Presentation and condition have long been the keys to getting the most money for a used car. Even if the vehicle is in otherwise good shape, it always pays to give it a good wash and wax and to clean the upholstery and carpeting before offering it for sale. A comprehensive detailing can help bring it back to showroom freshness. Think of how much staging goes into selling a home and apply the same principles.
Consider having minor repairs taken care of and any dings and dents addressed, but be aware that overspending in this regard may not necessarily warrant a return on the investment. As a rule of thumb, it’s probably not a good idea to spend more than 10% of a model’s value on reconditioning costs.
Also, gather past maintenance and repair receipts for potential buyers to examine. Astute sellers can often command more for a used car simply by showing a paper trail of how it’s been maintained over the years. Finally, be sure to have a copy of the vehicle’s title on hand and ensure that it’s fully transferable.
Leases can be difficult—
and expensive—to get out of if you no longer want, or can no longer afford, a vehicle.
So What’s Your
Unlike a new car, a used vehicle doesn’t come with a suggested retail price—a pre-owned model’s value is decided by the buyer and seller and depends largely on make and model, age and condition, and the number of miles on the odometer.
The best way to get an idea as to what a given car, truck or SUV might command is to use any of the valuation tools found on new- and used-vehicle websites. These sites typically provide base estimates on data collected from wholesale auctions and real-world transaction prices, with adjustments made for seasonal and local supply, as well as for demand conditions.
A consumer usually enters information on a used car’s model, color and trim level, miles driven, added options and, most importantly, its overall condition. Each car site defines the final category somewhat differently, but an accurate valuation depends on an owner’s being candid about the shape of a vehicle.
For example, one site considers a car to be in “excellent” condition if it “looks new and is in excellent mechanical condition,” while a vehicle that’s in “good” condition “has some repairable cosmetic defects and is free of major mechanical problems.” And a car in “fair” condition is described as requiring “some mechanical repairs.”
A site will usually then return a number of different values. Typically included is a car’s “trade-in value,” which estimates what a local dealership would be expected to pay for it. That number is usually the lowest price given, as it assumes a dealer will mark up the price and perhaps recondition the vehicle before offering it for sale. A “private party value” represents what a seller can expect to receive from selling it on an “as is” basis. Meanwhile, the “retail” value is what consumers have paid for similar cars at local dealerships.
It’s also wise to consult online car classifieds to see how all of the quotes compare with local listings placed by dealers and private sellers, which are usually somewhat negotiable. However, beware of “lowball” pricing, especially for out-of-state listings that seem too good to be true. They probably are.
The most obvious way to cash in on a vehicle is to shop it directly to the pre-owned departments of new-car dealerships, as well as national and local used-car retailers. A smart place to start would be the dealer that sells the same vehicle brand, especially if it’s a model they can easily sell as an alternative to one that’s currently in low supply on the new-car side of the business.
Some auto websites also provide sellers with instant cash offers that are good at participating dealerships for a set number of days, while online used-vehicle sites will not only make a bid but can also complete the transaction at one’s home or office, subject to a final inspection.
Selling to a private party can often reap the biggest rewards, but this takes more time and trouble than many sellers feel it’s worth, in that it requires placing ads, fielding inquiries, showing the car to strangers and dealing with multiple payments and, of course, lots of paperwork.
Ways To Sell A Used Car
Tips To Boost A Vehicle’s Value
Given the current market trends, it’s prudent to learn what a pre-owned vehicle is worth before prices ultimately fall back to earth, though analysts predict that may not happen until sometime next year. That advice applies regardless of a vehicle’s age and miles driven. Data suggests that dealers are especially eager to obtain older and more-affordable used cars these days, so it may be surprising to learn how much that aging car sitting in the garage might command.
Finally, keep in mind that used-vehicle estimates are just that—estimates. The buyer and seller will ultimately determine a pre-owned car’s actual market value, subject to negotiation. Never accept a lowball offer to facilitate a quick sale, but at the same time, don’t expect to get top dollar for a junker that can barely keep running long enough to survive a test drive.
The Bottom Line