One of the most important steps to selling your car on consignment is finding the right place to do it.
Not only does that mean finding a business that understands your car’s value and uniqueness, it means finding people who treat their customers with dignity and respect. Having a proven track record of success doesn’t hurt, either.
Everything about a car consignment company – from the feel of their website to the way they talk to customers – has a massive effect on their success. This article will show you ways to make an educated decision in choosing the right car consignment company for your needs. We’ll also cover what you can do to can help everything go as smoothly as possible.
An ideal car consigner should be:
Those qualities mean you will:
One way a company can demonstrate these qualities is when they specialize in the kind of car you’re selling. If they can talk about your car with confidence, chances are they can sell it with confidence. Of course, consignment isn’t just for exotic supercars – whether you’re selling a Pagani Huayra or a Honda Passport, the company you choose needs to know how to speak to your car’s buyers.
In a moment we’ll get into other specific examples and ways to spot these 3 traits of the best car consignment companies, but first let’s talk about why this notion of choosing the right company is so important.
The importance of choosing the right car consignment company hinges on one critical difference between consigning your car and selling it through a dealership, at auction, or to a private party.
When selling a car on consignment, you will never have direct contact with the buyer. An exceptionally lenient consigner might open you up to a three-way call or messaging chain with a potential buyer, but in most cases their staff members will be the only source of information for potential buyers to work with.
The problem is compounded by the fact that most consigners require exclusivity in advertising your car, meaning you are not allowed to post your own sale ads during the consignment period. This rule gives the consigner full control over the quality and content of each listing, but the main goal is to prevent buyers from contacting you directly and boxing the company out of the sale.
In short, working with a consignment company involves committing to them 100%. Let’s factor that into the three traits we discussed earlier.
It’s critical that the company you choose be a trustworthy business operation. You need to know that the facts and stories of your car will reach the buyer accurately. If communications turn into a game of telephone, a buyer could be misled about the quality of your car and the sale could fall through.
In a similar vein, the company needs to be efficient and organized in a way that prioritizes you. Consigners only make money by selling cars, so if they’re not focused on that, what are they doing? If your car falls through the cracks or communications from interested buyers are lost or misplaced, it could result in a longer waiting period or worse, a missed opportunity to sell your car.
Finally, the consigner needs to be knowledgeable about your car and its market. It wouldn’t be effective to advertise a $10,000 Honda the same way as a $2,000,000 Bugatti or vice versa. The listings for those cars wouldn’t read the same way or even be found on the same website. Those buyers may have very different standards for verbal and written communications. Of course, none of that matters if the company doesn’t know what engine is under the hood.
Thankfully, there are ways you can spot these traits from a mile away.
We just discussed three important traits shared by the beset car consigners. As a seller, you have three ways to spot them:
The best car consignment companies will understand the car you’re selling, the people who want to buy it, and the importance of respecting both parties in the deal. You might even see a little of yourself in them.
It’s important to work with someone who shares your appreciation for your car and is willing to take the time to understand its nuances. Keep looking for a consigner until you find one where you connect with the staff. If that notion strikes you as odd, you’re probably used to dealing with the sort of high-volume businesses that treat customers like a number and rarely crack a smile. Car consignment doesn’t work that way, because consigners only make money by treating both buyers and sellers with respect.
The right car consignment company will reflect the car you’re selling. Bubba Smith down at Bubba’s 4x4 might be great at selling lifted trucks, but when a collector calls and asks about that Porsche he took on consignment, Bubba might be out of his depth. That Porsche would be much better off being sold on consignment by a specialty German shop or an exotic car trader. Somewhere like this.
Generally, the pickier a company is about their cars the better they are at selling them. Specializing in a certain style, era, or quality of cars is usually more effective than a catch-all approach. Specialty shops are better prepared to answer detailed questions from prospective buyers.
Consignment companies handle every aspect of selling your car. They write the listings, handle the money, and answer questions from prospective buyers. In short, it’s the consigner’s job to inspire enough confidence in someone that they will buy your car – often sight unseen. It also means weeding out tire kickers and expeditiously pursuing any serious offers.
When you first talk to a car consignment company, ask them about some of the cars they currently have listed for sale. This is a good way to gauge their attention to detail and get a taste of what it’s like to buy from them. Of course, good old-fashioned character traits like patience, honesty, and respect are great ways to build trust, too. If they only listen with one ear or take days to answer your messages, they probably won’t be any more trustworthy when it comes to selling your car.
By its very nature, the modern world keeps records of everything a business does. This allows you to research a company intensively before you commit to working with them.
Research these four aspects of a car consignment before working with them:
As a potential customer, you have every right to determine the facts before committing to a business. These steps apply to both local and online car consignment, and while a few might sound paranoid or extreme, we believe it’s best to be thorough before giving your car’s title and keys to a person you have never met.
Find out who they are. Listing sites like Edmunds, AutoTrader, and Cars.com display seller ratings and reviews, and consignment companies will often keep a log of previously sold cars on their website. If they have a physical storefront, call other local businesses and ask about their reputation.
Request proof of legal legitimacy. Ask the consignor to provide documentation confirming their insurance standing and legal ability to sell cars. Use your state’s self-service portal for business records, like California’s Bizfile and Florida’s Sunbiz, to further explore their background.
Confirm the payment process and fees. Will the buyer’s payment be held in escrow? How will the money reach your hands? What consignment fees will you owe? When will those fees be collected? When will you be required to send your keys and title? Ask enough questions to fully understand the process, leaving no stone unturned.
Ask for two references in the form of one previous buyer and one previous seller from the company’s history. This will give you independent reviews from people who have worked with the company before.
Learn more: When selling your car on consignment, trusting the company you’re working with is so critical that we dedicated an entire article to the topic of trust.
In addition to choosing the right car consignment company, there are ways you can help ensure that things go smoothly from the get-go.
First, be honest about your car. Nobody expects you to mention the coffee you spilled in the passenger’s seat a couple days ago – unless it caused damage – but while it might not be attractive to bring up skipped maintenance or an odd noise, it’s important to be truthful about your car’s past and current needs. Tell the consigner about your car’s maintenance history and current condition objectively.
Next, get a comprehensive inspection from a local mechanic as an investment in transparency. Not only will you learn the exact reason for that odd noise, but it will show the company and the buyer that you have nothing to hide. Send the full report to the consignment company and allow them to share it with potential buyers after redacting your personal information. This will enforce your car’s good qualities and provide solid explanations for the rest.
Finally, set a reasonable price for your car. The best car consignment companies give sellers free rein to choose an asking price and set an acceptable offer range. But remember, it might take forever to find that one-in-a-million buyer who’s willing to pay absolute top dollar for your car. A good consigner can offer pricing advice based on their past successes.
When the consigner knows what they’re selling and the buyer knows what they’re buying, you stand a high chance of getting top dollar in a short time.
Like so many things, selling a car on consignment involves trusting the people you’re working with. The best consigners demonstrate trust, knowledge, and efficiency at every encounter, upping the odds of selling your car quickly and for a high price.
Did you know there are easy ways to spot a trustworthy car listing from a mile away? Did you know consignment can actually save you money compared to other methods of selling a car? In addition to those resources, we’ve also created The Complete Guide to Selling a Car on Consignment. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below and we’ll be glad to help.
About Exotic Car Trader
Exotic Car Trader hosts a curated selection of vehicles on consignment and through our interactive marketplace. As a brick-and-mortar company with strong ties to South Florida car culture, we strive to set a high bar while offering some of the lowest consignment fees in the country for rare, collectible, and significant vehicles. If your car would look great among our current inventory, have a look at how our car consignment program can be tailored specifically to your needs.
Cover image credit: Dmitry Zvolskiy
Words by Justin Dake
We are not attorneys. This article does not contain legal advice.