How to sell your Porsche privately

I had a pre-sale Porsche valuation request from Lauren last week on her 2008 Porsche 997 Carrera 4 Cabriolet with just over 50k miles. Having just claimed the car back from a dealer who had failed to sell it for more than three months, she was about to sell it privately. Where should it be listed and for what price?

Sell your Porsche step 1: be a motivated seller

Lauren had been ready to sell this car for four months, so she was now super motivated and a quick private sale was her top priority. Following a bit of research and with no male bias about asking for help (men rarely ask for help, which causes many other issues), she came to me. Nothing reinforces the internal message ‘I am motivated to do X’ more than consulting a professional for input.

Having secured many quick and enjoyable sales over thirty years in the motor trade, there are several components which are essential to getting this done. The first step is to be motivated. If you’re going to tell potential buyers “if I don’t get the price I want then I will just keep it”, then step away from the keyboard. You are not motivated, the ad will frustrate serious buyers and advertising your car for sale now could hurt later sales attempts.

Be a motivated seller and ensure that your ad expresses this loud and clear. Get the car cleaned, take some great photos (i.e. not in your driveway unless the house is fantastic) and write a good ad. If you can’t write a good ad, invest a bit of money with someone like me and I’ll write it for you.

Presenting the car properly shows buyers that you are motivated. The text must reinforce that motivation. Efficient text with no errors, typos, or fluff assures buyers that time spent building a deal with you is unlikely to be wasted. Astute buyers react favourably to assertiveness and mirroring behaviour identifies a seller’s readiness as a call to action. While being friendly and personable is an important component of all sales, you must ensure that your response to all contacts is primarily clear and concise.

A prime example of how not to deliver clear and concise contacts is using your landline phone number in the ad (something that anyone could answer) or replying to an enquiry with “I will check later and email you back”. Always reply with the information, not a holding email. Always thank people for the enquiry and add any questions you might have in response. The number one thing to ask back is a version of “where are you in terms of readiness to buy?”

The three parts of a Porsche buying journey

Remember ACD: the three parts of the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration, and decision. Studies show that, by the time a buyer looks at sales, they are as much as 90% of the way through their buying journey. The buyer you want is through stage one, most of stage two and approaching stage three: the point of decision. You want that buyer to contact you. If your ad is not getting this reaction, then assume something somewhere is wrong. If you have done your homework, motivated buyers should be reading your ad and getting in touch.

A note on ‘timewasters’

Once the ad goes live, private sellers need to watch carefully, as it is easy to invest time into answering enquiries from people who are not at the end of stage two. Knowledgeable private sellers educating buyers so they can go off and buy another car costs time and attention that should be spent on better leads. This ‘educational time’ is what drives many people to burn out on sales and say something like “so many timewasters and tyre kickers on eBay” or whatever.

Most of these people are not timewasters – they are just not far enough along in the buying process for your purposes. Dealer margins account for some of the time these people occupy, but private sales have no such luxury. So be mindful of qualifying your buyer contacts – not all leads are the same. Educate people when they have invested some effort and come to see the car. Add any obvious missing info to your sales text. Remember: “where are you in terms of readiness to buy?”

Back to consumer psychology

The psychology is clear: buyers who have completed stages one and two now either change their requirements and go back to stage one or they move to decision. Assuming they have stayed with stage three and are now looking through your ad, your ad must move them deep into that final stage. If you can get them most of the way through, you may well sell your car without a viewing.

If the right buyer is given the right information and the right opportunity at the right time, they do not need to touch the product. It makes no odds that this is a £30k car: if a buyer is happy buying a toaster online, then they will happily buy a car online, assuming it’s presented properly.

This absolutely works. I have sold many cars and motorbikes to people who sent the money before collecting their purchase. So the first important step is to show you are motivated, by presenting your item well and with plenty of detail in the ad text. We will explore the text in a bit.

Step 2: compare the market

To be successful, sellers must make themselves aware of what else is out there and what is selling or not. If you are selling your car, you must take an unbiased look at the landscape through the eyes of a buyer. Asking for price guidance on a forum full of biased owners is not the best way to do this. Get into the classifieds and see what else is around. Be aware that pricing off one source of reference or previous asking prices is insufficient research.

UK used Porsche stock varies greatly: some Porsches are verging on oversupply, but many classic 911s have been in low supply for a while. I took a look at Porsche 997s on Pistonheads classifieds and found 220 cars for sale: 54 of which were Cabriolets. 18 of those were classed as automatic and just six of those were priced up to £30k (a guideline price for Gen 1 997s at this sort of mileage).

Running the same search on Autotrader’s slightly different search methodology showed 17 Gen 1 997s cars (Coupes and Cabs) but only three cars were Gen 1 Cabs and one of those was sold. It was repeated on Pistonheads. Combining Autotrader and Pistonheads classifieds gives a fair indication of national stock, so this was a pretty rare car, at a time of year when Cabriolets were in demand and with lockdown driving good levels of market activity.

Step 3: build your information including options and history

I looked at the car on the old dealer ads and (unsurprisingly) found that the sales description was badly put together. Research revealed that the dealer had reduced the price by £2,000 over the three months it was listed, so the dealer didn’t seem to have done any homework on Porsche 911 specifications, market trends and and what made this car stand out against other market offerings.

Looking at the photos showed several sought-after options that were not mentioned in the description. The car was finished in black, with black leather and a black hood – all good for wide market appeal and avoiding depreciation. Condition looked excellent in the photos. It was the sort of car I would buy if I was in the market.

One potential downside was the Tiptronic transmission. My philosophy of Tiptronic marketing is to actively market against manual buyers. Put Tiptronic in the title and perhaps (briefly) state the benefits of Tiptronic against manual transmissions. As I have said many times, Tiptronic is not the kiss of death. I like the automatic on later cars: it is perfectly acceptable for normal use and many buyers seek it out. The ability to flick gears up and down using controls on the steering wheel is essential, however.

A look at the MOT history showed nothing of concern and the ad mentioned good service history. Having owned the car for over two years, lifestyle changes (dogs and a new SUV) meant Lauren was keen to sell. She had bought the car from a specialist who I knew routinely borescoped all cars before offering them for sale. All of this had to go in the ad.

Step 4: create your minimalist masterpiece

Your ad is a tool to do a job. The job is to bring in the right buyer and take them as far as possible from the end of stage two (consideration) to as far through stage three (decision). The ad is not there to give a Porsche history lesson, open the door to student buyers, reminisce on your many road trips or to share how your partner loves the car and wishes you were keeping it. If what you are writing is not focused on the job, delete it. Create a minimalist masterpiece.

Split the ad into sections. I typically work along the lines of:

  • Introduction to the car including why you are selling
  • Details of the car, clearly expressed
  • Link the text and photos so no loose ends
  • Put the asking price in context (demonstrate buyer empathy)
  • Detail any inspection, payment or collection conditions

I had done my research on Lauren’s car and had a good idea of where to pitch it. She had already put it online with an asking price a little lower than I went on to suggest. As she was happy to accept that price, we tweaked it slightly (always take £50 off any even thousands) and clearly stated that no offers would be considered. Here is the text I suggested:

First registered in April 2008, this C4S Cabriolet with 5-speed Tiptronic transmission is in very good original condition, as my detailed photos show. The car has been a delight to own over the last two years: a lifestyle change means it is now available to a good home. Finished in the desirable colour of Basalt Black Metallic, the car has an excellent service history and a great factory specification, including:

  • PSM – Porsche Stability Management
  • PASM – Porsche Active Suspension Management
  • PSE – Porsche Sports Exhaust
  • PCM 2 with Bose upgrade, Bluetooth and colour navigation
  • Heated seats (so important on a Cabriolet)
  • White dials and extended leather (dash and console etc)
  • Multifunction Steering Wheel
  • Cruise Control
  • Litronic lighting
  • 19” wheels
  • Both original keys
  • Depreciation-proof Basalt Black paint with black leather trim & black hood (triple black)

The car benefits from full service history, with five stamps in the service book. It has excellent Pirelli P-Zero tyres all around. Recent maintenance includes:

  • Borescope at 44,350 miles with no issues recorded
  • Service May 2020: New battery, new bonnet release, replaced sump plug & washer, pollen filter, oil filter, engine flush
  • Service April 2018: full inspection, A/C service, brake fluid change, spark plug change, replaced rear brake discs and pads, replaced all six coil packs
  • Additional work April 2018: replaced wiper blades, supplied towing eye, supplied tyre foam, replaced front lower bib spoiler, replace front air deflectors, replaced both air condensers

As lady owner who loves cars and treats them with respect, I have maintained this one correctly and put considerable effort into preparing this car for its next owner. Serious buyers will note that it is the cheapest low mileage 2008 S-body 997 Cabriolet on sale in the UK. Finished in the desirable ‘triple black’ combination of colour, trim and hood, it comes with excellent history and a full range of highly desirable options. For the right buyer, this car will be a keeper. Drives perfectly and first to see will undoubtedly buy. No offers and definitely no time wasters.

The results: a sale within 24 hours

Lauren edited her ad based on my suggestions. The next morning, I checked out her ad to get a feel for the changes and was surprised to see the car listed as sold. I sent her an email to get more details.

“The first person who saw the car basically handed me £500 deposit and begged to buy it from me, zero haggling,” said Lauren. “He said he’d been looking for one for a couple of years now and this was the best by far and cheapest he’d seen. He was amazed by the condition: he only found one scuff on a wheel that needed fixing but said he’d happily pay himself for that. He also said I was was way too trusting and made me take the £500 to secure it. Not sure if I mentioned, but I got home from the dealership and the front window seemed to have slipped its runner. Didn’t bother him at all, he said it happened to him with a new car before and was easy to fix.

“This experience was so refreshing from most of the timewasters I’ve been dealing with previously trying to convince me how much I needed to knock off the price. It helps when buyers know their stuff, and also most people I am sure have been dealerships trying to buy a bargain to repackage and sell for more! Thanks for your help – it made a huge difference.”

Now, you could look at this story and decide it was pure luck – right time, right buyer, right ad – but there is little luck involved in consistently repeating this success (James Clear has written beautifully the concept of absolute vs relative luck). When we optimise all of the factors within our control, the results are inevitably going to be better than leaving certain items unresolved: especially things that are important to buyers.

This system of marketing directly to buyers who have already completed stage one and are most of the way through stage two works well. It brings in buyers who have done their homework and are absolutely ready to send money – even if only to scratch the itch and stop spending hours poring over the internet. If you’re interested in playing around with it, practice it on smaller items and hone your skills and technique before trying it out on a car for sale. Let me know how you get on!

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