The MGA With An Attitude

BYE-101 relates some common sense for the process of selling your MGA.

At 10:15 PM 6/6/03 -0400, Timothy Shrewsbury wrote:
>"I must sell my '56 mga that I have owned for 40 years. What/where are the best places to advertise it for sale?"

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. Excuse me while I ruminate for a minute. ....

I may on occasion spend some time helping someone who wants to buy an MGA search out and find a decent example of what they want and can afford. I may go out of my way to evaluate the condition of a prospective vehicle. But I try real hard not to stand between the buyer and the seller when it comes to negotiating the price. If I was a broker I would have to bend both ends of the deal to make a profit in the middle, but I'm not in the business of making money on this hobby. Even without looking to make money at it, I still find myself at odds as to which person I might assist at the expense of the other. If I was to attempt to suggest a reasonable value for the car they might both get pissed at me for negotiating against them.

My primary objective is helping people who want to help themselves to maintain these cars and keep them on the road. Occasionally someone I have spent a lot of time with helping to fix it up will just turn around and sell it for a handsome price, effectively making some extra money from my gratuitous efforts. Then I feel like I have wasted my time on an ingrate whose only intention all along was to take advantage of the free help. That brings me around to thinking about why I should bother to help anyone sell an MGA. When they are already in the process of dumping the car, all my efforts are going to do would be to help them get a better price on the sale, which logically means it will be at the expense of the buyer. From a personal perspective, I think I would favor the chap who is interested in owning it rather then the bloke who just wants to dump it. So the problem is, I'm sitting here on the fence trying to figure out how to help the buyer through assisting the seller. Kind of a catch 22. But I might help anyway. All financial benefit aside, I don't mind helping to facilitate a convenient trade so someone who actually wants the car can have it.

>"The car is now semi-restored. If I e-mailed you photos and more details could you give me some idea of what might be a fair price for the car in today's market?"

Only in the very broadest terms and round numbers. While I do have a very good idea of what they are worth in the market, the actual final transaction price may well be plus or minus 50% depending on a lot of temporary conditions. If you're trying to hit the high end as a seller, or the low end as a buyer, count me out, because I don't intend to spend a lot of time acting as a broker. It's not my chosen occupation (but I could refer you to a licensed professional who does that for a fee). I try to limit my involvement to evaluation of the condition of the car, and then lay the bare facts out for both the buyer and the seller to understand at the same time. In that case the seller may not fare so well if he was trying to hide something, but I have a personal interest in helping the buyer not to get stuffed (I don't appreciate unscrupulous sellers).

How to sell it depends some on how greedy you are, but in general look for large exposure among MG enthusiasts, and either avoid or ignore everyone else. Local newspaper ads don't usually help much for a classic car, as you are likely to get a lot of tire kickers who think that any 40 year old car should sell for a tow-away fee. Hemmings Motor News will give about the widest exposure of any print publication among classic car enthusiasts. Other classic car magazines may bring a more targeted audience, such as Classic Motorsports magazine (previously British Car magazine) or North American Classic MG magazine. Some major parts vendors (such as Moss Motors) may also run (paid) ads in their publications or on their web site.

Early spring to late summer is the best time of year to be selling one. Mid winter is so depressing that you may not get an opening bid. Disassembled cars are at a distinct disadvantage, because it's hard to evaluate condition and you can't be sure all the parts are there, so the value would be depressed accordingly. See Economics of restoration and How much is a project car worth. Complete cars never disassembled but not running, good for a restoration project, will sell for a reasonable price, depending entirely on condition of course, but don't expect any outrageous value for a non-running car. Any car which is drivable and running well enough for a decent test drive and evaluation will sell for a much better price, especially if the buyer can drive it home. So it is to the seller's advantage to try to get the car running before advertising it for sale, and a buyer may also appreciate it (with more money to thank you).

If you just want to be rid of it, post it on eBay for a 10-day auction with a moderate opening price and no reserve, and it will be sold for whatever the market bears with not much fuss involved. Most of the drivable but unrestored MGA I have seen on eBay have been selling for more than the true worth, IMHO (but I'm the squeaky tight type), so it looks like a sellers market there. This may be because inexperienced buyers may not comprehend from information in the ad just how bad condition the car may be. Some people may not understand it even with their hands on the car. See Opening your first rust bucket. If I had one to sell, I might consider auctioning it on eBay, but I don't suppose I would ever be able to buy one there at a reasonable price. But then "reasonable" is a relative term, and the truth of that lies exactly on the final selling price.

Now a word for the buyer, which can also be a caution for the seller. Beware that there are many horror stories about people buying cars sight unseen through eBay and ending up with something very different than what they were expecting. Perhaps the majority of buyers might ultimately be satisfied with their purchases, but the opposite situation is common enough to raise a very high alert status for the prospective buyer. I would never buy a car sight unseen under any circumstances (including eBay). If I could not see the car personally I would have to find a trusted knowledgeable and competent agent to inspect it for me. Otherwise I just wouldn't bid on it. In the transaction for buying/selling a car there is no need to even think about anyone trusting anyone else. If the seller says "trust me", the prospective buyer should run like hell. The only reasonable way to buy a car is to inspect it first to decide if it's what you had in mind, then make your offer accordingly.

I will always advise a seller to be totally open and honest and as straightforward as possible when advertising a car for sale. If possible, post detailed and close up pictures of all critical areas of the car, and set a reasonable price (range) commensurate with the condition and value of the car. Then if/when a prospective buyer takes an interest and calls or drops by to see the car, there will be no surprises. The fact that he is there is proof that he is interested in a car of exactly that nature. As long as it is exactly in the condition expected when he sees it, he will likely buy it on the spot, as he has already made up his mind before arrival. If there are any surprises, and the car is not in the same condition as described, there will be one or two "terminal" reactions. The prospective buyer may be turned off by the perceived deception of the seller and simple refuse to do business. Or the prospective buyer is likely to decide that the car is not in as good of condition as expected (regardless of price), and he is looking to start with something in better condition, and go on his way elsewhere looking for that car which was described in the ad.

If you had in mind to try to sell it for more than it's worth, I wouldn't say it's impossible (a sucker born every minute), but it's a lot of messing around, and you might be sitting on it for a long time before it goes away. If you try to buy commercial ads pointed at the general public, you might spend more on the ads than you would ever get back with increased selling price. In that respect the internet is a nifty tool these days. You can look for web sites of British car and MG clubs, contact the clubs, and ask them if they would post an ad for you. Many of them will do it for free (or cheap) as a service to their membership (generally for complete cars only). I have accrued a list of every known MG and all British car club in North America.
If you decide to go that route, spend some quality keyboard time to contact as many clubs as possible, starting with the clubs closest to home. If you can get some pictures posted somewhere on the internet with a working URL, that's a big help. Then you can refer any inquires to that URL for the pictures.

Our local MG club will often post a free 30-day ad for a complete car (within driving distance of Chicago) for a non-member, including a link to a separate dedicated web page for pictures and extended notes. For a meager $25 membership fee, as a member your ad can run for 90 days on the club web site and in the print copy of the club newsletter, and it's renewable. Our monthly newsletter has a circulation among over 300 MG enthusiasts. As of 2013, our club web site gets about 5000 visitors each week from about 3000 unique addresses, and more than 1/3 of those visitors regularly check the classified ads. Check here:
Now if our Club gets upset from too many free ad requests I may have to retract this last paragraph. But it's the concept that counts, and other clubs might offer the same service.

If anyone else has more productive suggestions for selling an MGA, I would be happy to add them to this page. Hope this helps,

Barney Gaylord
1958 MGA with an attitude

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