What’s my car worth?
Maybe this question has been going through your mind recently. Even if you drove your own car in high school, you probably didn’t drive the coolest thing on two wheels. Now that you’ve gotten to college, maybe you want to move on from your parents’ hand-me-down rust bucket. But to do that, you’ll need to trade in the older model for a good price. Selling a car can feel intimidating, but you shouldn’t let your hard-earned dollars go to waste just because you don’t know your way around a dealership.
Read on for some top tips about selling that jalopy of a car:
Q: How Do I Get Started Finding Out What My Car’s Worth?
A: Smart car sellers get an idea of what price their car might fetch before they ever set foot in a dealership. With the Internet, the process only requires a quick Google search. Kelley Blue Book (KBB) provides a rough estimate of the value of every make and model of the car. ZIP code affects the price that a car can fetch, so KBB takes that into account as well and shows you what similar cars sell for in your area. But even with all those perks, no site can give you a perfect appraisal for your car.
“Kelley Blue Book is to be used as a guide only, not a Bible,” Seattle-based used car broker Heidi Webster said.
Webster also said that those want to sell their cars can go for an appraisal for absolutely free. Asking a dealer what they would pay for your car comes with no obligation to actually sell it to them. So, before you sell your car, Webster recommended going to at least three dealers for an appraisal. As a last tip, the website Carmax.com sometimes offers surprisingly good prices for used vehicles. You should get an offer from them as well, just to cover all your bases.
Q: How Do I Get the Best Price from the Dealer?
A: Say that you go the traditional route and sell your car to a dealer. Before getting your appraisal, you should keep a few things in mind. First, the appraisal may differ from your Kelley Blue Book value because of factors unique to your car. For instance, all dealerships will look at your vehicle’s Carfax report, which details any past accidents or major problems. If you’ve wrecked your car in the past, they’ll offer you a lower value for it. Second, car salespeople fall victim to little psychological tricks just like anyone else. You can influence their thinking in a variety of ways, including by cleaning your car thoroughly before bringing it in.
“They’ll be predisposed to give you a little more if it’s recently been cleaned out and washed,” Seattle-area car salesman Henry Olson said. “They won’t tell you that they will, but they will, whether they know they are or not.” In other words, you can outwit the dealer with just a simple trip to the car wash.
Other factors might affect the price a specific dealership offers for your vehicle as well. For example, dealers value cars that they can sell quickly, so if the dealer thinks, for whatever reason, that your car will fly off the lot, they may give you a better offer. Sometimes a dealer will already know that someone wants to buy a certain make and model of car, and in that case, they may give you a very good price just to lock down your vehicle. A word of warning: even though dealerships pay less for vehicles with chips and dents along with other minor damages, you shouldn’t get those blemishes repaired before bringing your car in. A car dealership’s in-house mechanics can fix them for far cheaper than a third party would, and the price they offer you will reflect those cheaper repair costs.
Q: What’s My Car Worth if I Sell It Myself?
A: Selling a car yourself can save you a decent chunk of money, but it also comes with quite a bit of risk. If you sell a vehicle to someone else, you need to ensure that they complete the paperwork to legally transfer the vehicle to them. If not, you will still suffer legal liability if they wreck the vehicle. In addition, you should accompany the buyer to their bank to ensure that they properly withdraw the money they pay you with, because cashier’s check scams fleece thousands of Americans every year.
“I don’t recommend [selling a car yourself], personally. I’ve just heard too many horror stories,” Webster said.
Don’t want to deal with the risk? You could always put your vehicle up for consignment. This way, a consigner, often a dealership, sells the car for you in exchange for a flat fee. This often amounts to around $1-2K. You may still get a better price this way than you would simply trade it in, and you won’t need to worry about paperwork. Webster said that she recommends this route as a middle ground for those who want a better price than a trade-in.
Q: Could I Ever Make More Money Trading In My Car Than Selling It Myself?
A: Yes. Some states (for instance, Washington) offer tax credits for vehicle trade-ins. Because of this, you can earn extra money trading in a car. Generally, if you own a cheap car worth less than $10K or so, you can’t do better than selling it yourself. But if your car might fetch a little more, maybe around $15K, you should trade it in for the tax credit. In the state of Washington, a $15K car would actually net you $17K with the credit. Do your research and find the best option for you.
Q: What General Tips Should I Remember When Selling My Car?
A: You might struggle to figure out what your car is really worth. Sometimes, you might get lucky and find a buyer who’ll pay extra for your car for whatever reason. Other times, you simply won’t find anyone who particularly wants your vehicle and might need to settle for below the KBB price. Beware: unscrupulous dealers might give you a low offer because they think you look young and stupid. Getting as many offers as you can will protect you against foolishly taking a bad offer.
“With the crapshoot of car dealers out there, I think the biggest mistake people make is not getting a second offer,” Olson said.
Whether you go to the dealership, opt for consignment or sell the car yourself will depend on a variety of factors. But if you do your research and take the necessary time, you stand a better chance of getting the best possible offer on your car. It might seem intimidating, but you can make or lose thousands in the world of cars, so you should take the trouble to do it right. Best of luck out there and happy selling.