Ask the Expert: Who can sell my classic Mercedes?

Mercedes-Benz SL320
Our expert advises on the best course of action to help a Mercedes SL320 to a new home - Alamy

Dear Alex,

I plan to sell my Mercedes SL320, which I purchased brand-new on March 11 1997. It has now done 151,000 miles, and has a full service history from a Mercedes-approved garage. What’s the best way to proceed? I seem to remember you mentioning a company that can collect and sell a classic car on your behalf. Being the ripe old age of 90, this is an option I’d like to explore; what I can do myself is somewhat limited.

– JD

Dear JD,

The company I previously referred to (and used myself) was an online auction house called The Market, which has since been taken over by Bonhams, and is now known as Bonhams Cars Online.

They still offer the service to which you refer, though it doesn’t include collection; for a premium, if you list your car with them, they will store it, photograph it, write a listing, manage viewings, and take care of the handover when the buyer collects the car. They refer to this as their concierge service.

Downsides are that you have to get the car there; you can do this either by using a transportation company, or by driving it yourself. This is at a cost to you, on top of the not inconsiderable £840 fee for the concierge service.

At the time, The Market was the only company to offer this service, but since then, several other auction houses have launched their own versions; Collecting Cars, for example, has partnered with a company called Lusso to offer its own version of the concierge service at £495, not including delivery, while PistonHeads Auctions lists something similar at around £600.

My advice would be to take a look at all of these companies’ websites and to speak to them on the phone to work out which you’d most be comfortable selling with. Don’t forget to ask how many people visit their site each month – that will help you to judge how many potential buyers your advert will reach.

If the idea of an online auction feels a bit too new-fangled for you, there’s always the more traditional alternative of selling the car at a dealer that offers a sale-or-return option. As the name suggests, sale-or-return means that the dealer doesn’t own the car, but advertises it for sale as though it were part of their stock. If the car doesn’t sell, you get it back without paying anything; if it does, the dealer takes a cut of the sale price in the form of a commission fee.

The advantage of doing it this way is that the dealer handles everything on your behalf, including advertising, viewing, handover, and importantly, any post-sale issues too. The buyer, meanwhile, gets all the consumer protections that come from a trade sale (rather than a private sale, which is how an auction sale is treated even if you employ a form of concierge service), and that can mean the car fetches more money, which can help to mitigate some of the commission fee.

If that sounds like something that appeals, I suggest you get in touch with a few of the classic car dealers in your area to see whether it’s something they would offer. You can also try your local Mercedes specialists, too – even if they don’t sell cars themselves, the chances are they’ll know someone who might take your lovely old SL on, and help it on its way to a new home.

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