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?


  1. As soon as you buy a car, buy a repair manual; Bentley, Haynes, Chilton, etc. I write everything I do to the car on the last blank page in the manual and do so until I run out of room. Then start on another blank sheet. You can stick the receipts in the pages of the manual or use a folder. Comes in real handy when you want to know when you last replaced your lifetime warranty brake calipers, etc.

  2. Hi guys, I use the Virtual Garage to take care of points 1-3. Hope you find it helpful too.