One of the most common phrases you’ll see when browsing the listings for used cars for sale is that it’s being sold “as-is”. If you’re going to be selling your own used car, you’ll have to decide how it’ll be sold. So what does selling a car as-is mean?
“As-is” is a term that the seller of a car will use to indicate they are not willing to do any work to make it pass a safety inspection or emissions test. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the car, just that the responsibility of making it roadworthy is on the new owner.
By selling a car as-is, the owner is basically saying “I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it so if you find a problem, it’s up to you to fix it”. It might sound harsh, but they have every right to take that stance. Some people just want to sell their car quickly without dealing with the hassle of taking it to a mechanic for an inspection. If you feel the same way about the car you’re selling, that’s totally fine.
There is a clear trade-off though: you likely won’t be able to sell your car for as much money as you would if it were safetied (and depending on your province/state, emissions tested). The funny thing is that no one wants to deal with those things.
Everyone wants to sell their car as is, and buy their next one fully inspected and ready to go. Unfortunately, sticking firm to that plan might mean missing out on some great deals whether you’re buying or selling a car.
Selling a car as-is creates an understanding between yourself and the buyer that you won’t be held responsible for any repairs the car might need in order to be registered, insured, and driven. As you can imagine, it’s important to get this in writing to prove that both sides are aware of this.
Why are cars sold as-is?
There are 3 main reasons why you might want to sell your car as-is:
- Eliminate any chance of liability if problems are found in the car
- Skip the hassle of having the car inspected/tested
- Avoid the cost of potential repairs in order to pass
It’s worth mentioning that selling a used car privately is typically a “buyer beware” situation whether it’s sold as-is or certified. It’s up to the buyer to inspect the car carefully and find any potential issues.
If problems arise, it’s not the seller’s job to fix them or refund any money (unless they’ve been caught lying about something). This is the risk you take when buying a used car. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you’ll need to shell out the money for a brand new one.
One example where the seller could end up in some hot water though is if the car is sold with a safety certificate when it shouldn’t have passed. The mechanic that did the inspection is obviously at fault here, but the seller of the car will likely have to deal with straightening it out.
Selling the car as-is means there’s no safety certificate to question in the first place. There’s never a question of whether or not the vehicle should have passed. That whole potential headache can be avoided.
Some sellers just don’t want to deal with the hassle of taking their car to be inspected or tested. Selling a car as-is is as simple as it gets. All of the effort to get the car inspected, repaired, and certified is all up to the next owner. If you’re trying to keep the sales process as easy as possible, selling as-is could be your best option.
Sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money. That can certainly be the case when it comes to selling your car. There may be times when a vehicle needs absolutely nothing to pass a safety inspection, but often there’s at least something that needs to be repaired or adjusted.
Selling your car as-is will save you from having to spend the money on parts and labor for any repairs that might be needed.
The downsides to selling a car as-is
You might think that selling your car as-is is a no brainer. It’s less work, less liability, and costs less money – why on earth would you go to the bother of a safety inspection? Well, there is a really big trade-off here:
You won’t be able to sell the car for as much money
It’s quite simple. People aren’t willing to pay as much for a car that might be in questionable condition and you can’t really blame them. Buying a car with a fresh safety inspection provides a level of reassurance that many people are willing to pay extra for. It removes the element of the unknown and helps them to sleep better at night.
By selling your car as-is, you likely won’t be rewarded with that extra money.
Your car might not sell as quickly
Many people will lose interest in your car as soon as they see “as-is” mentioned in the listing. Even though they’re wrongly mistaking that for meaning it isn’t a good car, it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t as likely to take any further action.
The phrase “as-is” often acts as an asterisk that makes your car less desirable to potential buyers. If you were to put 2 identical cars for sale side by side with one being sold as-is and the other certified, it’s obvious which one would sell first. Even if the certified car costs more, it’s going to seem like the better purchase to most buyers.
People are very safe with their money nowadays and most don’t feel very safe with taking risks. That’s exactly what buying an as-is car seems like for many – taking a risk. When it comes to potential repairs, the unknown is enough to scare people away.
So should you sell your car as-is or safetied?
The choice is yours. Hopefully, by now you understand the pros and cons of selling a car as-is. If you choose to go this route, make sure you’re putting lots of effort into advertising your car correctly (you can start by reading this article).
It’s important to know the reason why most people want to avoid buying a car as-is. It comes down to not knowing if it needs a bunch of expensive repairs to be roadworthy. So with that in mind, make sure to do whatever you can to put potential buyers’ minds at ease.
Get a pre-safety inspection by a mechanic that explains everything that will need to be fixed in order to pass (you don’t have to do the actual repairs). Gather as many documents proving the repairs and maintenance you’ve already had done to rule them out as future problems. Make sure the car looks, smells, and drives great.
If you take every opportunity to make the buyer feel comfortable with your car even though it’s being sold as-is, you might just get the sale you were looking for and both sides win!
This post is part of our series about selling your used car.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: