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Selling your used car can be a harrowing experience, no matter what channel you work through. Sometimes the always tempting ease of trading in your used machine seems to outweigh the knowledge that you'll be bent over the table at the dealership. And private party sales always seem so sketchy, especially when you field calls from individuals who end with, 'I'll talk to the bank and call you back.' Somehow, they don't call back. Those who work at a dealership can testify, but what is it about car buying that turns people into such horrible liars?

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to part with my 2004 Scion xB. My trusted steed no longer held the same level of enjoyment, especially after it would spend weeks languishing on the side street by my neighborhood. It was a sad and necessary exile when week after week another new vehicle would occupy the only parking spot I could lay ownership to. On the way back from trips, I would glance at the sadness that was a once happy and enjoyable little toaster of a car. So with much trepidation, I decided that it was time to find a new home for this particular black box.
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The first order of business was to place the car in the local paper. The last time I had to offload a vehicle, this proved to be more effective than the Internet or one of those auto sales publications. This was especially true when the cost of advertising came into play. The xB received little attention from the paper ad, much less than I had anticipated, especially after hearing local anecdotes about how popular these vehicles were locally. Part of the problem was the local paper?s failure to acknowledge that the vehicle make was Scion and not Toyota. It is almost as if the representative I dealt with didn?t have any reading comprehension skills, I got the same response after each explanation: ?We only list by vehicle make first.? It was irritating to look at the paper and see your Scion listed as ?Toyota 2004 Scion Xb.? Even their website allowed you to search for a Scion by make, but for some reason the print classifieds department was behind the times. Luckily, I only bought a one week ad.

After that fiasco, I decided to get really brave. EBay seemed to be the way to go. A local guy was selling his xB on eBay and was getting more for it that I would?ve thought. I had tried to sell my Mustang on eBay, but only got a bogus check from Nigeria. So with much concern, I placed my eBay listing, paid for a ?featured? enhancement, set my starting price to my absolutely lowest possible selling price and let it rip.

After a few days, I began getting questions about ending the auction early for a certain magic number. Instead of entertaining their offers outside the system, I went legit and placed a Buy It Now price on the auction. In eBay, a seller may place a Buy It Now price on their item. If a bidder chooses, they may end the auction early by opting to ?Buy It Now? at this preset price. I went through the various auto valuation tools, and added in the cost of the news paper ad and eBay listing to get what I decided was a fair price. Now, I could?ve avoided this and let the auction go for whatever it would fetch, but I reasoned against it. I would also recommend against setting an auction reserve. A reserve is a sort of hidden price that the auction must reach or pass in order for the auction to result in an actual transaction. Think of it as a secret selling price that protects the seller if the auction does not meet reserve. First of all, it doesn?t fool anyone. Secondly, it is frustrating to a buyer who may win the auction but not meet your unknown reserve number. Figure out what you absolutely must sell the car for and set the starting bid accordingly. If you really don?t care, start the bid at zero or at an extremely low figure. Some sellers may get a thrill out of selling their vehicles at low starting bids with no reserve.

When you?re dealing with any type of online sale like this there is a certain amount of risk. For the buyer, the risk is the vehicle may not be as advertised and for the seller the winning bidder may flake out. To discourage a buyer from bailing out of a deal, a reasonable selling price should be determined. If the auction went to insane levels, you could imagine the auction winner having problems with financing or even backing out of the deal. That?s the argument for setting a reasonable buy it now price. Buy and selling cars off eBay is different from selling other items, like your mom?s vintage toaster or your collection of Car and Driver magazines from two decades. The monetary value of the items at stake are typically much higher, and people are generally more concerned with risk involved in such valuable transactions than the other hobbyist exchanges done on eBay.

In the end, the xB was sold for a fair price and the buyer didn?t flake out. Further more, he turned me on to the TurboCheck financing option offered by HSBC. HSBC even operates its own eBay financing department, which made the whole deal feel more official and seems to reduce risk for both buyer and selling. You should always give enough time for financing and paperwork to be completed if you?re dealing with a big ticket item. That was one area where I experienced more than enough stress for one week, especially when the hang up became my own bank. With a long-distance buyer en route, and a slow mail department at my own financial institution, I was more than a little stressed when the check didn?t show on my account until three hours before the buyer?s arrival. It was a day early, but some how I was still twelve thousand dollars short! Having a well designed program in place, like HSBC?s eBay Financing, really seemed to help. I was able to track the package with the check and determine when and where it was signed for, all without having to wait until the buyer checked his email or my bank decided to process the payment.

Overall, I would recommend using eBay to sell your vehicle, especially if it is a relatively scarce model in other geographical areas or where the interested demographic seems to be more technologically savvy. If I was selling a 1988 Ford Taurus, I might want to just dump it on a street somewhere with the price written in white shoe polish on the window. Better yet, I?ve heard of people just leaving their jalopies with the keys in it after removing the plates, registration, and municipal/state stickers. If neither of these two options sound appealing and you have the luxury of selling your vehicle on your own terms, eBay is a quick way to do it and many service companies have tuned their products to help both buyer and seller complete the transaction with ease. In many ways, it can be safer than doing a local private party transaction.

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