Used Cars and SUVs Can Be Attractive To Foreign Buyers

Selling Used Cars Overseas Not as Difficult as You Might Think

handing over keys
Niko Guido / Getty Images

Used cars and SUVs owners attempting to sell your vehicles - there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not an oncoming train. There is a market for your used cars and SUVs if you're willing to sell them to overseas buyers. It's not as difficult as it sounds.

The market for SUVs, for example, is still strong in places like Russia, Central America and South America. Now for the bad news: it is a receptive market, but you're not going to be able to sell the SUV for any more than you could here in the U.S.

Jorge Rodriguez, GM of Warren Henry Range Rover in North Dade, Fla., says, "For a private individual it's very simple to sell your vehicle. It's not that difficult. A lot of people don't do a lot of it because it's an unknown." He said Russia, the Ukraine, Germany and Nigeria are big markets.

Used cars in the United States are popular, Jorge explained, because they tend to be in better shape than their counterparts in other parts of the world. After all, most people are good about maintenance and our roads are generally in better shape.

Mary Thompson, who co-hosts with her husband Chuck a weekly radio show in Georgia, sold her used Hummer to a dealer in Germany. She reports the transaction was relatively easy and offers some good advice. I'm going to share her experience, as well as advice Jorge gave me in an interview.

Finding Overseas Buyers

The German dealer found the Thompsons on eBay, where he would go to purchase several other Hummers. Don't be concerned about the language barrier. Most Europeans and people from other parts of the world are going to write English well enough to conduct a business transaction. If not, I'd recommend for help in basic translation.

Negotiating Payment

"This was the wild part, at first, he contacted us and asked us for our Buy it Now price and that he was very interested in our Hummer," said Mary. "We were very skeptical due to all the news about selling anything overseas, etc. We at first said we were not interested and did not want to deal with the hassle of coordinating the shipping of the vehicle etc.

"He said no problem, he will arrange everything, he will wire the money to our account and only after we confirm payment, will he then send his people to pick it up and ship it to Germany. He would wire the entire amount up front."

What To Expect for Payment

Mary said she and her husband received close to their asking price. "Very close to it," she said, "about $500 off of our price, but we were very happy with the price. We really did not think we could sell it for that, but since the dollar is high in Germany and he has high demand for Hummers in that country, plus we had some nice after market upgrades that we put on the Hummer and it was very clean, it was just what he was looking for as he could still make a nice profit."

Improving Your Chances

Jorge said every used car his dealership puts online has 45 pictures to accompany it. Plus, the dealership offers the CarFax report and makes the car available for independent inspection. "We try to make it a worry free experience," he said.

Handling Delivery and Payment

"He wired us the money, we used an account that had very little money in it, just in case, and as soon as the money was in the account, we closed that account and moved the money to another account," said Mary. "As it turned out, we did not really need to do this, it all worked out fine. As a matter of fact, the money had cleared for over 1 week before he even called to have his driver pick up the vehicle. The driver picked up the car and drove it to the Savannah area where the car would go on a freighter and off to Europe. He paid for everything."

Jorge adds an important nugget: get the money before you release the car. He said, "Once that ship has cleared the dock, your money is gone," adding that 90% of his sales are via wire transfers. In more than 20 years of selling, he's never had a problem with a wire transfer. He will accept cashier's checks, but they have to be from a domestic bank. Even then, he prefers wire transfers. "It's not risky," he says. "Money can go in, but it can't come out. We've given our account info to hundreds of customers."

He also advises making sure your used car's title is clean and out of your name before the vehicle is shipped overseas. The seller is also going to want a copy of the dock receipt and the bill of laden once the ship is on its way. "When you sell a used car for export, you don't collect sales tax," Jorge explained.

The bill of laden also offers protection if the car somehow returns to the United States. You'll be able to document that it did at one leave the country on a boat.

As Mary said, it's best when the buyer handles all of the shipping arrangements. Take a tip from car manufacturers - shipping is not part of your selling price. Typically, most eBay transactions involve the seller handling shipping, but in this case let the buyer handle it all. Refer them to businesses called freight forwarders. You can find them in the Yellow Pages (if you still use them) or go to the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association website to find a forwarder in your area. As Jorge reinforces, "There is no cost to the seller. It's all to the buyer."

There's also another reason not to handle shipping: liability. Your liability as a seller ends once the title is signed over, unless you handle shipping. Then you have responsibility until the buyer picks up the used car. "We shy away from making arrangements for shipping because of the liability," Jorge said.

Why eBay Is a Good Choice

"We love eBay and have had great success selling other big ticket items," said Mary. "So, no, we were not looking for foreign buyers and we did not target them, it just turned out that way and we are still amazed at how well it went."

Tax or Customs Ramifications for Sellers

Mary said she and her husband didn't have to worry about tax or customs ramifications because the buyer took care of all of these issues. "They pay their taxes and deal with customs, etc. The deal was done and paid for and it was up to him to deal with these issues. Sellers do not have any issues to worry about," she said.


Mary said her buyer was actually cautious. "He did want us to take photos of the VIN [vehicle identification number] on the chassis of the vehicle so that he was covered, not near the windshield where the number is etched as apparently this can be reproduced. This way he is not getting a stolen vehicle. He has had good luck buying them this way as he purchased several in the states off of eBay," she said.

Mary said she would do nothing differently about the process. "When [the dealer] wanted to buy our Hummer, I looked at his profile on eBay and the comments or feedback on his past transactions, which included dealers here in the USA and individuals and called a few of them and they had no problems with him, so that is what made me feel comfortable about the deal. Of course he paid for all the shipping, which had to cost a fortune, but he was still making money on these Hummers," she said.