Selling a Car to Someone You Know - Torrens 407

By: Glenn Torrens

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GT ponders the wisdom of selling a car to someone you know

Like most car enthusiasts, I can’t afford any $100K muscle cars. Instead, I’ve got myself a backyard full of cool cars that are great fun and – except for one – don’t owe me much more than four or five grand each. In the past two years, I’ve been spurred-on by the excellent historic permit scheme in NSW that allows me to have several older cars that I can drive to the shops and shows for minimal registration costs and I now have six cars on H-plates – Commodore, Sigma, Volvo and a few VWs.

So, right now, I own more cars than at any time in my life – and more cars than many people will ever own in their lives. In fact, I still own most of the cars I’ve ever owned as I’ve only ever sold five or six cars. Two of those cars were sold to people I know; a Nissan Pathfinder 4WD to one of my longest- and best-ever mates, and my 1976 Volkswagen Beetle Karmann Cabriolet to a local VW enthusiast who, although not a bloke I’ve known for decades, I now count as a mate and who I have a beer with regularly.

But was I crazy to sell cars to people I know?

I sold the Pathfinder knowing the gearbox had a noisy bearing – and my mate Davo who bought it, knew it, too. But for the price I sold it for, the value of the accessories on it – long range fuel tank, dual battery system, front protection bar and raised suspension – and for the money he received when he sold his newer Holden Rodeo, Davo was able to put $5K back into the bank and cross his fingers on the gearbox. It lasted another two or three years before it needed attention. And of course I’ve helped Davo with info and advice about the Pathfinder, too, as I’ve owned three, preparing/modifying two of them for outback touring so I know a bit about what makes them work.

The VW Beetle drop-top: after a decade of cruising in it – and a full cosmetic restoration of fresh paint, a re-trim and a new folding roof on the 1970s classic – I took it to a weekend VW event with a for sale sign on the windscreen. It’s a relatively rare and special car that I cruised for more than 15,000 miles – including several long-haul, 600-mile treks to regional car shows – so I was confident of its reliability. By the end of that car show, I had a handshake and $50 deposit (it’s all he had in his wallet) from Don, a bloke who lives just two suburbs away from me. He’d seen my bright red Cabrio cruising around near home and when he saw the FOR SALE sign on it, he decided it would be a great sunny Sunday fun car for him and his wife Barb. So far, Don’s had three good years in that Cabriolet, with a worn-out clutch being the worst of the glitches while he’s owned it.

Yet I’ve heard horror stories about other people who have sold cars to mates with barely-concealed issues: Bogged-up rust; mechanical maladies; dodgy engine transplants, number mis-matches, goop in the cooling system – you name it. Some of the stories would be the basis for an A Current Affair-type TV show report: ‘Revealed! The Dodgy Car Yard Tricks That You Need To Know!’

I’ve also heard of buyers who have become serial pests, whingeing to previous owners with a ‘this is your fault!’ attitude for little more than an empty windscreen washer bottle, even months or years after buying the car.


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