Sales Talk : ‘Sweating money’ sells cars!

Mike Humble

Kia Magentis – Makes drowning in blood a more palatable experience but ultra cheap, roomy and above all – reliable for those who simply don’t care about motoring.

I don’t know about you, but I simply love spotting private cars for sale on people’s drive ways, its a barometer of motors ranging on the whole from dog rough trash, to over priced  mutton dressed as lamb. Those huge cardboard signs wedged into the windscreen of unloved cars daubed with childish marker pen scribbles make me smile day after day, week after week, sitting there on the front attracting zero interest- when oh when will somebody buy my X-reg Hyundai Trajet?

To some people, selling a car privately is such a heavy-hearted task, all those strangers coming round your house casting aspersions or judgement on your once pride and joy motor, while drinking your tea and potentially wasting your time.

Once, I got so sick of seeing a Champagne-coloured 1986 Maestro 1.3HL  parked outside a property in a nice leafy part of Northampton week after week during my daily commute, I bought the bloody thing – 100% true. But selling a car privately can be a good feeling if you apply the same enthusiasm you did when you bought it.

During another one of those fairly recent neighbourly chats with a local you have no clue what his name is, he was bemoaning about his old car he cant sell for love nor money. Getting down to brass tacks, his car is not exactly brimming with charm, style nor any redeeming features sadly – its the car that our other man in the trade, Steven Ward, and I call ‘the thinking man’s Daewoo Leganza’ – the Kia Magentis.

It certainly has all the right features to make you feel rather bilious  namely its plastic wheel trims, acres of gloomy grey plastic inside and a seat trim as vile and grubby as those waiting chairs you find down at Argos. He’s not even asking strong money for it either, but it sat there on his driveway covered in leaves, bird lime and tree sap looking about as pretty as a bed sore.

The problem for many is, that when you have got your new car/hi-fi/three piece suite, your interest in the old item hits rock bottom and you expect maximum money with minimum effort. As the old Northern phrase goes ‘you get nowt for nowt in this world’ – but trust me when I say that getting it looking like new costs very little and takes just a few hours.

How many dealership used part exchange appraisals look like – Don’t be offended by the valuation should your Zafira resemble this.

If I was to ask you to valet my car from top to bottom, inside and out and offer to pay you something in the region of £500, I’m sure a great deal of you would be beating a path to leafy Sussex. But this is the whole point, if your car looks and smells like a Corporation dust cart who in their right mind is going to even consider buying it, let alone offer you top whack.

A grubby tired looking motor is worth nothing in the eyes of many potential buyers, while a clean and shiny one grabs your attention and wallet. After a chat with my new found friend over a brew, I sent him down to Poundland with a shopping list costing nothing more than a Fish and Chip supper for some cut price valeting products.

Just a couple of days later, I swept by in the 75 to see him rubbing away at the paint akin to a scene from Aladdin, and when I floated by a few hours later, a Kia it still was; but a fine looking one. It later transcribes that for the Princely sum of £7 he purchased some cheap polish, back to black, rags, upholstery cleaner and some air fresheners, spent half a day sweating like a Navvy – and then placed an advert in the local post office window for two weeks – cost? £4.

Press fast forward to 48 hours and the car is gone to a new owner who no doubt will appreciate the dreadful styling and coma inducing ambiance of the interior. His replacement company Focus now graces the nearby property blending into the local commuter belt suburbia.

The same thing applies in the showrooms too. If your part exchange interior resembles something similar to the contents of an Indian restaurant Hoover bag, please don’t be offended should the offer price reflect the current value of a cracked mirror.

An old sales manager I knew called the effort of cleaning cars as ‘sweating money’ – it’s a very true sentiment and one worth a moment or two pondering over when passing on your clunker!

Mike Humble


  1. We have all bought privately, and all we have to do when selling, is put ourselves in the buyers place.

    How many time have we been to see a car, only for it to be presented like an old dog? We turn on our heals and (often) walk away, even if the car turns out to be a good’un.

    A couple of hours with the cleaning bits certainly does make all the defference.

  2. When looking at cars (private or trade) they always look better with clean alloys & tyre dressing applied. Even if the body gleams, shabby tyres take the edge off it.

  3. There are some real “ripe ones” out there,from goosed vectras to early M reg P38’s running LPG (who would have one of those?)still, there are some crackers out there for a monkey.

  4. Definitely.

    In the past I’ve even gone so far as replacing missing/cracked wheeltrims, numberplates (it had mouldy ‘old font’ ones, the narrow ‘new font’ made it look newer) and a set of cheap mudflaps. Back to black on the tyres and bumper polish where needed eg. the wiper surround, faded black B pillars etc.
    Bit more expenditure, but worth it if it goes for a few hundred more!

  5. Well, I’ve just sold my ‘low milage’ 1996 Escort 1.6 Serenade, complete with one smashed headlight, no wheeltrims, one slashed tyre, one front wiper (the other broken off by vandals- ditto the front plate), no MOT or Tax, and a year’s worth of ‘patina’. I even threw in a load of metal junk gratis.

    I was quite pleased when the fella came to the door and offered me £50 for it. It wasn’t even for sale.

    Wonder if I’d have got more if I’d waxed it?

  6. I assume everything i have that is old is utterly worthless, and thus, CBA wasting any more time on it 😉

    Think the XM is heading to the scrapyard, as I just don’t have the time and no-one bit even at an offer slightly under scrap money. Shame, but life pressure is not what I had hoped it would be at this stage. Maybe I’ll wash it and park it outside…

  7. Yes. The online thingy offered £170. I paid rather more than that for it, but just don’t have the mental space to deal with it – keeping my ‘usable’ cars going is eating money and effort. And I hate the idea of scrapping it – it doesn’t need much and I have the space to keep it but I don’t want to park it outside under a tarp.

  8. @, I agree,i hate scrapping useful or decent cars,an old Scenic or Ka i would put through the press without blinking,but say a MK2 astra or even a Mk3 escort i could not do it,i would store them first.

  9. In this life, you don’t get what you think you deserve… you get what you *negotiate*, and selling/buying is a negotiation.

    The opening point of any sales negotiation is the asking price; -Start too low when the buyer has options, and you can NEVER go up. Start too high and you’ll scare potentially genuine buyers off.

    Put yourself in the punter’s spot: they ‘mentally photoshop’ what’s sitting in YOUR driveway onto THEIR driveway, and if it doesn’t LOOK attractive, you’re giving away cash… if the car is clean and pretty, it can support a higher asking price and that raises ALL figures along the inevitable downward drift towards the handshake.

    As a buyer, you have to look past the ‘five-dollar shine’ and concentrate on the important stuff. -If you’re too distracted by the gleam and glitter, you’re a nice fat magpie ready to be caught.

    Polish, sweat, negotiate. profit.

  10. @Richard Kilpatrick
    Where are you? I am after a spare set of strut tops of my XM so I’d be ineterested bit of waste of car just for those but..

  11. The other big one that puts me off is scuffed and dirty alloys or knackered and/or missing wheel trims. For steel wheels there is nothing worse in my eyes than mis-matched trims or broken trims.

    You can get a decent set of plastic trims from Halfrauds for about £20 which will at least make the car look cared for or even just paint them silver!

    As for the alloys, a good scrub off with a stiff brush and if you want to go the whole hog then a spray with a can of generic silver paint will make them look good at least for a few weeks…

  12. A good honest clean car will sell itself,kerbed wheels and skanky alloys tarted up at £40 a corner are a waste of time on a £500 tosser,how far do you need to go when you are at the diposal end of the market,cheap cars at the arse end (or arsehole)of the market have sunk as low as they can-i have just bought a ’04 25 from Bluecycle salvage auctions for £205 all that is required is a tailgate which i can get in colour but for my effort-collection,transport and parts im not going to make myself rich with this one.

  13. In terms of wheeltrims, if they don’t match, no point.

    If they’re manufacturer original, try scrap yards / the internet if missing one, or if you can find a cheap set.
    Otherwise, halfrauds ones. I used to like their ‘Seville’ design but they’re a bit more expensive now.

    Set of numberplates with the new font (especially on a pre-2001 car) for 20 quid.

    Another thing is vacuum the inside, bit of frebreeze on cloth seats / leather furniture cleaner on leather, and fit a good air freshener. One of those ones you can hide under the seat, so there isn’t a huge magic tree hanging there.

  14. A late lamented trader I knew in Bristol used to reckon that you could sell anything if it had new numberplates and clean wheels.

    I know from my own experience that these are the first things people notice when they get their car back from one of my all-day scratch repair and detail offers.

  15. Being a car valeter for main agents in a previous life, this article is bang on. Spending just a day, and just a few quid can turn a snotter into something easily saleable. Even crappy looking wheeltrims can be tidied up with a rattle can of ‘alloy wheel silver’, and if the seats look absolutely beyond it, a cheap set of seat covers help. Vaseline works a treat on black external plastics that are faded too.

  16. @20-Which dealer was that out of interest? I used quite a few of the old back st banger emporiums of Bristol-one of which even advertised as Banger Car Sales.
    30yrs ago I was valeting at an AR main dealer-Holders. The sales manager told his salesmen to clear out the shit from the px yard, so a rotten MKI Escort and matt red Renault 6 were dragged in to the open. The Escort was sent to the paint shop for a very slap dash blow over in a horrible shade of pale blue, topped off with a vinyl roof, it was then donated as a raffle prize to the local Rotary club, lucky winner eh?
    The R6 was so flat I told the salesman all I could do was spray it with PVC sheen-what now comes in cans called trim shine, “whatever” he replied.It was sprayed and buffed up and looked the biz on the forecourt-until it rained..

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