A new "for-sale-by-owner" car lot opening Saturday on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie is offering Marylanders an alternative way to unload their beloved chrome jewels.
"We're running a parking place," said Tom Hartman, president of Wheels 'n Deals. Sellers choose the price of their car and handle the sales terms once they find a buyer. A "redbook" is available in the office to help them or potential buyers check the current, listed value of the vehicle.
For a monthly fee, sellers park their car on the one-acre, fenced-in lot, which can hold about 120 cars. Two-indoor parking spaces are available for high value and classic cars. Space fees can run from $105 for cars priced below $2,500 to $140 for those priced $6,000 and over.
Potential buyers view the cars on the lot but cannot take them out on test drives without the listed owner.
To drum up business, Mr. Hartman is running a grand-opening sale on the space fees. For July, any car can be left on the lot for 30 days for $75, he said. If it doesn't sell within 30 days, the next 30 are free. The deal ends July 31.
"It's a new idea for Maryland," said Mr. Hartman, who got the idea from similar businesses he saw in California during business trips.
"It's an idea that is apparently flourishing out there," he said. "They've been in existence for 10 years now, so if they weren't doing well, they wouldn't have stayed in business."
Similar operations have been tried in Florida and New York. Here in Maryland, Wheels 'n Deals will be open seven days a week.
Mr. Hartman, a former financial officer for a Washington, D.C., bus company, said he takes no percentage of the vehicle's selling price. His profits come from renting the parking spaces to sellers.
He is hoping that the 100,000 vehicles a day that drive up and down Ritchie and Crain highways will help speed sales. To help get started, he and his wife, Sue, have been combing the classifieds and inviting people advertising cars there to give Wheels 'n Deals a try.
For Mr. Hartman, 47, this is his first foray into the auto business. Although he holds an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, he has been unemployed, except for some odd jobs, for more than a year.