When we received the notice to buy new tabs for my ten-year-old VW Jetta in March, we knew it was time to unload her since she’d been sitting in the garage for three months after an incident with the check engine light, the brake light, and a whole lot of jerking. Granted, she had a host of issues, the most noticeable being the front end damage from a fender bender. She also needed a lot of new parts based on her 110,000 miles. I’d been quoted a very large amount for all the work needed so I wasn’t too optimistic that I’d get very much for her, but I wanted to look into our options.
A lot of twenty-somethings may be lucky enough to have a car from their parents (thanks mom and dad), but you need a clean title in your name to sell a vehicle so first I dug that out and made a few copies of it on the off chance I sold it right away. My first idea was to take it to a large, local dealership that advertised this:
Yes, please. The only snag was that she wouldn’t start after being in the garage over a long, cold Minnesota winter. So we threw it in neutral and tried to push it out of our garage. No luck. We tried to see if our jumper cables would reach from the driveway into the garage. About three feet too short. We contemplated driving our other car into the yard and putting the cables through a garage window to the horror of our neighbors I’m sure. Lucky for them, the window doesn’t actually open. Finally, Dain was able to use a “cantilever” as he called it or a “piece of wood” as I call it to push under one of the front tires. It thankfully propelled the car backward enough for us to be able to push it out onto the driveway. Then we jumped it, let it run for awhile to charge the battery, and crossed our fingers that it would run like a champ if the dealership wanted to drive it.
We were able to make it to the dealership (although I followed Dain in our other car just in case we needed another jump or a tow). It took all of about ten minutes to get a written cash offer to buy the car. We try to sleep on most major decisions so we headed home to discuss our options. It was a pretty low offer (based on our Kelley Blue Book research) so we thought we’d try our luck selling it ourselves. We gave ourselves seven days and agreed that if we didn’t sell it in that time, we’d take the dealer’s offer since it was good for seven days.
We had originally planned on using Car Soup, but the website was not working the night we tried it so we thought we’d try our luck with Craigslist. We took a few pictures, especially of the front-end damage, and wrote a very honest description of the car’s condition but also stressed that it is being sold “as is” with no warranties. We listed it for twice what the dealer offered but still about $2,000 less than similar cars without any immediate repair work needed. We were shocked by the amount of responses. We heard from at least 10 people who were interested in looking at it the very next day.
We ended up meeting a handful of people at both noon and at five the next day. Because I am a worrier about all things practical and many things completely irrational, we met prospective buyers at the AAA parking lot near our house, just in case there were any shady characters in the bunch. And we both went. To our surprise, in less than 24 hours we had sold the bruiser for pretty darn close to double what the dealership had offered us.
Ironically, we sold it to a man who worked at a dealership and was going to fix it up for his sister. I threw together a short contract on the fly to rein in the lawyer voice in my head and because I think it is always a good idea when selling a major item to put it in writing so that you have proof of the sale if something were to go wrong (like the cash is counterfeit, just to name one of my impractical fears).
I walked away with a wad of benjamins and a signed contract, and I watched ten years of love/hate come to an end. But it was still a little hard to see her drive away. I actually found myself saying, “I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye,” and Dain giving me the “you are crazy” look. Such is life. As much as you try to convince yourself that you don’t love your “things,” sometimes you do. Especially when they’ve taken you to and from ten years of adventures and given you a few along the way.
(Read more about our decision to sell here)