5 Helpful Hints to Selling Your Compact Car

This 1971 Honda is highly collectible, but you wouldn't know it by just looking at it. In the '70s these cars were everywhere, but today only a small inventory of them survived the wrecking ball.

This 1971 Honda is highly collectible, but you wouldn't know it by just looking at it. In the '70s these cars were everywhere, but today only a small inventory of them survived the wrecking ball.

     Selling a compact car is easy thanks to sites like CarGuru.com and AutoTrader.com. You barely have to lift a finger to make a sale. A few taps of the keyboard and you’re done.

     But are you getting the most money for your precious little car that your daughter left in your driveway when she ran away and eloped with his fiancé? It might look like a piece of junk, but in the eyes of the right buyer, it could be worth its weight in gold.

     Unfortunately, people shortchange themselves. They sell too quickly, or they assume it's just another small car that's not worth much. The truth is the body may look like crap, but the engine could be worth a bundle on its own.

     Take for instance the Acura Integra from 1994-2001. Most of the third generation Integra Sport Coupes are worth money, but the king of the compacts has to be the '97 Integra Type-R introduced with 195-hp 4-cylinder engine. It ran circles around Honda and even a few Porsches of the time. The third gen VTEC 4-cylinder offered enthusiasts 170 hp @ 7600 rpm, and 128 lbs-ft @ 6200 rpm (GS-R). These special Integras looked meek in pure White, but they were wild beasts in the canyons. Here's a link to an Integra that is selling for $44,000 that appeared in the online publication Jalopnik

     There are plenty of others that match that Integra price tag too. Don't be shocked if you have a gem parked out front.

Integra Type R rear badge.jpg

1.     Never be rushed to list your car online or elsewhere. Don’t listen to neighbors, family or friends that suggest you sell quickly. Do not sell quickly. The more methodical your approach to selling a car, the better your chances of maximizing bigger profits. Slow down and do the research on your car’s real value, condition and don’t be intimidated by anyone that wants it for pennies on the dollar.

2.     In the 1970s Honda, Subaru and Toyota compact cars were a dime a dozen. Today, some of these early model compact-sized cars (including Nissan and Volkswagen) are worth bucks to an enthusiast if you happen to own the right make and model of course. Be sure to research the history of your small car before selling it. Find out as much as possible and look online for “forums” that share a common interest in collecting specific compact cars. Forums will help you put a dollar amount on the car. Even if the body looks crumpled and dented, enthusiasts often only want the engine and drivetrain and some will pay dearly for it, no matter how many miles are on it. Old Subaru engines are often swapped into VW Vanagons for instance. 

3.     Find out what KBB.com suggests your car is worth, based on condition, miles, etc. KBB won't say if it is a car collectors' model, but it will give you a base price to start the process. The only way you can really determine whether that old rusted RX-7 that is sitting in your driveway is worth anything is to go online and read the forums and club news reports. For every decent performance car there is a group of people who chase them down and buy them. If it happens to be deemed “collectible or a limited edition” plan to increase the sale price considerably over what KBB suggests. Rare or limited edition compact cars are in demand as nostalgia and gas prices move upward. These early four-cylinder and six-cylinder compact cars especially are more difficult to appraise than the V8 Detroit classics, but don't be discouraged. A good car appraiser should be able to tell you a value if you want to go down that route. Cost for an appraisal is usually about $200-$300.

4.      Those old parts, manuals, etc should not be tossed away. Extra parts and paperwork are highly cherished by the enthusiast market, and you could boost your profits if you have everything to offer the new buyer.

5.     Never re-paint an early model compact car because it looks bad. If it’s a limited-edition model compact car, buyers often want it with the original paint even if it needs restoration. The same goes for the engine. Leave it alone! The original (OEM matching number) engine can maximize the car’s worth by hundreds or thousands of dollars to the right buyer.