Recently, this mother was on the buying end of a new car and the selling end of an old car. Both for the first time, both within 1 week’s time. Starting out, I felt like buying and selling cars was steeped in mysterious transactions with unwritten rules, where discriminatory practices against women abound. Despite my fear, I had to step up to the plate because my husband had car fever and was not in his right mind. It was go time. Here’s how it went down.
Our 10-year-old old car was just getting to be too much trouble. We couldn’t keep taking time off work to deal with an ailing car. Here are some tips that made my car buying experience pretty pleasant:
- We did all our research on prices and car features online. Get a good idea of what new cars are going for compared to used cars. Sometimes, used models are listed for higher prices than the new ones! Know the facts before you walk into a dealership. Look at the websites like Cars.com, Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book to start your research.
- We worked out all our financials, knew exactly what we wanted to pay for the brand new car and how we planned to pay for it. Know what you’ll accept for trade-in value of your old car. Have a plan for what to do with your old car.
- We were fully prepared to walk away if we couldn’t reach an agreement (i.e., we got the price we wanted).
- We weren’t afraid to travel. Thankfully we didn’t have to, but there was a dealership in nearby state who was offering a good no-haggle price on the car we wanted. Tip: Try to get your local dealer to match the price of a car you find elsewhere.
All was good and we walked out very happy with my first brand new car. The dealership was pleasant and they came across as honest and forthright. We actually got a better deal than we wanted! A few tips on what to do after the purchase:
- As soon as you can, get your new car on your insurance.
- Make sure it gets registered ASAP with the DMV. If the dealer handles it for you, it can take a few weeks to get in the system so keep your paperwork on the new car in the glove box. (We got pulled over on vacation in Virginia Beach because our tag wasn’t registered yet!) Tip: If you have old tags that haven’t expired yet, you can get a refund for them at the DMV. It took me about 10 minutes.
- If you have an EZ-pass, don’t forget to update it to reflect changes in your car usage!
Great – we had a new car, but we were suddenly a 3-car family! We had to get rid of the old one. Here are my car-selling tips!
- Don’t be scared or intimidated by the thought of selling the car yourself. It’s not hard, and you’ll probably get the most money that way.
- Know what the car is worth, taking its age, mileage and condition into consideration, and what you’d be happy with getting for it. Accept less as a last resort or in an emergency. Don’t sell yourself short – literally.
- Get it in tip-top shape as best you can, if it makes sense. At least give it a good detailing. Clean cars make more money than dirty ones!
- We first took it one of those big places that will give you a no-haggle offer, but the offered us far less than we thought it was worth. It was hard to turn down an instant cash offer, but I KNEW I could get more. I learned that for cars over 100,000 miles, these big places aren’t buying them to resell, they’re buying them for auction so they’re priced to sell quickly (and you get less money).
- I listed my car on craigslist. Tips for posting your ad: List the details of your car the way a dealer would, with the correct lingo. Avoid acronyms. (Example: I put “FWD” which meant front-wheel-drive but one inquirer thought it meant four-wheel-drive.) Describe any obvious shortcomings. Take GREAT pictures and put them on your post. Ask for serious inquiries only. Clarify you are selling the car in as-is condition. Have people respond to your ad by e-mail only. Ask for cash or cashier’s check only.
- Once you have a potential buyer, ask them to meet you in a public place and have your spouse/friend with you in another car close by. I met the interested gentlemen at my bankwhen it opened with my husband in the other car so we could handle the entire transaction all at one time.
- Plan to allow the buyer to test drive the car. Hold the keys to his/her car while they test drive.
- Bring the following 2 documents with you to the transaction: 1) A Bill of Sale (a receipt). I used this one and it worked just great! Have 2 copies on hand – one for you and one for your buyer. Have most of it filled out before you get there. Bring a good pen. 2) The title. Visit the Virginia DMV site here that will tell you all the ‘official’ stuff you need to do to transfer the car to the other person. Tip: If they are coming from another state, you may need to work out license plate issues.
- Make signing the title the last thing you do. I had the ca$h in hand, filled out the bill of receipt, and I deposited the cash in my bank while the buyer waited in the parking lot. (At first I felt bad making the buyer wait while I deposited the money, but he said he would have done the same thing – that it was very smart of me.) Then, we signed the title and gave him the keys.
- Wave goodbye to your old car and congratulate yourself on a job well done!
Final words of advice: You’ll feel like you’re playing musical chairs with your cars; always keep the car’s documents with the car – especially the registration and insurance. Finally, call on the experience of friends and family. We were lucky to have my mom and dad there to help guide us through the process based on their knowledge and experience of car buying and selling. It’s not rocket science, but there is a little art and finesse to it. My mom and I actually negotiated the price of the new car together! It was a team effort – Two mothers doing a bang-up job. Thanks mom!