My Experience Selling to AutoTrader and Craigslist Buyers

My Experience Selling to AutoTrader and Craigslist Buyers

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Last month, after a delicious taco lunch with a good friend and fellow automotive enthusiast, I decided to finally list my 2007 BMW 335i convertible. I ordered the car the way I wanted it back in 2007. I babied this car and thought I’d keep it longer than eight years, but things changed after a few months of driving an electric Fiat 500e I leased last March.

Since getting the Fiat, I was only putting about 100 miles a month on the BMW. When I did drive the convertible, I kept worrying about it needing another repair. I swear I heard a strange noise or something felt odd when it shifted. I was becoming paranoid waiting for another gremlin to emerge. Plus I also had some bucket list cars I wanted to start working through, so it felt like it was time to sell.

I wanted to get the most out of it so I decided to sell it privately, since it was a car I loved and cared for. I also, for some sentimental reason, wanted the car to go to someone who would also take great care of it. Much like a child, and I had referred to my BMW as my third child (I have two kids), I didn’t want it neglected and unappreciated by just any buyer.

The next question was where to list my car.

The last car I sold was a 2004 Audi A4 right after I took delivery of this BMW. Back then, Craigslist was a place to avoid. Several people recommended eBay, but that seemed like a lot more hassle with so many buyers living across the country. Back in 2004, I went solely with AutoTrader and quickly found a few decent buyers, finally selling that car close to what I listed it.

This time around I decided to list in AutoTrader again, but also decided to post an ad on Craigslist.

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The Competition

I searched both sites before listing to see how the competition looked. Prices on Craigslist were all over the place with one seller trying to get almost $24,000 for his even though it lacked a lot of what my car had. Note, Blue Book was around $17,500. Other sellers on Craigslist were asking close to $15,000, but their cars missed a lot of key options and had the smaller non-turbo engine.

AutoTrader sellers mostly had fully loaded cars like mine and were priced close to or slightly above Blue Book.

Aim High, Start High

At first, I listed my car at $18,500, I realized after a week my price was at least a $1,000 too high. Initially, I justified this because the car had a Dinan performance upgrade, 19” BBS-CH rims, and a M-Sport package that wasn’t available until 2009 on the BMW 335i. I didn’t expect to get all my money back for my after-market options. So, a $1,000 increase over similar cars felt fair, but in the used-market no one cares and compares your car to cars of the same style but not the same options and no care is given to aftermarket parts.

Besides no one contacted me the first week. So it was clear I needed to go down.

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Virtual Tire Kickers

After the price drop to $17,500, I get a few emails. An AutoTrader contact asks me if it has keyless entry. It does and I confirm it, but I hear nothing back. Apparently that buyer wanted to start and lock his car the old fashion way.

I get serious buyer from Craigslist and in the age of text messaging we exchange about 20 texts before he finally tells me he is very interested, but doesn’t have enough money and asks the dreaded, “How low will you go?” I tell him the lowest I’d go is $16,500. He was hoping $15,500 and bails out.

Not Giving It Away. Just Being More Attractive

After week two, there is silence during week three so I decide to lower my price to $16,900. Now I start hearing from all of the low ballers and scammers.

First the low ballers. I get a few emails after the last price drop and people seeing my ad on AutoTrader over three weeks. All of these buyers send me virtually the same email. Some variation of, “Will you take $13k?” I’m in no rush to sell and don’t have to sell so I shut all of these down with a “thanks, but I’ll only take as low as $16,500.” I usually get a thanks and to keep them in mind. They’re hoping I get desperate and off they go I assume to ask others sellers how low they’ll take for their cars.

Pay First Seller Services Are Here to Help

Later during week three, I get a call from SellersNetwork saying they saw my car on Autotrader and they’ll increase the asking price of the car to $18,000. All I have to do is pay a $260 fee upfront to list with them and they have “over 19 financing companies with buyers ready for a car like mine,” I’m reassured. I say I just listed and am not interested in a service. The representative asks, can I call you two weeks? I say sure why not.

Another selling network company, OnceDriven, also saw my ad on AutoTrader calls me. I get a couple voicemails from their representative, but I never call him back after looking at their website. You basically pay them a $189 fee to sell your car.

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Craigslist Comes Through

The most surprising experience to me since selling back in 2007 is how sad the AutoTrader buyers were. Most were low ballers and seller service representatives. I never had one serious buyer from AutoTrader even though my ad had over 1,200 detailed views and was listed there for a month.

Meanwhile, AutoTrader is retargeting ads on Facebook to me since I’ve been on their website a lot checking my listing. Their ads tell me they can “Find your BMW 335i with AutoTrader today.” Great, but I’m trying to sell it not find it.

Fortunately, I finally get someone who is serious. Initially he didn’t ask many questions over text and wanted to see the car on a Friday night. We meet and he ends up being a very good guy who was coming out of a Subaru, but had a Supra that he sold recently in Japan. He is an International student at USC and he definitely did his research on BMW E93s. We do a test drive and he loves the car. He says he needs to sell his Subaru first, but is serious and says to let him know if I get another buyer.

The next day I’m in San Diego for a weekend family trip. I get a call from a guy in Northern California with some smart well-researched questions. He says he is serious and would like to the see the car. He travels for business and will be in Los Angeles that coming week.

He wants me to scan and send him records of any major repairs. He also asks Monday that I fax him my seller’s smog test. I scan and email him everything Monday. I also get an email from the Subaru guy who asks if I had any bites. I tell him that I do but I’m not entirely sure if the Northern Californian is serious. About a hour later, I get a text about booking a flight to LA and we confirm a day and time for Wednesday and he sends me his flight info. So that guy is serious and I text Subaru guy back to let him know. Subaru guy can’t make an offer yet, so he says to let him know if the buyer falls through.

Northern California guy ends up buying the car for $16,300 and I’m happy it went to someone who did his research and will take care of the car.

About a week after I sold the car, I received a call from the representative at SellersNetwork, I happily say the car sold and move on with my day.

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This article was written by

Even though Chris Baccus’ first car was a $300 1976 Chevy Vega with racing slicks that eventually met a telephone pole at 5 mph to end its life totaled, Chris has been a lifelong car enthusiast and continues to appreciate the best and worst of the automotive world.