As I car dealer I always expected customers to trade their old car in when they bought from me, but since I left the retail auto industry and am now I’m on the other side, I’ve decided to find out what really are the best ways to sell your car that are now available.
The 10 best ways to sell your car I’m going to cover are not all necessarily about getting the best price. Some are easy and some take more effort, so it’s up to you to weigh up which sounds best for you.
- Trade-in to the dealer you’re buying your next vehicle from
- Sell to a dealer you’re not buying from
- Local advertising
1. Trade-in to the dealer you’re buying your next vehicle from
Obviously, trading your old vehicle to the dealer you’re buying your new ride from is going to be the easiest way to get rid of your old vehicle and get at least a reasonable price for it. I’d say this is probably the best way to go if you’re not looking to squeeze every last cent out of your old car and if you just want an easy time.
You have no worries about photographing your vehicle, appraising its condition, advertising it, uploading to a website or having to deal with any number of potential buyers, and you also know you’ll still have your car to use right up until you collect your new one.
2. Sell to a dealership you’re not buying from
This is one not many people think of and it’s something even fewer people do, but it’s a perfectly legitimate way to potentially sell your car for a little more than the dealer you’re buying your new car from might be willing to give you. I’m not saying just roll up to random dealerships and try your luck though. The best way to sell your car this way is to use a little thought before you make your move.
Don’t forget, all car dealers need used stock to sell in the first place, and they don’t just rely on the trade-ins that come to the lot. A lot of dealerships, especially those who specialize in used vehicle sales, go to auctions to buy stock. Buying a used car from a person who drives in and just wants to sell is a far safer bet for the dealer than any auction. With you, they’ll be able to look over the car at length, take it for a test drive and even get a technician to give it a quick once-over in the workshop before giving you a price.
The dealer will now have a full appraisal of what they’re being asked to buy, and you still have the opportunity to negotiate with them to get the best price you can. At this point you should already have a price that the dealer you’re buying your next car from is willing to pay, so you know any extra you can get here is a bonus.
If your car isn’t more than three to five years old and is in good condition, it would probably be best to try a dealer that has that franchise. I’m not saying a GM dealer won’t give you a great price for your Honda, but a Honda dealer might be more desperate to get it on their lot than a GM or Ford dealer would. How many dealers you try is up to you, but after you’ve tried a couple you should have a good idea if you’re going to get more than you’re going to get by trading in.
3. Local advertising
In the days before the internet (yes, I am old enough to remember that long ago), local advertising used to be the main way to sell a car if you weren’t going to trade it in. There are still lots of opportunities to sell with local advertising and it can be a good way of getting a really good price sometimes. Lots of shops and malls will have noticeboards where the public can put an advert up for just about anything, and some will even have a dedicated area for selling autos.
Local newspapers and free sheets are another way, but the chances are this will mean having to pay a fee of some sort and sometimes these resources charge far more than online advertising that can cost next to nothing. Even so, if you don’t want to be bothered by people from a long way away who could be more hassle than they’re worth, using a local paper could be a good way to go.
Oh my word, could I tell you a few stories about buying and selling on eBay? And I’m not just talking about autos. I used to use eBay to sell all sorts of things at one time; in fact, I rarely used to sell things any other way. After a number of run-ins with buyers, eBay and PayPal, I haven’t sold anything on “the world’s largest auction site” for about six years now, but I still wouldn’t rule it out as a place to sell your vehicle.
eBay has 7.4 million unique visitors every month looking for cars and a car or truck is sold every three minutes on average with the site. By listing your car for sale on eBay you know you’re going to get a lot of people looking at it; far more than if you list it in a local paper. On the face of things, it’s also pretty cheap to sell your car on eBay, but it’s not as cheap as it looks at first glance.
At the moment it doesn’t cost anything to list a car for sale on eBay, but you will be charged if it sells. If the sale price is below $2,000 the charge is currently $60, and that fee rises to $125 if the vehicle goes for more than $2,000. An eBay “successful listing fee” becomes applicable when you receive any bid on your auction-style listing, although if you’ve set a reserve price the bid must have met that reserve if a buyer selects Buy It Now in your fixed price listing, or if you decide to accept a Best Offer.
That all sounds pretty good, to begin with, doesn’t it? Well, here’s a screenshot of the additional fees you might find yourself paying if you want to sell your vehicle on eBay.
I don’t have any ties with eBay whatsoever, so I’m going to tell you the real truth here that they won’t want you to know. The best and cheapest way to use eBay Motors to sell your vehicle is to just use it for advertising and to do your negotiating with the buyer away from the site. List it as a fixed price “Buy it Now” listing, which will cost you $10, but set the price at the kind of level a dealer would charge on a lot. Say that you’re open to offers and list your phone number, and when you conclude a sale with a buyer just cancel the listing or let it run out of time.
I’m not going to cover it here in detail because it deserves an article all of its own, but you need to beware of scams when you’re selling a vehicle on eBay. There are a number of ways fraudsters can cost you dear on eBay and other similar places when selling a vehicle, so make sure you’re aware and keep a lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right.
Perhaps the main reason people don’t use local papers and advertising boards in shops and malls so much to advertise their cars these days is the presence of Craigslist. As well as delivering a large audience for you to advertise to in your local area and beyond, it doesn’t cost anything at all to list a car for sale on Craigslist. At least it didn’t until April 15, 2019, which is when the site introduced a $5 charge for advertising a vehicle for sale.
It’s not much to sell a vehicle if we’re being honest, but a lot of people don’t like the idea of something that’s been known as totally free for so long now beginning to charge a fee. Listing on Craigslist is easy and straightforward, but like eBay, you have to be aware of potential fraudsters looking to get one over on you.
In my opinion, Autotrader is one of the very best places to advertise your car for sale. For a start, it has twice as many potential buyers looking at the site for vehicles than eBay does, which is also more than any other auto classifieds website out there. Of the 14 million shoppers visiting the site each month, 80 percent of them are focused on buying a car so your ad is going in front of serious potential buyers.
With options open to advertisers like Run ’til It Sells, Spotlight Ads and up to 27 photos with a maximum size of 5MB, Autotrader offers a lot of value for a very reasonable amount of money. Uploading and listing on the site is relatively easy and straightforward, and you also get extra exposure through Autotrader’s extensive advertising and by also being listed on its six partner sites for no extra cost.
Fees start at $25 for the basic ad package that runs for one month to $100 for the Premier option of “Run ’til it Sells.” There’s even a VIP Service available to sellers that offers to do all the work for you. It even includes a privacy shield where phone calls are screened to stop solicitors by providing you with an anonymous phone number so you don’t have to give out personal details on the web.
Vroom is one of a growing number of companies who offer a complete used car buying and selling service online, but you don’t have to buy from them to sell your old vehicle to them. I’m pretty skeptical about online car-buying services for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, but from what I can find from trawling around the web looking for bad reviews of this company, it actually seems to be pretty good. In fact, one of the only complaints I could find was from someone who bought a used car from them but didn’t get a second key, which isn’t uncommon when buying used.
The trouble with some online car-buying services is they rely on you to describe your vehicle’s condition to them accurately. I mean no disrespect here, but accurate vehicle appraisal isn’t something you can anyone can do. Even though I’ve been involved with the auto industry for almost two decades now, I’m the first to admit my vehicle appraisal skills are not exactly world-class.
With a lot of online car-buying services, you may get offered a price initially, but when someone comes to collect or if you take it to a drop-off center, you might find the price gets knocked down for all sorts of things you might not have noticed or told them about, to begin with. This doesn’t appear to be a problem with Vroom.
I’ve scoured their terms and conditions so you don’t have to in this respect, and there doesn’t appear to be any sort of comeback. You use the appraisal tool and send in the details, they issue you with a price, and if you accept within 10 days they’ll arrange to collect your car and pay you within 48-hours of collection. However, I can guarantee you that the price they’ll offer you will be pretty low, but in terms of hassle-free selling, this service seems pretty sound. They do say you can send them a better bid you’ve had to see if they can match it, but they don’t make any promises in that direction.
CarMax is another company that will buy your car from you, but it’s not as convenient as Vroom because you have to take your vehicle to one of their centers to get it appraised by one of their professionals. Reviews of their car-buying service are pretty good, with prices paid usually falling right in the middle between the Kelley Blue Book trade-in and private sale prices. The company’s main focus is selling though, and that’s a subject for another day.
If you live near one of their centers and you’re thinking of buying from them as well they might be worth a look, but in my opinion, the service offered by Vroom for those just wanting to sell is probably a better option.
Peddle is another online resource for selling your car, but this probably isn’t for you if you’re looking to move on your two-year-old Lamborghini because the company used to be called junkmycar.com. If your old vehicle is towards the lower end of the value spectrum, this is a company that will be happy to buy it when those that deal in more expensive vehicles might not be too interested.
There aren’t too many complaints online about this one either, but who’s going to complain that they only offered $250 for a car the seller insists is with $300? What you need to keep in mind is that although they’ll give you a price very quickly after receiving your appraisal of your car, when they come to collect it you might find they will try and knock the price down if their idea of the vehicle’s condition doesn’t match what you told them.
Where there were some issues with the company and its performance it always seems to be about the collection process. Let’s just say you might want to keep your expectations low when it comes to the collector keeping to the appointment time.
If you have something that’s not worth a great deal and you just want rid of it, Peddle is probably worth a look. Even if you don’t accept their offer, at least it will give you a good idea of the bottom-line price you should accept from somewhere else.
For an all-round car buying service and plenty more besides, I have to say that Cars.com is looking pretty hard to beat right now. Most people probably know Cars.com for buying new, used and Certified Pre-Owned vehicles, but it’s also a good place to sell your old vehicle and it certainly offers something a little different from Vroom and Peddle.
For a start, Cars.com offers a classified advertising service just like eBay and Craigslist, and this one looks like really good value. The basic ad package is free and lets you upload up to five images to a listing that runs for 30 days, which can even be renewed for free after 30 days if you haven’t sold. The Plus Package costs just $20 and gives you double the images (10) and a listing that runs twice as long, but I’d go for the Premium Package.
The Premium Package costs $49, but the listing runs for up to 150 days and you can include up to 150 images. Renewals are free after the initial 150 days if you don’t manage to sell, but you also get a CARFAX vehicle history report included to show to potential buyers that’s worth $35. You can get the report with the Plus Package, but that would make no sense whatsoever as that would mean paying $6 more than the Premium Package for a lesser service.
Cars.com also has a Quick Offer service, and this is a little different because it gets you offers from dealerships. It’s not available in every area as it depends if you’re near enough to a dealer that’s signed up to the service, but it will give you a range of offers to choose from so you might get a really good offer in there somewhere.
There is a junk car service on the site too, but this is just run in conjunction with Peddle. That’s interesting in itself though, and it adds extra credibility to Peddle if a company as well regarded as Cars.com is willing to partner with them.
There’s an equation you have to solve here before you decide which way to go to sell your vehicle, and that equation is how much of the potential selling price are you prepared to sacrifice for an easy life and a lack of hassle. If you want to get a price, have someone come and take your vehicle away and send you a check, then services like Vroom and Peddle are fine.
If you want the most you can get for your old car and you’re happy to take phone calls, emails, texts and spend time showing any number of potential buyers (and time-wasters) around your car then local advertising or eBay and Craigslist will do the job.
Personally, if I was going to advertise and deal with buyers myself I’d use Cars.com or Autotrader, even though it might cost a little more than some other options.
Of course, trading your old car at the dealership you’re buying your next vehicle from is about as easy as it gets, and you also have the benefit of still having your current vehicle right up until the moment you drive away from the lot in your new ride. Whichever way you decide to go is obviously up to you, but at least I hope you now have a good idea of just how many different ways there now are for getting rid of your old car, even if you’re not looking to buy another.