People Selling Their Own Vehicles

I’ve become fascinated with the way that people signal they are selling their vehicles. Virtually everytime I drive somewhere, I see a car that is for sale by owner.

Here are a few styles I’ve seen:

$555-5555 This ambiguous note seems to say “for sale” by using a dollar sign ($) butted up against a phone number. The “for sale” and telephone number are not clear, so maybe that’s just the price range.
4-sale 555-555-5555 I like this one. If I saw this car while on a road trip, I’d know it was available and how to contact the seller.
sale 555-555-5555 Not bad, but are they selling their phone number? The note could be more clearly written.

180k $800 5555555

Without more context, I have to interpret this myself. I assume it means the seller wants $800 for their 180,000 mile car and they can be reached at 5555555 (or was that 555555 or 55555555?).

$1000 OBO

Here, “OBO” means “or best offer” showing that the seller is negotiable on price. I tend to think most prices are negotiable, particularly when dealing with individuals, however, the “OBO” conveys a great willingness to work with the seller (probably a good thing). Should I just flag down the owner and negotiate while driving?

The personal car advertisement brings up questions of usability and efficiency in generating sales. What’s most effective? What information is necessary? I don’t know, but here are a few thoughts:

  • The only constant among the advertisements seems to be a phone number. I think this makes sense, since the buyer needs a way to contact the seller and make the transaction.
  • In general, I think it’s short sighted to put only a 7 digit phone number. Cars, and the people contained within, are mobile. It’s not unreasonable to think that you may leave your area code or have others enter yours.
  • Putting too much information feels counter-productive.
  • Numbers like price or number of miles are very hard to differentiate from phone number
  • It is very difficult to assess the vehicle and write down the phone number while driving, so stationary vehicles are probably more effective.

I would recommend a clearly written advertisement on the back windshield that states the intention to sell (“for sale”) and a contact phone number (10 digits, appropriately¬†separated with dashes). In conjunction, list your car on craigslists, ebay motors, zip zoom auto, and tell your friends verbally and over facebook. And one high-tech idea: put a QR code on a sheet of paper in the window. Boom!