Thursday, March 24, 2011

Out with the old.... In with the new....

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On the left, our Jeep "at home" in the NC mountains will now be at home in the Virginia mountains.  
On the right, our new Honda Accord (photo courtesy of the seller) is ready for road trips!!!!

A month and a half ago, when we finally 100% committed to the University of Florida for dental school, Matt & I sat down at dinner & made our "pre-move to-do" list. At the time it was daunting, overwhelming & exhausting to look at everything that we needed to accomplish in a few short months. Probably the most stressful item on our list (after figuring out my work situation) was car-related.

You may remember our Camry tragedy from the fall. If not - I'll catch you up to speed: Our car died 2 hours away from home & was too expensive to repair so we cut our losses & sold the non-working shell. The end. We dropped down to being a one car family again, which works really well for us, & quite frankly, is our plan for the indefinite future. We were fortunate enough to have inherited Matt's parents' Jeep (the Camry was inherited from my folks) so we had a good, solid set of wheels. Not to mention Matt's 2 wheels (his bike!), which he rides to work every day & plans to ride to dental school in the fall. We're a "green" family :)

We knew that we'd need to invest in another more family-friendly/fuel-efficient car down the road, but for the time being, the Jeep was perfect for our life situation. We don't go on many long road trips from NC (like we used to do in the Camry), & the Jeep is a great "around-town" kind of car, plus it's fun for a young couple like us! We can easily pop our bikes on the back & be at the trails in 10 minutes.  We loved (still love) our Jeep.

As gas prices rose & the reality of our move to Florida set in, however, we realized that the Jeep may not be the best car for us going forward. We'll be just a few short hours away from my folks & we'd like to be able to go back & forth to Vero more regularly than we do now. We forsee lots more road time in the Jeep & although it's fun - it doesn't get great gas mileage & isn't the safest car on the road. Plus, we realized that we'd eventually like to have a family (now don't get too excited - we have to get Matt at least part way through school before we start thinking seriously about that!!!), & throwing a car seat in the back of a soft-top Jeep just wouldn't cut it. Add to that some pricey, routine maintenance that was coming up (it is a 1998, after all) & we decided it was time to say goodbye. ***Cue tears***

We resolved that instead of waiting until our family grew to buy a more "practical" car, we would see if we could sell the Jeep in NC where it may go for a higher price than FL (four wheel drive is probably more useful here than in flat Florida!) & buy a (new-to-us) used car pre-move. This was also spurred on by the fact that it costs a small fortune to bring a car into the state of Florida, so we wanted to arrive with our 'long-term' car instead of paying to register the Jeep in Florida & then doing it all over again in a year or two with a different car.

Whew. I'm getting long winded. Long story shorter.... after a thorough search, we ended up finding the perfect car to suit our needs. A 2005 Honda Accord that had only one owner (a nice middle aged mom), relatively low miles (55k), & was in great condition. A week ago, after our fair share of negotiating plus an inspection & tune-up at a local shop, we forked over the cash for this beauty & drove her home. The seller snapped our photo before we left & emailed to me:
The same night we brought home the Honda, Matt listed the Jeep on Craigslist. He told me that night "no one is going to pay (our list price) for this car." I had suggested starting high (we had negotiated on our Honda & brought the price down $600), & we'd be more likely to get to our goal price by starting higher. 12 hours later we had about 10 emails in our inbox. Needless to say, Matt was surprised.  Selling a car through Craigslist is certainly not as easy as trading in at a dealer or selling to Carmax, but we knew the car was worth more than what a dealer would give us (we had quotes from a local dealer & Carmax before listing on Craigslist) & for us, it was worth the hassle of dealing with potential buyers ourselves. Plus, we'd done it once before with our Camry, so we knew the ropes, so to speak.

Today, one week after listing, the Jeep drove away to it's new home. An older man from Virginia ended up buying our beloved Jeep for just $100 under our list price (so much for Matt's worries). He wanted a car he could put his dogs in & drive to his mountain house off the Blue Ridge Parkway. He also mentioned that his wife had a convertible & he wanted a car he could take the top off, too! We were happy to see the Jeep heading to such a good home. As for the price, we were ecstatic. When we listed the car, we'd hoped that at the end of the day we could walk away with at least $1k less then our list price (after negotiations, etc), but given the high interest level, we soon discovered that we'd priced pretty appropriately.

We had done our homework. Here are a few things we found to be helpful when buying/selling as a private party ... or as Matt suggested I title this post "How to Sell a Car in  (less than) Ten Days":
  • Get Edmunds & Kelly Blue Book values on your car & set your price realistically. Your buyers will be looking at the blue book value, so you want to make sure you're in the ball park (with some cushion for negotiations). Be realistic about your car's condition. Keep in mind that for a car to be considered "excellent condition" -- it's probably pretty darn new.
  • Take your car to a dealer/Carmax to see what the trade-in value would be. This can help set your floor & help in setting a price. If selling your car as a private party doesn't work, at least you know your options!
  • Look at your Carfax to anticipate what buyers will be looking at & be ready to explain any thing from the Carfax that may reflect poorly (e.g. accidents, liens on the car, etc). No need to create negotiating opportunities down the road. Disclose! Disclose! Disclose! It's good for not only the buyer, but an honest seller avoids surprises that may end a potential deal down the road.
  • To further that point -- disclose everything you know to be wrong with the car upfront so as not to create a negotiating opportunity for buyers down the line. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but that helped us bring down the price on the Honda. After having it checked out at a shop pre-purchase (for which we footed the bill), we were able to get the seller to bring down the price for some necessary repairs. Had she told us upfront (in her defense, some of the things she wouldn't have known), she may have avoided this discussion all together.
  • Put a ton of photos online so as to weed out potential buyers who wouldn't be interested after seeing some of the car's less endearing qualities. For us - that meant advertising our Jeep's rust & wear & tear that is to be expected on a 13 year old car instead of having them show up to look at the car & then decide they weren't interested. In the end, you don't want to show your car to everyone & their mother, so it's best to only deal with serious buyers. Value your time.
  • Have a bill of sale ready with appropriate clauses to protect both yourself and the buyer (very important - that you are selling the car in "as is" condition!). Keep a copy for yourself & give one to the buyer. It's not required, but it's a helpful document to have in your files. (You can download samples online; I relied on both my dad & Matt's dad to help draft one).
  • Be clear on payment upfront. We were paid in cash for both the Camry & the Jeep, but we actually paid using a certified check for our Honda at our seller's request. It's also nice if you can deposit the cash at the same time you're signing over the title (to make sure your buyer's not into any funny business). Our bank doesn't charge to notarize for bank customers, so we could do both at the same time.
  • Make sure to know the process with your insurance company / bank / DMV / etc. Each state is a little different, so have whatever paperwork they require ready to go! You never know when a buyer may give you a ring!!! Know the process before you list your car! No need to scramble at the last minute.
  • If you are a buyer, know the registration/title fees, taxes, any changes to your insurance rates, etc. before you shop around. Your budget may be a lot smaller after accounting for all of those costs. If you're buying from a dealer -- the fees skyrocket even more. For example, one dealer wanted to charge us a $499 "dealer fee". Most dealers have these fees, but the amount can vary.
  • Furthermore, if you plan on registering a car in another state in the near future, get to know that state's registration rules, taxes, etc. For our Honda, Florida's fees & taxes added over $1100 to our car budget on top of what we're paying in North Carolina! Ouch.
Although it all happened pretty fast (Matt got an email this a.m. & within 3 hours, the buyer was in our driveway), we were ready. It was a lucky coincidence that Matt had the day off work today, so all I had to do was drive with him to the bank to sign over the title & make a stop at the DMV on the way home to turn in our tags. He even did all the negotiating & stood his ground on our price! I'm so proud.

So there is the story of our cars. I doubted that anyone would be all that interested, but when we bought our Honda last week, I posted a photo on facebook & had 2 folks ask if I'd blog about it... so this is for you, Andrew & Emily!


  1. I have a 2005 Honda Accord and I love it! Mine's a two-door, but it's definitely an awesome car. You will love it!

  2. Thanks, Emily!!! We totally slipped down a notch in the "cool" factor - but we're excited about the Accord. It helps that all Honda owners just gush about their cars :)


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