Trade-in vs. Private Sale: What to Do with Used Cars When You Buy a New Vehicle

Buying new or used cars can be complicated, especially if you still have a car sitting on your garage. For most car owners, selling their current car is one viable option to pay for their new car.

There are currently two ways to sell your current car: either by selling it on your own or by trading it in at a dealership. Deciding which route to take is not always clear. Ultimately, the decision rests on your situation and the type of car you’re selling.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to trade in or sell privately.

Used Cars are Hard to Sell Privately Due to Poor Appearance

Will your car sell on the open market in its current condition?

Putting your car on the market for private sale opens it up to scrutiny from every prospective buyer who checks out your ad. Will your vehicle hold up? If someone takes it to their mechanic for an inspection, will it pass? If not, you might be in for some expensive repair bills before you can sell.

A dealer, on the other hand, will take any car in any condition, and pay you accordingly. Getting top dollar isn’t always guaranteed, but at least the car will be sold, and you will have money to put toward your new vehicle.

Do you have other means of transportation?

Private sales are hard to schedule. The sale happens when the right buyer comes along, and you don’t decide when that will be. Unless you have other means of transportation, you’ll likely be stuck at home until you can purchase a new car.

When you trade your car in, you leave the dealership with a new set of wheels, no bus riding necessary. Plus, having a way to get around while car shopping allows you to visit multiple dealerships to compare prices and available inventory.

Does anyone want your car?

There’s no other way to put it: certain car models are simply unappealing. Popular makes and models, such as the Toyota Highlander and Camry, move fast when put up for sale. Less popular cars, on the other hand, can sit for weeks or even months.

If your vehicle sits for awhile, you might have to drop your price maybe several times. A dealer will take any make and model in trade. Trading in a popular model can be advantageous, as dealers will be willing to give you more.

Do you have the time to sell a car?

Selling a car takes time out of your life. Beyond the weeks of waiting for a buyer, it takes time to show the car and keep it presentable. This often involves washing and vacuuming your car daily. All of this can get old pretty quickly, though. You’ll start to wonder if there’s a point in cleaning your car everyday when you could simply go to a dealer in a single day and be done with the whole thing altogether.

Do you need every last dollar possible out of your car?

It makes sense to try to hold out for the highest possible price if you need every last cent from your vehicle to afford a new one. But it’s possible the car will not bring what you are asking. You won’t really know what the car is worth until it sells. It’s easy to assume a car’s value, but without a buyer, it’s almost impossible to know.

You can’t expect dealers to give you the highest price as well. After all, they’re going to spend on preparing the car for sale on their used lot or sell it to a wholesaler at a reduced price. If you absolutely need every last dime you can get out of your current vehicle, trying to sell privately makes sense.

Selling used cars privately is not easy, and it does not always bring the price you expect.  Trading a car in is guaranteed money, but less of it. Being realistic about your chances of selling the car and being reasonable about what your car is worth will go a long way in deciding if trading in or privately selling is the best option for you.


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Categories: Used Cars
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