The intention of writing this article is to help you prevent some of the pitfalls of what happens when a survivor of your family is faced with selling your prized hot rod, classic, or muscle car. First of all, the last, worst, and most dreadful thing you can do with the all the stuff you leave behind after your death is NOTHING.
Right now, I just want to get into how to set up the paperwork for that wonderful chariot you leave behind and prevent the nightmare your grieving survivor will have to go through because you did NOTHING. As far as the rest of your stuff, and what happens if you are alive and incapacitated, I‘ll get into next month. I will then describe what I’ve been going through with my sister who did no preparation (NOTHING) and how the nightmare could have simply and cheaply been prevented. For now, I just want to concentrate on that beloved chariot sitting in your garage.
One of the hardest things that your survivor will have to do is figure out what that chariot is worth. If it is insured, that means it has an insured value. That is not a basis of what the car is actually worth. Some of you may have even had your car appraised and even that isn’t a true value of what the car is worth. The actual value of your car ends up being what you have sold it for. So, how do you come up with an estimated value of the car? I like to use eBay. It is current and gives you an idea of what the asking price of a car similar to yours is. Go on eBay and look at the list of cars that is the same model and year as yours. Notice there is a column on the left of the listings. Scroll down that column and click on “Completed Sales“. A completed sale will show up in green. That’s the actual value of the that car. Another thing I frequently do, is go to other internet listings such as CarGurus, Auto Trader, Corvette Trader, ClassicCars.com and Hemmings. These listings don’t list completed sales. However, if these listings are very old, I’ll call the number on the ad and ask if the car still available. If it isn’t, then I’ll ask the seller what the car sold for. Most of these sellers are consignors. I’ve been fortunate to develop a relationship with consignors in Chicago, New York and another in LA who specializes in cars going overseas. They’ve been very helpful in giving me an understanding what the trend of the market is with a particular type/category of a chariot. Watching televised auctions is another source of information on pricing. (With the possible exception of Barrett-Jackson. I get the feeling those buyers are using up their 15-minutes of fame.) Everybody knows about Kelley Blue book but collectible cars aren’t necessarily listed.
OK, so now you have an idea of what the car is actually going to sell for. Is the car ready to sell? Is it clean? Will it start? Can it be driven? Is the title going to allow the car to be sold? Title snafus are where I’ve seen a lot of headaches and nightmares start. If the title is only in the deceased/incapacitates name, you now have a whole bunch of hoops to jump through with the DMV to be able to sell the car. This can be easily avoided simply by looking at your title (before you die or become incapacitated) to see if the title is in your name “OR” your spouse’s name. If it is, no problem. However, if it is in your name “AND” your spouse’s name that’s going to be a problem for the survivor. Now they need a certified copy of the death certificate, forms to be filled out, and if it goes overseas, even more forms to be filled out. (Selling for an incapacitated person is even worse). It all could’ve been easily avoided. If the title is in just your name, you can sign the title and not date it but I really don’t recommend that. If you do that, the survivor has to remember to add the date of sale in the same color of ink. There is a security concern, also.
I strongly suggest filling out the upper part of the form on the back of your chariot’s title “Application for Transfer by New Owner”. Both you and your spouse fill it out, date it, and both of you sign. Notice the easily missed check boxes one for “AND” and another box: “OR” Check “OR”. Go to AAA or the DMV pay $15 and a new title will be issued to you. For $15 dollars you just eliminated a future nightmare!
If a buyer is coming to look at the chariot take some simple precautions. If you feel comfortable having someone come to your house to examine the car that’s OK. But at least have one or two people there with you when they arrive. I don’t advise being by yourself and I don’t like having all your assets and location being scoped out by stranger. I do suggest arranging a meeting at your local police department. Arrive early and let the Desk Sergeant know what you’re doing. If the buyer requests a test drive, demand that you take a photograph of the driver, a photograph of their driver’s license, and a photograph of the car and license plate they arrived in. Text it to your friend who came with you.
The next thing in selling your chariot, is getting paid for it. There are many crazies who want to trade and scammers who will steal. Avoid any trade. Don’t even think of carrying paper on the transaction. The safest way I have found to accept payment is cash, through a wire bank transfer to your account, or through PayPal which is a third-party payment system. DO NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING ELSE!! Why? A cashier’s check, a bank check, money order, or a personal check, can have a stop payment made on them and when it comes back to your bank you will have to reimburse your bank. So now you’re faced with trying to recover your car (Which now the buyer and your chariot have disappeared into the universe.) AND you’re out what you had to pay back to the bank.
After you’ve received payment and before you give the buyer the title (pink slip), detach the red top portion on the title, fill out the buyer’s info, your info, and then sign on the bottom right. Take it to AAA or the DMV, and request a time stamped copy for your records. Doing this clears you of any misdoings or violations the buyer may have done before he reregistered you chariot. Just to be on the safe side, after the chariot has been sold, you‘ve received payment, and it has cleared your bank, wait one week to call the insurance carrier to cancel its coverage. Make a note on your calendar to remind you to do so as a refund should be coming back to you.
I hope you act on this information. If I can help you with it, please call me. – Dave Garber
Note: Thanks to Steve Ballard and my bank manager who I had check the article for correctness and details. It’s good.