Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

The Power & Burden of Selling Your Car

Here you are thinking, “I want to sell my car.”

Great. Grand. Awesome.


In today’s online world, constant connectivity paves the way for an expectation of immediate results. We demand real-time updates in everything from weather forecasts and world events, to the minutia of our personal lives. But access to information becomes control of information, and naturally our expectations follow the same path. Each day we create, market, and sell a brand (albeit our own) and if you don’t believe me, take a hard look at your social media presence from the perspective of a potential partner or employer.

While the majority of our online footprints may not merit monetizing, the global transition from brick & mortar to click & order evolves further with every swipe of a finger. In 2016, online eCommerce sales exceeded $1.9 Trillion, and the share of mobile transactions (versus desktop) is expected to jump to 70% by the end of 2017. In essence, technology has empowered us to evolve from a generation of butt-dialers to one of pocket-entrepreneurs.

While this transition eliminates many of the “middle-men” of the retail / resale world, putting consumers in direct contact with sellers may not always prove beneficial. It becomes crucial to understand when that empowerment is offset by the burden of responsibility, and to understand what the value of that burden is.


Whether you are relying on the age-old tactic of parking your car on the roadside with a FOR SALE sign, or you’ve posted the car on Craigslist, you are 100% in charge of your own car selling experience, right? Wrong.

First, why don’t you go ahead and throw your schedule and any expectation of free time out the window. You may have been able to rationalize the time spent creating the ad (or writing up that kickass sign) but now you’re at the whim of every prospective buyer. Tire-kickers have cell phones too, and now you’ve subjected yourself to a 24/7 stream of calls and emails, asking questions you’ve probably already answered, and looking to schedule appointments that they may or may not actually show up for.

Do you feel empowered yet?

Now you’re probably thinking, “Any time that I spend is worth the $1,000 – $2,000 that I’m going to save – right off the bat – by not selling to a dealership.” Since most private car sales occur somewhere between 60 days and never, you’ve given your efforts a max valuation of approximately $34 a day. Factor in the joy of strangers showing up at your house (randomly if you’re relying on that nifty sign) and the appeal of a private sale begins to diminish. BUT once you’ve weathered the haggling and sold the car you can breathe easy, and enjoy the hassle of facilitating payments, DMV paperwork (and the always exciting potential risk of buyer complaints and fraud).

That’s not cynicism, it’s realism. You may have your own reasons why a private car sale is your preference but, as with any venture, it’s important to quantify any burden you’ve assumed. It’s also important to understand how any expectation of instant results from a private online sale are easily revealed to be an illusion.


While pros and cons exist for both private and dealer sale, the weight assigned to each differs based on the seller. That said, a Dodge dealership is most likely to have interest in your 2011 Charger and possess the money in which to buy it. Along with a more prompt and reliable method of payment than a private buyer, they are prepared to facilitate all DMV paperwork and most deals can be finalized same-day.

Oh, and remember that daily $34 windfall that you were concerned about losing if you sold to a dealer? You may be able to offset most (or all) of it with the tax credit offered by most states on trade-ins against purchase of another dealer vehicle. The difference is that you can actually enjoy it now that your schedule is no longer run by the whims of prospective buyers.


You need to do your homework. Researching the value of your make, model, and year on resources, such as Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is a fine start, but mistaking it as the primary factor in determining value is one of the most common mistakes made by an uninformed seller.

By researching sales of like or similar cars in your area, you can refine your expectation of resale value. Don’t forget to take into consideration the overall condition of your vehicle, along with mileage and trim level. Comprehensive records of the maintenance history can be instrumental in ensuring the best possible valuation of a well-maintained car.

Additional details related to the vehicle will be immediately accessible to a dealership courtesy of CarFax and similar resources. If you’ve had the luxury of being the sole owner of a vehicle there should be no surprises, but a secondary owner should be intimate with the vehicle history before settling on an selling price.

Identify any small repairs that can be done to prevent the car from losing resale value. Whether replacing broken lights, buffing out scratches or having small dents fixed, a little bit of effort will work in your favor. And (at the risk of stating the obvious) a wash, polish, and vacuum will go a long way to making the best possible impression against a trade-in.

That said, this is business. You have an understanding of the car’s resale value but, if you’re working with a dealership, remember that they need to make money on this deal. You’ve weighed a lower selling price against potential burden of facilitating the sale and the benefit of a tax credit and, all things considered, determined that selling to a dealer works best for you and your plans of getting a great deal on a trade-in.

The best part? How quickly you’ll be driving your new car off the lot.

(Although we are sorry you didn’t get to make a super-cool sign…)