How to Know When Someone is Desperate to Sell Their Car
Nathan Stretch May 20, 2016

Besides the used car search engine itself, we’ve found one of the most popular resources we offer at AutoTempest is our used car negotiation guide. We wanted to provide more content to help people find the best deals on awesome used cars, so we sought out experts in the field. One great tool we came across was Exotic Car Hacks, which is a comprehensive course on buying and selling cars at a profit. It focuses on high-end vehicles, but most of their techniques apply to any car that might interest you.

In this guest post, Pejman Ghadimi, founder of Exotic Car Hacks, will take you through how to identify opportunities in the used vehicle market – both from dealerships and private sellers – to get a good car at a fantastic price.

How to Know When Someone is Desperate to Sell Their Car

As I cover in Exotic Car Hacks, being able to buy, drive, and resell a car for fun or profit comes from the ability to buy such car at an incredible price below what the retail is, and in many cases, the wholesale market pricing at that time. There are a few reasons why someone would be desperate to sell a car and be willing to part from it for a much lower price than its worth both on the dealership side, as well as on the personal side too.

Let’s cover a dealers perspective first, as the majority of car shoppers somehow feel more comfortable buying from a dealership for a multitude of reasons, either based on financing or the idea that their paperwork will be handled and all they have to do is sign and drive.

The average car shopper, believe it or not, is terrified of buying from private parties even though they are technically less likely to lose money going that route. Convenience has a price, but it doesn’t have to be too high.

Here is how you can identify how desperate a dealer really is when it comes to selling his inventory.

The cars that have sat the longest are typically the best places to start. Most dealerships have floorpan financing, meaning that their inventory has to move as fast as possible – especially in the case of franchise dealers, like official dealerships of manufacturers (Ford, Honda, Kia, etc).

Each dealer who holds a car over 90 days enters the danger zone for that car, meaning that it could lose the dealership money at any time rather than become a profit. Cars that have sat over 90 days are the best ones to start negotiating for. You may also see signs claiming they are on special promotion (manager’s special) or signs that say price reduced.

You can actually look on a CarFax report and identify how a long a car has been sitting at the dealership by understanding the date on which it was offered for sale by that same dealer. [Note: on the AutoTempest used car search engine, you can see the listing date of every vehicle right in the search results list.]

Another very important indicator is to see if the car fits the dealership’s typical inventory, meaning if most of the used cars at the dealership are in the $20K range and entry level, a $100K used Ferrari probably isn’t what the dealers like to sell or know how to sell. That said, it provides a unique opportunity for you to buy that same car much cheaper, especially if its been sitting more than 90 days.

The goal is to pay attention to the cues.

Many sales people will say things like “We are ready to sell this thing”, “ we reduced it once again” or “ we may send it to the auction next week if not sold” – these are indicators that the dealer hasn’t had many leads on the car and is in need of a buyer.

On the private party side, there are many other indicators to look for especially since the average person doesn’t have a timeframe of 90 days like a dealership does. The behavior is, however, easier to read.

Here are my top 4 ways to determine how desperate a seller is.

1. Making room for a new car: Most people who try to privately sell their cars do so due to the fact that they do not like the dealerships value placed on their cars. In fact, they often announce just that in their ads, saying their reason for selling is a new car on the way.

While the idea of selling on their own on craigslist, eBay Motors, or AutoTrader seems like a good idea at the time, when their new ordered car is 3 months away, the desperation builds up fast as their time shrinks on their new car delivery. Their window of trading to the dealer is gone, the value of the car goes down with time and there is no room in the garage. [Note: AutoTempest is not affiliated with craigslist or AutoTrader. We are a member of the eBay Partner Network.]

These things that will push a seller to give you their car at the same low price the dealer was willing to pay for it 3 months prior. A small loss for them and a great opportunity for you.

2. Broken car: The most desperate sellers on online classifieds sites are normal sellers with no mechanical experience who have a broken down car. The average person only uses a dealership for repair and most dealers are in the business of making money, especially with service.

That said, it is very typical that even small easy repairs for an independent mechanic look like a $5,000 repair on a base model Lexus or Jaguar simply due to inexperience. Those sellers who typically have a car loan and do not have that cash to make such repairs are very eager to find someone else who will take over their car.

Most repairs can be done much cheaper at independent shops and many even for 10% of what the dealership charges. [I’m not sure about that figure, but cheaper, certainly!] That said, it allows a unique opportunity for fixer uppers for buyers with minimal experience and understanding of how to fix cars for cheap.

However, stay away from salvaged or rebuilt title cars as they’re always a bad bet. Accidents can be ok, depending on the severity. But zero accidents will always give you peace of mind.

3. eBay cars listed on AutoTrader and Craigslist: eBay is the most expensive platform to advertise on for a consumer charging as much as $100 for a 20 day listing. That said, the average person will resort to the AutoTrader, Craigslist, and other platforms to sell a car instead. [Of course if you’re shopping for a used car, you can search all those sites at once using AutoTempest. (Again, although AutoTempest includes links to craigslist and AutoTrader results, we are not affiliated with either site.)]

People who list non exotic cars on eBay typically have a need to sell and are willing to negotiate to not have to spend an additional $100 listing fee the following 20 days.

That creates a unique opportunity for a savvy buyer. There are also other hints. Desperate eBay sellers will share similar problems to what we discussed in #1 and #2 and may even be selling estates, or their friend’s cars who do not use eBay. This provides a unique opportunity as it shows the owner isn’t capable of selling the car and will be more likely to sell cheap.

4. Desperation matters: While this is more common on craigslist than, or AutoTrader, private sellers who are in tough financial binds and/or eager to sell will mention specific keywords that indicate their desperation to unload the car as fast as possible. These keywords can be things like:

“fire sale”
“pay rent”
“must sell”

If you search for these keywords in the body, not the title, you may uncover hidden gems of deals. This also creates an amazing opportunity to flip cars for good profits.

I hope these few steps will help you save some money on your next car by selecting to purchase the right car, from the right person, at the right price.

Pejman Ghadimi
Founder of Exotic Car Hacks

Nathan Stretch Founder & CEO

Founder of the AutoTempest used car search engine, as well as I do a bit of everything around here now, and may even get a chance to write some blog posts! I'm also a car enthusiast. Currently I own a 2009 911 Turbo and a 2006 Honda S2000 (which you'll likely see on the track if you follow the blog or our Youtube channel!)