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I like to keep my cars as long as possible. My first car I sold when it had 225,000 miles on it. I picked up a used car that was four years newer and only had 80,000 miles on it. When she started having troubles, I got rid of her for another newer used car with 100,000 miles on it.
Now she is beginning to fall apart, so I am in the process of buying a new car. In all the scenarios, the car I was getting rid of was still in halfway decent condition that allowed me to sell it privately.
Fast forward to my car now, which I’m not sure who would buy it. The transmission is going, part of the exhaust system needs repair, it leaks oil, it needs new tires, and it needs a new chain tensioner.
All in, the repairs would cost me close to $3,000. The value of the car, in mint condition is only $2,000. So what are the options when selling an old car and getting the most money?
3 Options For Selling Your Car For Top Dollar
#1. The Trade-In
If you are buying new or used from a dealership, you have the option to trade-in your old car. Usually this option gives you the least amount of money.
If you are considering this route, don’t offer up the trade-in until after you have come to an agreement on the price of the new car. After that is set, then bring up the trade-in. Before you bring it in for an appraisal, be sure to wash and vacuum it out as well as clean out all of your stuff.
Make it look great, even if it is falling apart.
Also, know what the car is worth ahead of time. This will help stop you from accepting a low-ball offer from the dealership. Whatever price they come back with, ask for more. They will try to get your car for the lowest amount so they can either resell it for a profit or junk it for the least amount possible.
Remember when negotiating, the worst they can say is no.
I’m lumping Craigslist in with selling it privately. This option allows you the most money for your car. It also is the most work as well.
You need to take pictures of your car, list it, respond to emails and phone calls, as well as make time for the prospective buyer to come see and test drive the car. Plus, you will have to take your car to their mechanic for him to check it out as well, assuming the buyer is smart and requires this.
The same applies to a private party sale as the trade-in when it comes to cleaning your car. Again, make it look flawless. Think of it this way.
You see a dirty old car that needs some repairs for $800 sitting next to a clean, shiny car that is exactly the same and needs the exact same repairs for $800. Which one would you buy? The clean, shiny one!
I live in an area where there is an auto auction that is open to the public. To sell your car, you need to pay an entrance fee of $30 and then bring your title and the car on the day of the auction.
You set the minimum price and let the auctioneer do the rest. If your car sells, the buyer gets 24 hours to have their mechanic look it over. If everything checks out, the auction takes a fee and you get your money. If it doesn’t sell, you have to pay a “no sale” fee and can try again at the next auction.
There isn’t much work involved in this option, but the auction does take a cut for selling your car. At the auction near me, it comes to about 20%, which is pretty steep. Of course, you would have to run the numbers to see if it would be worthwhile for you.
What Did I Do?
Originally I was going to use the auction to sell my car. I didn’t want to (or have the time to) list my car online and then show it to prospective buyers. I also didn’t think the dealership would offer me anything for the car.
But then when I did the math, I decided to take it to the dealership, just to see what they would offer. I also took along a cheat sheet of selling prices less the commission the auction charged if I sold it there.
It was nice to be able to see that an offer $500 from the dealership meant that would need to sell my car for $600 at the auction, just to end up with the same amount of money in my pocket.
Likewise, a $1,00 offer from the dealer meant I had to sell my car for $1,250 at the auction.
Surprisingly, the dealer made me a decent offer, I countered and we agreed. I decided to go this route just because of the uncertainty of the car selling at the auction with all of the issues and the time commitment involved.
At the end of the day, in order to sell your car for top dollar, your best bet is to sell it yourself. You will never get as much from a dealer as you could from selling it on your own. But you have to take into account any issues with the car and the time involved with selling it yourself.
If you do decide to sell it on your own, be sure you know the fair market value of the car. And it is critical you clean the car so it looks brand new. You might even consider paying $100 to get it professionally cleaned and detailed.
Trust me when I say that it is worth it.
Finally, be ready to negotiate. You might not get what you were asking, but don’t sell it for the first offer. Always counter.