Monday, September 13, 2010

Selling your car.....It is easier if you keep records

Today a customer called me (Owns a 2001 540 6 speed) and asked "I have a guy ready to buy my car, but he wants to talk to my mechanic, can you talk to him?" "Of course I will" I replied, "give him my number". Sure enough, about 2 hours later the phone rings and it is Mr. Buyer on the line. He starts with "tell me about the car".

Sure, it has 4 black things on it called tires, it was made in Germany, it is silver, it has a motor, blah blah blah. What he wanted to know was "is this car going to break down on me or cost me an arm and a leg to keep running". I couldn't really answer that with 100% certainty because this customer doesn't keep records on his car so he had to rely on me to remember what he has (or hasn't) done.

The point is this, almost every time someone looks at a used car they almost always ask "do you have the service records?". How many of you can go look in a drawer or in a file on your computer and pull up your maintenance history? The three of you who can are excused from the rest of my article and get an "A", the rest of you fail and should read on.....

Think about it, if you asked for maintenance records and the owner pulled out a 3 year history on a spreadsheet or in a notebook, would you feel better about buying the car? I sure would. What if they had receipts for the corresponding repairs? Now do you feel confident about the buy? I would.

But just like in ANY sales arena, most people don't do the hard work that it takes to make selling easy. You'll dance around and say "well, the cooling system has been replaced....well except for the water pump.......wait, did I do the water pump...??" Wrong answer! I'm walking away and you just blew a sale. This isn't earth shattering stuff, just common sense that we forget about until it is too late. So here are 4 things you need to remember to have a good record book:

1. KISS (Keep it simple stupid). No reason to write a paragraph for each repair, just date, mileage, what was done, and cost. You may also want to jot down warranty info if there is any.
2. Keep track of EVERYTHING you do. Right down to the last day and time you checked your tire pressures (you should probably go ahead and do that today cause I bet you haven't checked lately have you?). Yea, it's overkill, but when time comes to sell your car you will thank me for it. This means oil changes, fluid changes, inspections, everything excpet gas purchases should go on this record. If you add a splash of coolant or wiper blades, the log should be updated. Get it? More is.....well........MORE!

3. Keep the log in a safe place and better yet, back it up on a thumb drive or USB! Ever had a PC crash? I have. What if you take my advice and go through all this work only to lose it all because your kid clicked on an offer for a free playstation. So treat it like any other important file.

4. Keep receipts. Whether you DIY or pay a shop, get the receipts and scan or staple them to the record. KEEP THEM ALL! It adds credibility if the receipt dates match the entry dates too.

If you do the above, when it comes time to sell you will not only be able to honestly tell potential buyers EXACTLY what has been done, you can also give them a heads up on what might need to be done. Can you imagine how great a buyer would feel if you said "well Mr. Customer, it is $800 more than a comparable car, but you won't need this, this, and that for about 30k miles. Does the other car have records like this?" You just got paid an extra $800 to be a little OCD when it comes to your car.

The only question is, will you do it?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Been away for a long time, I'm back

So I won't pretend to make excuses, I just plain let this blog grow cold. Call it a lack of motivation, not really thinking it is helping people, or just plain laziness. Anyway, I am back and here are the incoherent ramblings of a "car guy" for today, read at your own risk, this entry will be all over the place!

First of all, on the car front, I have been a busy man. I have replaced 2 evaporators these past few months. One on an 04 BMW X3 and one on a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. Both required removal of the dash, what a nightmare! Why don't car manufacturers put those darn things somewhere a little easier to access? I only charged the BMW owner $500 and the Jeep owner $250. Dealer quotes on both were an excess of $2500 and indy shops were over $1500. I really need to up my prices! I also did an A/C compressor on a VW Cabrio, again the indy quote was $1500. I did it for $200. It only took me an hour and a half! Why do these shops charge so much freaking money!?

I want to remind all of you car owners out there (BMW or ANY car brand) to do regular maintenance items on your car early and often! If you are waiting till the quicky lube place tells you that you need a new air filter, you waited too long. If you wait until your ABS module fails to change your brake fluid, you have waited too long. If you wait until your transmission starts to slip, you waited too long to change the fluid. Get me? You can never fully eliminate the risks of your car breaking down on you, but with simple jobs you can easily do at home in a few hours you can give yourself the best chance of having a long lasting and trouble free car.

Just last weekend I spent $15 on brake fluid and had my daughter push the pedal for me and exchanged my brake fluid in about 45 minutes. It was already pretty clear, but I was due for it. Granted, I didn't feel a difference in the way my car stops, but since my BMW has a pretty sophisticated (and really expensive) braking/traction control system, I now know neither of those systems aren't likely to fail anytime soon because I didn't take the time to do a little work. Given the average ABS failure costs a minimum of $2000, I think it was well worth it! My wife's Jeep is next, her brake fluid looks like used motor oil! Shame on ME! But I have kept the oil and trans fluids changed, as well as doing a 130k mile "tune up" that included fuel filters, plugs, water pump, thermostat, radiator, hoses, belts, etc. She drives my kids after all, the car has to remain safe. And by doing those kind of things PRO-actively, I save myself the hassle of towing costs, logistical problems, and even safety concerns if she breaks down in a bad part of town or late at night. Piece of mind is nice, and you too can have it. When is the last time you checked YOUR wife's car over for things it needs? Is her serpentine belt new or does it look like an old shoe lace? What do those brake pads look like? When is the last time you visually looked at the radiator hoses? Get my point?

Ok, so here is a checklist I use (and you should too):

1. Tires. Do they hold air? Are they round? Do they have tread? Cracks?
2. Belts and Hoses. Nothing stops a car faster than loosing a serpentine belt or blown radiator hose. These parts are cheap, when in doubt, replace them! And don't forget tensioner and idler pulleys, if they break, they will snap even a brand new belt!
3. Fluids. Everyone changes their oil. But when is the last time you changed your transmission fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid, engine coolant and power steering fluid? Exactly, now go change it!
4. Filters. You car has an air filter for the engine, even YOU know that. But when is the last time you changed the fuel filter? Cabin Filter? Transmission filter? Been awhile?
5. Tune up items. Spark plugs, coil packs, coil boots, plug wires, 02 sensors, cap and rotors, PCV valves, EGR Valves and fuel injectors. They all need to be kept healthy or bigger problems can develop.

I know, it can seem overwhelming. Break it down into small steps an do a few each weekend. Before you know it, you will have a car that is happy and will serve you well. And make sure you check your owners manual for vehicle specific things that I may have forgotten.

Ok, that is today's installment. I plan to go do some more work and then enjoy Bama rolling over Penn State tomorrow! ROLL TIDE!!!