying them though.
    Again you have a great list Thanks for the smile.
    Brad West ~ onomoney
    .-= Brad West´s last blog ..Hypnotic Conversation Totally Rules =-.

  37. First, I loved your post. I found a really EASY way to sell a car. I did a google search for sell a car and for cash for cars and found lots of companies that will come right to you and pay you cash for your car. I had an ad on Craigslist for like a month and never got a legitimate offer. Then I found these cash for cars companies and had an appraiser at my house with a check book in like an hour. I know this sounds like a commercial, but it was really a great experience. And it was easy. I hope this helps!

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  39. You forgot the most important one. Don’t Bother looking for the title BEFORE the customer gets there. Who needs a title? duhhh

  40. Wow! Am I glad I read this post. First never give a car to relatives. My partner has given 2 cars to a niece. Both cars died. One was totaled the other wasn’t maintained. Amazing. Sad thing is it actually cost my partner $3000 dollars to give the second car to the niece. I now have a 14 year old 4-runner with 250K miles on it. Maintained at the dealership only. Don’t need it anymore…bought a Prius 4 years ago. Got some ideas here about how to sell it.

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  45. There is no doubt it is easier buying a car than selling it. NO wonder so may traders do well. When you add up what you lose when trading in and how much extra profit you are giving the dealer, you end up with a figure of money that could buy a second car.

  46. Obviously buying a car is a lot harder than going to resell it. The problem with vehicles now a days is that they were not built like they used to be, the wear and tear on modern day vehicles begin to break to down a lot sooner and prior to it being driven a lot of having a heavy mileage.

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