Thursday, December 27, 2012

Selling Your Old Car: Be Real!

I am frequently offered old AMC & Rambler automobiles, often in response to some ads I have suggesting I may be an interested buyer.

I cannot count how many times I have been offered a car "that just needs a tuneup and some new carpet", with the seller assuring me it will then be something I can then turn around and flip for a "big profit".

Trouble is, no one is paying "big bucks" for AMC's of any sort.  Yes, of course, there are a few outliers, like Rebel Machines and SC/Ramblers -- but these have almost nothing to do with the value of the bread-and-butter AMC's.

Everyone likes to think they have a gold mine sitting under the tarp.  But that's truly a rare thing.

EBay, with their "completed listings", provides the best summary of prices that people are actually willing to pay.

Every car usually has three price levels:

1)  Highest: What the owner thinks it's worth -- usually several multiples of item 3, below.

2)  Medium: What NADA, Old Cars Price Guide, etc suggest it might be worth, usually based on sometimes very old live auction prices, sold at high-dollar fast-money venues like Barrett-Jackson, which only sell high-dollar restorations or perfect originals

3)  What it is actually worth (ie what it will really sell for right now)

One example is a 1971 Ambassador 4 door sedan that was on eBay six times.  It started out its first auction at $3500.

It looked okay, and the seller claimed it ran well.  On the first auction, I went to go look at it as it was only two hours away from me.  It was a solid, but obviously-worn, family sedan.  Everything was functional, but it was just a well-used car.  I offered $700 for it.

He laughed at me.

Six months and five more relistings -- each with a lowered reserve -- later, the car finally sold when the auction met his reserve of $600.  It sold for $660.  This was consistent with all of the highest bids in each auction listing, too -- the highest bid in any of the listings was mine, in the first listing ($700).

In 2008, a car dealer in Minnesota picked up a 1969 Ambassador 2 dr hardtop, with 343 4v and all the toys.  I discussed the car with him, but he wouldn't budge from his reserve of $15,000.  I offered him $11,200.

It didn't sell.

He relisted the car eight times as I recall, and eventually did sell it, four months later -- for $11,200.
In January 2010, a local fellow offered me a 1976 Gremlin 3-speed for $6500.  He gave the old song and dance about it just needing "a couple of things" and then it would be worth "five figures".  I went to look, but walked away so angry that "I should sue you for wasting my time and gas" slipped from my lips before I knew it.

As I was about to get in my car, he had this shocked look on his face and asked me what I thought it was worth. I told him "about a tenth of your asking price", and slammed my door and left.

I kept seeing ads for the car in the local trading paper, every so often, the price dropped by $1,000 or so.  A couple of months ago, a friend of mine called me and told me he bought the car -- for $500.

I don't understand the la-la-land fantasies that some have about their car's worth.

If you actually want to sell your car, then set a price that's realistic.  Don't fantasize -- study.  Look at the completed listings on eBay (and make note of the fact that *most* ebay listings for older cars are no-sales).  Look in Old Cars Price Guide.  Better yet, ask one or more of the AMC clubs for an opinion.

AMC Rambler Club

American Motors Owners Association

Then come to me, and tell me your realistic price for your vehicle -- and I will consider it.

Best wishes to you!

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