How To Sell a Classic Car

A Synopsis of the Car Selling Process, Simplified


Take a moment to see how many different ways you can type, "how to sell a classic car" on a given search engine. Luckily, you can avoid this step altogether if you know what to do, and where to look.

We all have our own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sales. Some people are masters at photography, others are naturals at meeting buyers and closing the deal. The car selling process has officially been boiled down to a science.

Good news: it doesn't matter what model classic you have. The process still works. It could be a 1964 Aston Martin DB5. It could be a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. Hell, it could even be an 1884 De Dion Bouton Et Trapardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout. Well, probably not that.

Classics are perceived around the world as iconic, and are representative of a time when cars were meant to be as flashy as possible. No matter what kind of classic you own and are looking to sell, there is somebody out there who is willing to take it off your hands.

How To Sell a Classic Car: Imaginative Descriptions

Describing the aesthetics of a car is the easy part. Just take detailed look at it, and take equally detailed notes about every characteristic of the car. Make sure to take note of the defunct characteristics, too. 

You always want to fully disclose everything to a potential buyer for legal and moral reasons. 

That said, knowing how to properly sell a classic car involves more than just listing the parts. Making the full description sound sexy is the hard part. The best way to do it, and the way I went about it with my 1993 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, was this:

Close your eyes and envision the most beautiful car imaginable, to the best of your ability. Now start to break down this beautiful and probably impossible to obtain car of your dreams. Break that baby down to bare adjectives.

Sleek. Vibrant. Bright. Comfortable. Loud. Not-so-loud.

Adjectives. The lost art of sexiness in sales.

How To Sell a Classic Car: Pictures, the Visual Stimuli

Pictures are major. They are the visual stimuli that convince your potential buyers to engage with your ad instead of the Other Guy. Take a figurative and literal step back before whipping out the Cannon-X-whatever-that-you-have hidden in your living room wire closet. Consider using an iPhone, like a normal person. Then, wait for a beautiful sunny day that can make your pictures appear [insert adjective here, like Sleek!].

Make sure to also include pictures that show off the car's functions. For example, if your car has 360 degree headlights, show that off. If your car has custom LED lights, show that off. Consider also inserting pictures of the car with and without these functions for the buyer. 

Remember that you want to appeal to the old school riders who are looking for classiness and cleanliness.

How To Sell a Classic Car: the More Techy-Information

The tech-information pertaining to the car, like its parts and capabilities, needs to be clearly laid out in the ad. The ease of this step ranges, depending on whether or not you saved something resembling a brochure that came with your classic. This would come from the dealer or from previous owners. It should include all of the information you need on how to sound like a well-informed seller of a classic car.

In case you do not have this information on hand: it should not take more than a few hours of research to accurately collect all the information needed to sound like a knowledgable salesman or saleswoman.

For more information on what was under the hood, I recommend taking two courses of action. First, research the parts that would come with your car in a stock assembly. Second, if you are still unsure, seek out a professional opinion at a classic auto-body shop. You likely have one in your area.

How To Sell a Classic Car: Sites to Use for Your Post

Here, we arrive at the most important part of the process.

Officially posting the classic after gathering all of the descriptive information. 

Difficulty Level: Easy, if you know your destination. The first time I went through the sales process without any experience, the difficulty level was raised a notch. Or two.

After trial and error, I have found that the best sites are ones that you have likely already heard of. Some that I ended up using:

  • Craigslist.com: For those unaware, this is a "buyer and seller beware" type of selling experience. It is important to consider that not everybody who responds is a legitimate buyer, but some will be.
  • Cars.com: A good site to use if you want more immediate responses.
  • E-bay Motors: Another a good site that offers an organized mailing system between you and the buyers.
  • AutoTrader.com: Sell your car, trade your car, or view values for similar cars as yours on this easy to use site.
  • AutoLendersGo.com: A third party buyer who will set you up with a lower purchase price to get it off your hands. This is the best site to use if you are desperate to sell your car as soon as possible.
  • Of course, there are tons of other sites thats are reliable.

Make sure to look at other classics that resemble yours on these sites. What did these people include that may be important for you to include on yours? What did these people leave out that may make your ad more attractive? How do you differentiate yourself? 

What would Donald Draper do?

How To Sell a Classic Car: Keeping Your Information Safe; What to Leave Out

Keywords are equally as major. Consider your neighbor Jason. He always tries to stop you on your way home from work to have a pointless conversation for an impossible amount of time. He wants to overshadow you by buying the exact same car as you: make it easy for him. He will Google or Bing: "white," "convertible," "corvette," "red leather interior," because he wants your car down to the McDonald's French Fry stuck between the front seats. Include these in your ad.

My first concern was always how much personal information I should release to potential buyers. Very practical concern. Perhaps the best rule to use is the rule of inches. Inch by inch.

For websites like Craigslist, always give a general location and not the exact coordinates of the mouth of your driveway. I, for example, did not dish out my cell-phone information at this stage. 

For contact information, use the encrypted relay email provided by Craigslist. When the responses start to trickle (or pour) in, the site forces you to respond with your actual email. I chose to only send my phone number to potential buyers who seemed legitimate and were on track to come take a look at the car.

Pricing. It is better to over-evaluate rather than under-evaluate. But it is best to start with the most accurate price. Your magic tool is Kelley Blue Book. It is a professionally recognized way to get a proper vehicle valuation, based on results that their magic researchers came up with. 

Shipping is an example of a manual consideration that can severely alter your price point.

Of course, you can always lower the price. Use your business sense.

How To Sell a Classic Car: Meeting the People, Closing the Deal

Meeting the normal people, and the not-so-normal people, is the next step. Most sites breed a fair share of the former and the latter. Either way, be cautious, because unless your car is whatever Fred Flintstone was driving, you will be dealing with a couple thousand dollars in value.

Allow me to run through some of the characters you may meet on the journey to find the right buyer (because there is one).

Guy 1: Millennial. Recently received a job offer from a big corporate bank in New York City. Wants to impress his girlfriend of three weeks with a second car. 

Guy 2: Older gentleman. Used to work at Corvette dealership, knows everything. Will explain the components of this car using terminology that cannot be English.

Guy 3: Age unknown. Wears jean over-alls with nothing underneath. Wants to meet you in a parking lot of a strip mall that closed before you were born. 
Threat Level: Do not stay long enough to confirm.

Deal with whoever you want at your own discretion (with the exception of Guy 3). The person who wants to buy your classic car is out there.

How to close the deal depends on who you're working with and what they want to do with the car. Some people want the car for the engine and the exterior, so they can modify or repurpose it. Others will prefer to start driving the car as is and will therefore prefer that the wheels and weatherstripping are all in decent shape.

How To Sell a Classic Car: Payment

Payment is also dependent on you, and how much of your personal information you want to divulge. 

PayPal likely will refuse to accept the whole amount from most sites, like E-bay Motors. I recommend using PayPal to have buyers pay a deposit, or a down payment, on your classic. 

The easiest method of payment is always cash or cashier's check. Make sure to do your research on the best ways to buy and sell a car with cash.

There are other options as well, like wire transfers.

Final Notes: be persistent throughout this entire process. For many of these sites, your post will fall to the bottom of the page or will expire altogether. Stay current with your emails. Re-post the ad and change it when you deem necessary.

I promise that you will learn how to sell your classic car effectively if you stay current and keep your head in the game. I cannot guarantee it will sell tomorrow, nor that it will sell within your target sell price. But you will begin to understand that the classic car marketplace is a fickle beast who can be tamed with an 8-cylinder engine worth of drive and expert handling. 

Click here for information on how to buy a car from a private seller. 

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How To Sell a Classic Car