Should you sell a damaged car as-is, or have it repaired first?
This is a problem that many car-owners struggle with. Owners often neglect tell-tale signs of problems and drive on – that funny ticking sound that you drown out with the radio, the slight rumble when you turn a tight bend, the mysterious dark puddle in your driveway that appeared a few months ago. If you’re reading this thinking “this sounds like me”, don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. While it may not be an immediate threat (you hope), when it comes time to sell a damaged vehicle, or a vehicle that needs work, most likely a prospective buyer will notice these flaws and question them. It wouldn’t be unfair to assume that they won’t want a car that needs repairing straight away – not many would – but they probably don’t expect a vehicle in perfect condition either, with this being a used car.
What should you do in this situation? We’ve explored a few options for you to consider, some of which apply to both selling a damaged car and the sale of cars in even the most pristine condition.
Before even thinking about how much your car might be worth, you’ll need to find out what’s wrong with it. Maybe you already know, which is a good start, but perhaps you missed something- there’s no harm in having a good look over the vehicle – in fact we strongly recommend it.
Firstly, do an assessment of the condition of the car yourself – clean it and assess the outside and inside for superficial damage. Rust, scratches, missing pieces of trim and broken lights are common problems that are easily fixed and usually somewhat inexpensive.
Next, get a qualified mechanic to assess the damage and provide a quote for repairs; you may like to gather a few quotes to be sure. Of course, qualified mechanics may identify other problems that have escaped your attention, but it’s better to go into a sale armed with full knowledge than to find out later.
Since, generally speaking, you need a roadworthy certificate (RWC) to sell a vehicle in Queensland – whether selling a damaged car or not – this is a great time to have a mechanic assess any damage or faults ‘behind the scenes’ of the vehicle. Remember that a car with a valid RWC does not guarantee the vehicle is in good condition, it simply means it has passed the minimum requirements to be certified as “roadworthy” – there can still be costly problems underlying that don’t affect the certification.
The bottom line is this: the repairs are only worth doing if you recuperate the costs in the sale price of the vehicle. Will the money you spend increase the sale price by at least the amount spent, preferably more?
A qualified mechanic can advise you on this; you can also use online car buying guides to tell you approximately how much your car is worth – though many owners misjudge the condition of their car and do not get an accurate estimation. If you’re selling a damaged car, you might find it hard to receive an accurate value from online guides as it will depend greatly on the cost of any repairs required, which will vary based on countless factors. You will need an independent appraisal of your vehicle.
If you find that there are a lot of problems, or perhaps just one very costly problem, you might need to face the facts: you’re going to be out of pocket when selling a car that needs work.
As a general rule, the older the car, the less likely it is that repairs will be worth the cost; for older cars it may be best to sell ‘as is’ – i.e. sell a damaged car, or sell it with the problems still existing – while newer cars may be cheaper or more cost-effective to fix, and doing so will add significant value to the sale price – or at least maintain the actual market value of the vehicle.
If your vehicle is relatively new, it may still be under warranty for some repairs – in which case go ahead and get them fixed.
Generally speaking, trying to fix problems yourself is not advisable, as you may cause more harm than good if you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing. Find a qualified and licensed mechanic with a good reputation by asking around, checking manufacturer-certified shops, or checking online. Make sure you communicate with your mechanic exactly what you need fixing, and check how much the work will cost and how long it will take; if they try to up-sell you, then don’t be tempted unless it is going to increase the sale price of the car. Of course, any potentially dangerous problems should be fixed as soon as possible, in the best interests of everyone involved.
If your car has suffered hail damage, it’s quite likely it’s been written off – i.e. the cost to repair outweighs the total value of the undamaged vehicle. Many insurance policies will cover hail damage, so check this out first, you may be eligible for a payout. If not, you can still sell your car. For the most part, hail damage tends to be purely cosmetic, so the car will still function correctly. It’s still worth having it checked out before you assume everything is good to go though.
This is arguably the most important point on this list. When you sell a damaged car – when you sell any car, no matter who you sell it to – be honest about what’s wrong with it. Of course, you want to get the best price possible for your car, but don’t let that tempt you into skipping over the vehicle’s problems, or potential problems.
The last thing you want is to sell a dangerous vehicle and end up with someone getting injured, or worse.
If you’re selling a damaged car online, include a detailed description of the vehicle so the buyer knows what to expect before they come take a look. You don’t need to mention every single scratch or scuff but be sure to include what problems the vehicle has. If you fail to do so, you’re leaving yourself open to embarrassment and disappointment. You will likely get caught out when the potential buyer is looking over the car or when they test drive it, and they’ll likely haggle much harder, or simply leave without buying it – and rightly so if they were expecting a car in good condition.
On the flip side of this, make sure you include the good things about the vehicle as well. It shouldn’t be all doom and gloom; no doubt the car has some desirable features. Even if it’s out-dated now, find the positives and make them clear!
As important as it is to note problems with a vehicle, it’s also important to highlight what work has been carried out, and when it was done. While to the untrained eye, lots of mechanical repairs may seem like a bad thing, if you look at it objectively, it’s quite the opposite: parts that have been replaced or repaired usually means there’s less chance of them going wrong in the near future. Routine maintenance like changing tyres, replacing the timing belt and servicing the vehicle are exactly the kinds of things you should highlight. These repairs should boost buyer’s confidence.
If you’ve had repairs done to the vehicle (no matter if costly or cheap, whether for the purpose of selling or in the past), be sure to include details and receipts of the work so the next owner knows. It shows you’ve cared for the vehicle and can be a big positive when selling a damaged vehicle that may otherwise not exactly fill a potential buyer with confidence.
Generally speaking, much less than a comparable car in great condition. That’s to be expected.
As noted previously, you’ll need to consider the market rate for the car and the cost of the repairs needed to get it in good working order again. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a case of removing the price of the repairs from the total cost of the vehicle, but that’s a good way to get a feel for what it’s worth.
One tip we have is to price the car to sell. You shouldn’t try to aim too high, nor should you undercut yourself. While you should expect people to haggle, if you set a fair price in the first place, and are honest about what work needs doing on the car, the potential buyer should have little reason to need to haggle the price down any further; at least you’ll be in a much stronger position to be firm on price, since you’ve already done the maths for them.
It’s no secret that selling a damaged car, or a car that needs work, will net you a lower price. You wouldn’t pay full price for a faulty vehicle, nor will anyone else. That doesn’t make the vehicle worthless though.
We implore you to be honest and realistic when it comes to selling a damaged car, it’s the ethical thing to do. If you decide to keep the vehicle, and get the most life out of it as you can, do your best to make the repairs needed to keep the vehicle safe on the road. The number 1 priority here should be the safety of your and others around you, not getting the best price for your car at the cost of potentially endangering yourself and others.
Cars Brisbane will buy any car for cash on the spot – even damaged cars. We will give you a fair, in-person valuation of the vehicle using our expertise and years in the industry to provide an accurate price. We don’t use computers or books to tell us the price – they’re not accurate, and you shouldn’t trust them either.
Give us a call or submit a quote to get a free, no obligation, no pushy-sales-tactics price on your vehicle, and sell it in as little as 30 minutes!