Why do you want to sell?
Maybe you've inherited (insert relative-type name here)'s DeLorean and you neither need nor want it. Maybe you bought it and didn't realize it needed more work than you thought. Perhaps you've lost interest in the car or your circumstances (finances, storage, family) have changed and you need to sell the car.
If you've inherited the car and have no interest in it, you're probably in the best position as other than the fact it belonged to a now passed relative, you have no financial or emotional investment in the car. If you do have an emotional investment in the car, you'll need to be able to separate those feelings from the selling process or you will never be able to let it go. Odds are that if that happens, the car and its value will continue to deteriorate (any car does with or without use, if not maintained) and you'll get even less for it when you do sell it.
If you bought it and realized it needs work than you have the time/skills/money to make it right, I hope that you bought it "right" as you will probably be lucky to get out of it what you paid for it. Most owners in this position didn't know as much as they should have during the buying process and probably overpaid.
What do you want to get out of the car dollar-wise?
While everyone wants to get out "everything" they've put in to the car, that's typically unlikely to happen. Some things you shouldn't realistically expect to get back include:
- Shipping or transportation (if you had it shipped to you when you bought/obtained it).
- Storage and insurance - that's just an expense of ownership.
- Any special tools/equipment you may have bought to work on the car (unless you're including them with the sale, and even then you won't get back full retail on them).
- Any parts or service you have had done that is more than two years old and a "wear" item. For example, those door struts you put on two years ago? They're due to be replaced very soon, so don't expect to get that back. Any major service or upgrades that were performed or parts installed in the past two years *may* or may not add value, but more on that below.
In today's market, the only cars that can pull more than $25,000 or so are those cars with less than 40,000 or so miles and have a good, strong, recent service history from a reputable DeLorean-specific center. The current NADA numbers can be found here. Bear in mind that the values shown are retail prices, and your private party selling price will be less, and if selling outright to a dealer (more on that below), it will be still less.
Super-low mileage cars are not necessarily worth more for at least two reasons:
First, there are a lot of low mileage DeLorean cars out there. Many people bought and stored them after the original DMC closed, thinking they would be worth much more money years in the future.
Second, now we're here in that future, and all these cars have suffered from decades of storage neglect and literally need thousands (most often tens of thousands) of dollars in parts and labor to bring them up to safe, reliable driving condition.
Additionally, the factory original part of the car that drives the odometer (and records mileage) has a fairly high failure rate and when it does fail, mileage on the car is no longer being recorded. An owner may not be motivated to replace this part for a number of reasons, so smart buyers are more concerned with the recent service history using reputable, correct parts supplied by a reputable DeLorean parts/service center as opposed to how low the mileage is on the car. Smart buyers also look for unusually high wear on certain parts to help judge the accuracy of the indicated mileage.
How quickly do you want to sell the car?
At the end of the day, the old saying is true - "price sells cars" - if you have the luxury of time, you can hold out for your price and hope someone will pay it. However, most people who are selling a car need to sell it for a reason - moving, lost storage, need cash, etc - and that means you've got to give up some price to get it to move.
Where to sell the car - eBay, Craigslist, AutoTrader, Hemmings, live auction (RM, Kruse, Barrett-Jackson, etc), club/enthusiast organization/website or locally.
Nowadays, these are pretty much your only options for selling an exotic/collector vehicle.
Ebay Motors is probably the path of least resistance for most, both in terms of the amount of effort required to list the car for sale and the overall low cost of completing a sale. Ebay offers a "classified" ad option that costs nothing, but only displays the car to potential buyers within 200 miles of the listing zip code. If you live in or near a major metropolitan area, that may work for you. But if you live in a rural area, or want broader exposure to potential buyers, you'll want their "national" option where you can offer it at auction or for a "fixed-price" with no cost to list, and a max of $125 selling fee based on the selling price of the car when sold.
Craigslist is a modern variation of your local classifieds. Listings are free, and typically only easily searchable by people looking in your particular region where you've posted the ad.
AutoTrader no longer does a print edition for "classic cars", but sells everything through the web now for a flat fee of $60 or so and it stays listed until sold.
Hemmings Motor News has been around for over 50 years, and in addition to a a monthly 500+ page publication they also have a website with thousands of listings for cars. parts and accessories. Ads there go from anywhere between $50 and $200 per month.
Higher caliber cars may be best sold through a live auction, like Kruse, Mecum, RM or Barrett-Jackson. Many of the auction sites are now pushing "no reserve" consignments, meaning that whatever the high bid is for the car, that's the selling price. They'll also charge a seller's commission of anywhere from 3% up to 10% which varies by the auction company, the time of day/day of week when the car crosses the auction block and more. Transportation to the auction site (and return from, if it doesn't meet reserve) are always the responsibility of the seller.
Selling a car through a DeLorean club or DeLorean-specific web site is an option for some, but unless you are a seasoned DeLorean enthusiast, most of the people who frequent these forums will see your ad and know more about your car than you do. Most of these people probably already own a DeLorean, so it may be like selling ice to an ice salesman. He's already got one so he'll only take another if it's better than his and the price is right or if can get it at a good price and either part it out or fix it and re-sell it for more money.
Consignment through a local car lot can be an option, as well. Your local consignment sales lot - unless they specialize in exotics - will most likely charge you 10% or so, and how much exposure you'll get will be largely dependent on the methods and activities that they utilize to market their cars.
Finally, a consignment or outright sale at one of the DeLorean-specific service/restoration centers rounds out the list of options. Each location has its own criteria and fees for accepting/selling cars on consignment, so you're best to check with the location closest to you for details if you are considering going that route.
An outright sale to a DeLorean service center is just like a private party sale - you agree on a price, they pay you, and you give them the title. Typically the center will want to inspect the car in person before the price is finalized, and they'll also arrange shipping once the sale is complete. You'll most certainly get a lower price selling your car this way, but you avoid all the hassles associated with selling the car yourself - including people who want to come see your car, take pictures of it (or have you send them photos of it), go for rides/drives, scam artists, and more. The center will have to bring the car up to their standard for re-sale (and to offer a warranty on it), so they'll naturally pay less.
Okay - still with me? Let's say that you've decided you want to sell the car yourself via Ebay, Craigslist or anything *other* than a wholesale transaction with a DeLorean-specific service/restoration center. The key to getting top dollar for your car is all in the presentation.
- Clean the car up before you take photos - wash, dry, vacuum (don't forget the luggage compartment), wipe down the interior and clean up the engine compartment. Treat the tires, black trim, louvre & engine cover (topside and underside) and clean the glass.
- Consider making low-cost, high impact improvements to your car. Shampoo the carpets, replace door struts, replace sagging headliners - little things like this can add a lot to the perceived value of the car when you go to sell.
- When it comes to photos, more is better! All four sides of the car, doors up (again, think about replacing weak struts to increase the curb appeal - they're cheap), doors closed, engine compartment, luggage compartment (under the carpeted mat, too) interior from both sides, instrument cluster, rear shelf and as much of the underside of the car as you can get to, even if you have to (safely) raise the car on jackstands to do so.
- Think before you take these photos - don't do it when it's dark outside; make sure you have good lighting, use a camera that you know how to use and get good, focused, photos. Blurry or dark photos will only result in prospective buyers either asking for better ones, or skipping your ad entirely.
- When writing the ad, include all these very relevant details that a smart buyer will want to know: Complete 17-digit VIN, interior color, transmission type (manual or automatic), indicated mileage, zip code where car is located (for shipping estimates), any damage or modifications of which you are aware.
- I strongly sugges that you consider getting a copy of the CarFax or AutoCheck report. Having it available to email or show to prospective buyers makes your car more appealing to them, and gives you a leg up on other sellers. Regardless of what you might think about the services either of them offer, their marketing has convinced many buyers that it is something that they must have prior to buying. Especially on a classic car like a DeLorean, the more documentation that you can provide prospective buyers, the more appealing your car will be.
All that said, the single largest thing that impacts the value of the car is whether or not the engine is running. A car with an engine that doesn't start and run is a very expensive question mark. It's not unusual to see a non-running car sell for less than half the price of a similar DeLorean in running condition. Don't worry about making it street-legal (brakes, etc), but if prospsective buyers can hear it start and run, they'll know brakes (and everything else) are fixable.
That said, before you do a "quickie" and throw a battery in it and dump some gas in the tank to get it going, read this article about fuel contamination - you don't want to turn a $400 problem into a $2000 problem for you (or the next owner). Expect a smart buyer to want to see documentation of any pre-sale service/parts that have been done, especially if you're touting that you've done this work as part of your advertising.
Finally - locate the title and keep it handy. Many times I've been ready to buy a car from someone and they can't find the title. Depending on where you live, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to get a replacement certificate of title from your state Department of Motor Vehicles. Have it handy, and make sure that if it's not in your name, you have a clear, legal chain of documents that prove you are the owner. Note that some states will insist that you put the car in your name before you can sell it to someone else - find out ahead of time and be prepared.
So, you've decided why you want to sell the car, decided on your asking price, know where you're going to sell it, you've done some work to it to get it in the best cosmetic and mechanical shape as you can for what you have to spend on it in order to get top dollar for it, and you've got your title in hand and ready to transfer to the new owner. People are calling, emailing and asking questions - now what?
Answer all calls and emails as soon as you can, particularly if you have the car on eBay - don't wait until the last minutes before the auction ends to answer peoples' questions. You'll lose potential buyers that way. If you don't know the answer to their question, be honest and tell them you don't know - just don't ignore them. Of course, if it's someone asking you to give it to them for free or if it has the "hover conversion" option, you can safely ignore them.
People may want to see specific photos, or come for a personal inspection. Accommodate them however you can - these are your potential customers. Use good judgment when inviting strangers to your home, I like to get a copy of their I.D. (camera phones are great for this) so I know later who was in my garage/at my house.
I almost *never* let strangers test drive my car. Sit in it? Sure! Hear it run? Fine. I'll even take someone who presents themselves as a serious adult buyer for a ride. But only very rarely do I let someone drive, and never without me along for the ride. I may turn off some potential buyers by doing this, but I've also never had a car abused, damaged or stolen by someone who "wants to take it for a drive", either.
Good news - you've got a buyer, and you've agreed on a price. If there is a lien on the car (you still owe a bank or some other financial institution money on the car), you'll have to coordinate between the seller and whomever you owe on the car to get the lien settled, title released and transferred to the new owner. If you don't have the money to settle the loan without the payment from the buyer, there's a high level of trust that needs to be established for the buyer to give you the money and not immediately receive the title and the car.
If you've got a "clear" title to the car - no liens - then it's much easier. Typically, it'd be best to do the transfer in person - you get cash and the buyer gets the title. However, if the buyer wants to pay with anything other than cash or a bank-to-bank wire transfer, make sure you're aware of the various scams regarding checks, cashiers checks, certified checks and Western Union transfers. Play it smart, you'd be amazed how many people fall for these types of scams everyday.
Almost there! You've been paid and in the instance that your buyer is not local to you, they will need to arrange to get the car from you. If the car runs and drives, they may choose to fly in and drive it home - please be up front with the buyer if you think they might have any problems doing so. The buyer doesn't want any problems and you don't want any after-sales hassle with them.
Regardless of if the car runs/drives or is immobile, the buyer may choose to come and get it with a trailer or they may choose to send a truck to come and pick it up. The buyer will typically coordinate and pay for this service, but will rightfully ask for your cooperation with getting the car handed off to the driver. Just in case the buyer has not read my book, and the driver has never moved a DeLorean before, if the DeLorean will be shipped in anything but a completely enclosed trailer, make sure the buyer/driver knows that the car must be transported with the front of car forward on the trailer. Towing or trailering the car backwards can allow the wind the lift the rear louvres and wrap them catastrophically over the roof/doors, windshield and hood of the car causing potentially thousands of dollars of damage.
And that's about it! If you have any questions, email me directly at jvespey(at)gmail.com - replace the (at) with the "@" symbol. Good luck!