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Ask an Expert – How Do I Sell My Used Car?

Ask an Expert – How Do I Sell My Used Car?

So you have a used car you no longer need sitting in your garage or driveway.  You don’t plan to trade it in.  You just need to sell it because you are going down to one car or for some other reason you just have one car too many.  How do you sell it with the least amount of hassle while still getting top dollar?  It is actually quite simple, and you can do it in just a day or two.

The first thing you want to do is take it to your nearest CarMax.  The folks at CarMax will give you a base value for your vehicle, which is good for seven days. This helps you in several ways. If you like the price CarMax offers — they are normally very fair offers, by the way — you can simply sell it to them and be done.  Talk about no hassle.  If you think you can get more money for your vehicle, there are a couple different directions you can go.

With your CarMax offer letter in hand, you can take your vehicle to local dealers.  It is best to stick to dealers that sell the new version of your car, truck, or SUV.  For example, if you have a Honda Accord, your local Honda dealer will probably give you more money for it, and if you have a Ford F-150, your Ford dealer would love to talk you about buying it.

It’s advisable to call to set up an appointment first.  Ask to speak to the used car manager, as he/she is the one who will put a value on your vehicle.  This will save you time as you won’t have to wait as long for the used car manager to do an appraisal, check the necessary reconditioning, and come up with a formal offer to purchase.  Also, weekdays are much better than weekends.  Weekends are when a dealership does most of its business.

If the dealership can beat your offer from CarMax, and you are comfortable with the offer, the dealership finance manager and used car manager will help you wrap things up and write you a check.  Again, no hassle.  What if, however, you think you can get a little more for your car?  You can always sell it on your own.

There are a few ways to go about this.  You can put a sign in the window with your asking price and hope someone comes by, sees your car, wants your car, and agrees to the asking price.  The problem is finding a high traffic area that will allow people to stop and look at your car.  

The better option is to post your vehicle online.  One way to do this is Craigslist.  Craigslist is a website that allows private sellers to post their vehicles (and furniture, tools, appliances, etc.) online for free. That’s right.  You pay nothing to advertise your vehicle, and it is simple to do.  People who see your ad will then contact you to meet, look at your car, and make you an offer.  It is important to avoid scam artists, however.  Make sure you meet in a public place, bring someone with you, and be sure the buyer has a legitimate form of payment.  Cashier’s checks, cash, or money orders are recommended.

If you want a more automotive centered advertising forum, you can post your vehicle to Autotrader.  Here, you will have two options.  First, you can get an instant offer from a Kelly Blue Book Buying Service right in your area.  Make sure the value is the same or greater than your offer from CarMax, and if it is and you like the figure, go ahead and sell it.  No hassle.

If you prefer to try to sell it yourself, you can post your car to the Autotrader website where it will be advertised specifically to people searching for your make and model.  This can cost you anywhere from $25 for the basic ad that lasts a short period to $100 for a featured ad lasting until your car sells.  Again, be cautious about when and where you meet to show your car and what form of payment you accept.

Selling your car does not have to be a chore.  There are many good options, and it depends on how much time and effort you want to put into getting the most money from your used vehicle. The fast, simple solution is to sell it to a franchise dealer or to CarMax.  You might get a little less for your vehicle, but you avoid the problems of strangers test driving your car, haggling over the price, and possibly not finding a buyer.  If you are confident in your ability to sell your car on your own, the Internet is a wonderful tool that can pair you with a buyer, and you might be able to get a little more money from the deal.  Just remember to exercise caution because there are people who will take advantage of online sellers.  

Either way, if you do your research and a bit of leg work ahead of time, you can get the most money for your used car, truck, or SUV without it being a big hassle.

About the author – Rob Poliquin III has been in the car business for over fifteen years and has been a used car pricer for several local Charlotte and national dealerships.