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A guide to selling your Classic

Sale or Return Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A guide to selling your Classic
A guide to selling your Classic
A guide to selling your Classic
A guide to selling your Classic
A guide to selling your Classic
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Can commission sales be the answer to selling your classic?

So, what is sale or return?

Fundamentally, it’s a method of selling whereby you entrust your car to a third party who promises to sell it on your behalf in return for a fixed commission, or return it if it isn’t sold after a specified period.

Why should I do that?

For starters, all the viewings and negotiations are handled by your nominated vendor, so no more waiting around for no-shows and tyre kickers. Not only that, you don’t have to invite strangers into your home, either. There’s also the probability that the specialist dealer can get abetter price than you would be able to ask on a private sale. Finally, if the car is on finance, you won’t be able to sell privately unless it’s paid off first - often a chicken and egg situation for many enthusiasts.

What’s in it for the dealer?

Profit! Other beneficial factors include sourcing stock on a sale or return basis as means the dealer has less of his own money sitting around on the forecourt, ensuring better cash flow and lower interest charges.

Anything else?

Yes, handing your classic over to a marque specialist will ensure it receives the right focus of attention from the outset and will often achieve a better price. Particularly with more upmarket machinery, an interested buyer is going to be looking first at a dealer who stocks that kind of vehicle.

OK, what should I know?

The first rule of sale or return deals is to choose a respectable and well-established dealer. In the past, there have been many here today-gone tomorrow outfits who sprung up overnight to offer this service, with predictable results. One company that has been in the business for over twenty years is Romans of St Albans. Director John Falletta says that you need to be choosy: “If you’re selling a common or garden Ford or Vauxhall, a classified advert is generally all you’re going to need; however, we sell top end marques and that’s where a firm such as ours can make a big difference.” “Take for example, a customer wishing to sell a Bentley Continental. It may be on finance and he probably can’t pay it off until the car’s sold. That’s a chicken and egg situation because if it’s advertised privately, who in their right mind is going to hand over upwards of £50k to a stranger for a car that’s still on finance? Buyers are uncomfortable with that and that’s where we come in; basically, we take care of the outstanding finance and put that in writing as well as provide a warranty and full legal comeback if there’s a problem. Try getting that off a private seller!”

So do I just hand the car over and leave it at that?

Not really. It pays to make sure there’s regular contract between you and the dealer in order that both parties know their responsibilities, and this should include confirmation that the title of the vehicle remains with the owner and not the garage. It should also be clear whose responsibility it is to insure the car; normally this will fall to the garage, but it is important to have it spelt out at the outset to avoid any nasty problems later. Finally, ensure the contract stipulates the deal is on a sale or return basis only. This means that if the car is not sold after a reasonable length of time, the dealer will return it to you without charging any commission. Do be aware though, that you will need to allow him a reasonable chance to sell your car - snatching it back after only a couple of weeks may result in the dealer charging some advertising costs back to you.

Fair point, but what about the costs involved?

Dominic at Aston Martin Heritage dealer Chiltern Aston, based in Hertfordshire, says it all depends on the car to be sold, but for an Aston this is typically 10-15 per cent of the sale price. “It may seem odd, but for the cheaper cars, we generally charge the higher rate; this is because we have to carry out a service, a fresh MOT and put on a warranty and this swallows up a goodly amount of cash on an Aston Martin.” Looking at it like this, the effort put in by the dealer makes the fee seem good value compared to having to do all this yourself. All things considered, the consensus is that a seller will on average obtain a 10 per cent better return on consignment than an outright sale to the trade and this compares favourably with the price that would be realised by a private sale or perhaps at auction.

Sounds good, but what can go wrong with the deal?

So far, it’s a win-win situation for both parties, but there can be pitfalls. Dominic at Chiltern Aston again: “One thing a customer should be aware of is that cars are a complex piece of machinery and older classics especially can be fragile. If the car is entrusted to the dealer and it develops a fault which is not caused by him, the responsibility will lie with the customer, as it would as if it were in his possession. We’ve never had to test this, but it is something we have to point out”. In the past, there have been reports of cars not kept in good condition while in the custody of a seller, and even disappearance of the goods altogether. Another old trick used to be returning less money to the customer than was agreed at the outset, but these issues will be nullified by using an established dealer who utilises a contract specifying the returns and timeframes.

Our view…

Sale or return is now big business in the motor trade, including the classic side, and it’s not hard to see why; there are a lot of benefits and few drawbacks so long as you choose your trader carefully. With classics, the draw becomes irresistible because specialist motors need specialist sellers - and that’s usually not me or you…

  • Top Ten Tips
  • 1.Use a well-established business to handle deal
  • 2.Inspect their premises
  • 3.Ask about previous sales success in the field
  • 4.Ensure there is no fee unless car is sold
  • 5.Agree the fee and the amount to be returned to you from the outset
  • 6.Make sure it’s fully insured on their premises
  • 7.Tell them about any finance
  • 8.Get a binding contract
  • 9.Read the contract and agree any changes…
  • 10. Leave them to it!


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