Selling Your Car Online: Handling Phone Inquires

February 28, 2011

The economic downturn has forced more car owners to sell their vehicles privately instead of trading them in with a dealer. The reasons vary: as financial markets tighten, it’s harder to qualify for a loan. Or you’re dumping that second or third car to cut expenses and generate some cash. Or you may prefer to sell privately so you can keep more money in your pocket.

Most private sellers only sell a handful of vehicles over a lifetime. And there’s a lot to learn if you’re going to sell your vehicle quickly and profitably. This includes what to say when someone calls and asks about your vehicle.

Learn from the Pros

When I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, we spent a lot of time being trained on how to handle telephone calls. We were taught one basic rule above all others: don’t discuss price over the telephone. Of course, it was often difficult to live up to this expectation. Yet, there is a logic to the rule that can help private sellers deal with their phone inquiries.

Let’s take the example of someone selling their Ford Mustang. When someone calls or emails for information, like is the car still available, they invariably asked one of the following:

--  Are you flexible on the price   

--  Is that the best you can do?

Chances are, if you answer their question by engaging in a discussion on price you’ll either scare them off or you’ll start discounting your selling price so quick you may as well take the cash out of your wallet, spread it on the table, and walk away. Sure, you may have to get into a numbers game at some point, but don’t go there without expending some effort to get on a track that supports making a deal without giving up your hard-earned cash.

It’s in the Book

What should you say when someone asks, “What’s your best price?” I’m actually going to refer to my book for the answer. The following is the result of many years of front-line experience in a major automobile dealership. When someone asks me if I’ll come down in price over the telephone I say:

Of course I'm flexible about the price. But there’s not much point negotiating until you look at the car and give it a drive. If it’s what you’re looking for, I'm sure we can make a deal that works for you. Do you want to see it tonight or tomorrow?

(From HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW!)

Learn from the pros: negotiating price on the phone or by email is a bad idea for the seller. But what if your hand is forced? If you absolutely have to discuss price on the phone, read tomorrow’s article. I’ll outline exact guidelines on how what to say and how to handle the conversation with the idea of you keeping more of your money in your pocket.


L. James Johnson is the guy who wrote the book on how to sell your car online: HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available on

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