With a mild level of experience in the automotive industry (twelve years) you would think I would have my head around the game that is the secondhand car market. You would have probably assumed that in my time I have made a pretty penny or two with the buying and selling of secondhand cars. Well its not so with me, granted this form of tax evasive income is common with mechanics but I can’t think of anything worse than dealing with the nightmare that is buying and selling secondhand cars. I would rather sit through “Pride and Prejudice” on repeat or be forced to carry out my own dental work then buy or sell a car.
Why is this such a horrible experience for me? My experience of the human being is there is something at our core that makes people good. Like it or not but most people are level headed, reasonable and compassionate to one level or another. Bike gangs cruising around in packs on Harley Davidsons have helped little old ladies cross the road and the harshest of police officers own small fluffy dogs. But take even the most placid of people and place them in the arena that is the secondhand car market and it all turns into a gladiatorial arena of one trying the rob the other blind. Its incredible what happens to good people when money is involved.
Sellers don’t want to be departed of a single “possible” dime and buyers want a high end, reliable, frequently serviced car basically for free. Good people turn into scoundrels and those with questionable morals to start with, will stoop the the lowest of lows. This does not just apply to the private market either. The carry on that happens at secondhand car yards is just as brutal and just as unrelenting.
The sad reality is you’re either cut for this brutal marketplace or you are not. You can know everything there is to know about cars and it won’t change a thing, people will still behave in a manner that is less than ethical. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice for you as far as how to play in this marketplace and not get burned. I will endeavour to educate myself in this and maybe blog about it in the future. If I were to give you advice on competing in the arena I’d only be arming you with a sharp stick and expecting you to compete against hardened gladiators with weaponry considered to be marginally better than a pointy tree branch.
But what I can tell you is what not to do before getting involved in this game. Every person who is selling a car is selling it as the vehicle is unwanted. Why is it unwanted? Upsizing, downsizing, need a farm vehicle etc. You can buy this mushed up dribble all you want but more often than not we see the rosy reasonings behind selling is only partially true. The true answer is “I have neglected to repair my car, abused it and mistreated it and now it needs a new engine and i don’t want to pay for it”. Rather than asking why are you selling it you should ask “whats wrong with it” and believing whatever answer you get goes into the same box as arguing that Kasey Chambers does not strip paint from the ceiling with her voice alone.
With this is mind lets address the area of this whole debacle that i can help you with. There are a few default positions people take when arming themselves for entering the previously mentioned arena. Lets run through some common misconceptions that will hopefully keep you out of some of the snares that are in this game.
1. Panel damage costs more than you think, A LOT more. To fix minor scratches and bumps on the shiny automobile is not a case of grabbing an aerosol can and giving it a once over (even though anyone currently driving a Ford Falcon made in the 1980’s disagrees.) To carry out paint and panel repairs, even just minor scratches and bumps requires, colour matching, blending and hours of work. Additionally to this, the repair of a small one centimetre mark requires the repair and painting of the entire panel. On average we see the repair and paint of a panel costing from $600 up to $1K (bumper bars are considered a panel for this.) Now add to this, if your reverse parking incident included the yellow parking pylon down more than one panel. Suddenly this gets rather expensive to fix. The fact of the matter is, is you have insurance and you want to fix the body damage up before selling, your insurance excess will nearly always be cheaper. If you are not insured, subtract a few quid off the sale price and sell your vehicle as is. You will spend more than you will make if you try and fix it up.
2. In the exact same leaking boat as the panel damage is mechanical issues. You will always spend more money than you will make if you’re trying to make the car mechanically sound before selling. This is why no one likes secondhand car yards. We all know that the cars on the lot and hemorrhaging oil, metal on metal brakes and are otherwise as mechanically sound as something dragged out of Jakarta. I’m not saying you take on the used car salesman act and lie to any potential buyers but be honest, drop your price by a bit to make up for the mechanical issues. Spending a thousand dollars on a car will never gain you an extra thousand in sale price.
3. Massive buying mistake. Over and over we are having this conversation with people. If your car is dire need of repairs and you can’t afford to fix the repairs then you can’t afford to buy a car that does not need repairs. Blunt, i know but people always seem to be of the belief that they can pick up a car with no mechanical repairs needed for a bargain. Fact: if you are not willing to spend over five thousand dollars on a secondhand car then you will be buying something that needs mechanical repairs. Selling your three hundred thousand kilometre Hyundai for $1500 and trying to buy anything else for $1500 will end badly for everyone involved. You are always better off with the devil you know rather then buying something cheap with unknown history. Unfortunately there is no Hogworts class that will help you out of this. There are no good cheap cars. Reliable and cheap don’t go together.
Overall it is often better to keep the car you have. Unless you’re in the position to spend a decent chunk of cash and buy something relatively new with low milage, our experience shows that you’re better off investing in your current car.