A while ago I wrote an article called "SELLING MADE EASY (or at least less hard) " where I outlined my opinions on the most direct and painless way to sell an old car. I guess I neglected to write the follow up, until now.
So, here's the thing, this article is written operating on the premise that you are a genuinely interested and qualified buyer. If you are a bullshitter, time waster, tire kicker, etc. I cannot help you, nor would I want to, as there is nothing more annoying than these guys from the prospective of the seller. If you're a bullshitter, stop being one of those first, then read on.
I do love a good estate sale.
The most important thing we should realize is that the guy selling whatever it is, is wading through a sea of these aforementioned tire kickers and time wasters. Nobody enjoys the process of selling something. Knowing this, the best thing we can do is try to make it as simple as possible. Nothing will give you more of a leg up than establishing out of the gate that you are not here to waste anyone's time. (As long as you mean it!)
This T was your typical "can't keep them all" story.
First thing's first: Making initial contact: I can tell a bullshitter from a mile away just from their first call, text, or email. If you think coming in like a big swinging dick and making some lowball offer is a good idea, you're wrong. There should never be any kind of discussion about price right off the bat, period. If you're one of these "WHAT'S THE LEAST YOU'LL TAKE" guys, go back to the last sentence of the second paragraph. Nobody wants to deal with it.
Think of the first contact like a job interview. You should be gathering as much info as you can about the car AND the guy, while being as nice as possible. If it's something you want to see in person, ASK them if you can schedule a time to come look. "That sounds like something I'd be very interested in. Is there a time that's convenient for you to have me out?" Nobody wants to feel like they're losing control of the transaction right out of the gate, on the phone. Don't tell them how it's gonna be, ask them how they'd like to move forward. Believe me, if you want to see someone clam up on you and sell it to the next guy, act like a bigshot with him straight out of the chute. Remember, it's their car.
Thinning the herd - literally! (I purchased this from an old cattle rancher)
Part of the game is identifying what the seller's story is. Different people are motivated by different things. People sell for lots of different reasons. Figuring out what the seller's situation is as quickly as possible will go a long way to helping you establish a rapport. In my opinion, there are three main categories of sellers:
1) Thinning the herd guy: This gentleman either built the car, has owned the car for a long period of time, or has at the very least been involved with the hobby for a long time. He knows old cars well and has probably had plenty of them over the years.
2) The Happy Idiot: This is the guy who has inherited an old car he doesn't know anything about, or has happened onto some kind of situation that has put this thing in his lap for nothing or close to nothing. They aren't actual idiots, just usually ignorant about old cars. ("Happy Ignoramus" had less of a ring to it.)
3) The Flipper: Pretty straight forward: There are lots of dudes out there trying to rip a car from both of the guys above and flip it to a guy like you.
Those are three really different kinds of sellers. They all have one thing in common though: They hate the process of selling a car. Why? Remember the bullshitter we talked about? They're all dealing with that guy X 10, and they're all already tired of him. The number one thing that motivates a seller, believe me or not, is NOT maximum profit, it's being done with the process of selling. That's why you need to know who you're dealing with, and know how to navigate them to get the best possible outcome.
I got this one from a flipper - I bought it cheap because he had bought it cheaper - easy transactions always win..
Thinning The Herd Guy is the toughest one of all to buy from. Inevitably he has some emotional attachment to the car he's selling. Usually he's getting older and realizing he "can't keep 'em all," or is getting out of the hobby completely. Whatever the situation is, he is likely attached to it somehow. Emotional attachment equates to (in their mind) monetary value. This can be a difficult thing to overcome, but it isn't impossible. The best way to score points with these guys is to be genuinely interested in the car's story and THEIR story. These guys want to be heard. They want to be complimented on the car and the job they did. They want validation. They're proud of this car and they want to know that whoever it goes to will appreciate it as much as they did. And in the end, that will likely mean more to them than getting a little more money by selling it to someone else who may appreciate it less. If you do a good job of building a relationship with them, they won't want to deal with anyone else, they will want to sell it to you, even for less money. (See an example of this with my '32 3 Window purchase, "BETTER LUCKY THAN GOOD" )
My "Better Lucky Than Good" car - a rare mixture of Happy Idiot and Thinning The Heard. (And worth a read)
The Flipper is either really hard, or really easy to buy from. These guys often fancy themselves experts and sometimes operate on both profit and ego. They still want to feel like they're in control, and there is no emotional angle for you to try to leverage. All I can say is just be straight forward and respectful. Remember that these guys are used to the process of negotiation, so when you get to that point, throw out a price that leaves you some room to haggle back and forth with. Ideally, they'll give you a "bottom line" price first, and that will tell you a lot about what the real number can end up being. Don't forget that this guy wants to move on with life too, there is always room if you play the game correctly. Sometimes there are no games at all. That's the nice thing about a flipper, it's just numbers, you usually won't offend them personally by making an offer, as long as it's not insulting. Don't get hung up on the idea that he's going to "make a buck" on you, that's irrelevant. If the deal makes sense for both of you, great. If not, no big deal.
Then there is The Happy Idiot. It happens a lot more than you think: A guy ends up with dad's old car and sees big dollar signs at the end of the rainbow. It's about a 50/50 split when dad dies: The kid wants to sell it right now, for cash, and be done with it immediately, OR he got caught up in the romantic idea that he would keep it in the family and it's been sitting untouched in the garage for about 7 years. Now he realizes he could probably buy a nice boat with the money and be much happier. Usually they don't know much about the car, only that dad really loved it. (and likely spent a lifetime telling them how "rare" and "valuable" it is..) So the fun part about these guys is negotiating the balance of "I just want to be done with it, give me some CASH." and "This was dad's pride and joy and it must be worth one million dollars." These are the ones that say things like "Looking around I'm seeing these things bring like $65k restored." They don't realize that it took $100k to restore it.. It's always a challenge to educate in a respectful way, but it can be done.
"I'll never get to these, time to let them go."
With the Happy Idiot, the same respect should be given to dad's "legacy" as you would be giving if you were standing in front of the man himself. Yeah, the kid wants to sell it. Yes, he wants quick cash. But no, he doesn't want anyone coming in and telling him his dad's beloved old car is a big hunk of shit. Spend less time picking the car apart, more time asking about dad, it will go a long way. Make a fair offer in a nice way, while reassuring him that you will give the car the home it deserves. Deep down, the Happy Idiot wants someone to take over where dad left off and where they failed - they want to see it go to someone who will appreciate it as much as their relative did, someone like you.
I bought this from the daughter of the deceased owner. She knew it was valuable AND wanted it to go to the best home. It took a lot of careful conversations to find it's way to my house..
No matter who you're dealing with, handle your logistics first. By that I mean have cash in hand, at least a deposit, and easy access (same day) to the balance. Know how you're going to transport the thing. If you don't have a trailer, have an idea of whether you're going to borrow one, rent one (u-Haul is a great, cheap option) or if you're going to have it towed. Know all this stuff ahead of time. Nobody wants to sell something and have it turn into a three or four part adventure that spans several days and ten phone calls while you figure out how to get the money and get it home. The name of the game is always convenience when you're looking for leverage, something a lot of people don't realize. Fortunately, knowing this will set you apart from the rest and give you the ability to snag the car you want.
So, that's my advice. Three different types of sellers, all one common theme: Respect, foresight, follow through. What a novel idea, right...? Happy hunting.