Here’s how to sell your used car yourself ... and maybe make a profit

Here are the pros and cons - and potential profits - of selling your used car yourself.
Here are the pros, cons and potential profits of selling your used car yourself.
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2023 at 8:54 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Car dealers make it all too easy to trade in your used car. But is it worth selling your car yourself?

Carmax provides cash offers in two minutes, although sellers may be required to bring the car for inspection. Online dealers like Carvana offer a no-strings-attached cash payout in less than two minutes. AutoNation provides a cash offer in five minutes.

But the ease of a quick sale comes at a steep price. A trade yields a higher price, but it depends on the car’s make, model, and demand. The other perk is that the trade-in value will be deducted from the sales price when calculating state TAVT taxes.

Here are the pros of a private party sale:

The profit could yield a much larger payout if you’re willing to do the work and list the car. It took me six weeks to sell a 2013 Ford Escape SE with 92,000 miles.

Kelley Blue Book’s online cash offer to buy the Escape was $3,411. Carvana’s cash offer was $3,497.

Dealers price the same model Ford for sale, with similar mileage, for between $13,000 and $15,500.

Private-party sales are typically lower. I listed the car on multiple sites, including free platforms like Nextdoor and Facebook Marketplace.

Now, here are the cons:

Within minutes, multiple online scammers offered full-priced offers.

“Great, I’m interested & satisfied with the price and condition … My mode of payment will be check. I will handle shipping by myself after you have cash at hand thank you!”

That’s a red flag. If the potential buyer is unwilling to talk on the phone, it’s a scam.

A week later, I listed the car on Autotrader and Ebay Motors. Both sites are easy to use and make history reports available. Sellers provide the VIN that automatically lists the car’s specifications, and I provide a description, the Carfax report, and details about the car’s condition. Potential buyers want the history report.

Here’s a tip: honesty goes a long way. If the car has known issues, disclose it or fix it. It’s worth having the car inspected so there are no significant surprises.

I initially priced the car similar to what dealers asked but only received no serious inquiries. However, when I lowered the price to $10,500 - $3,000 less than the dealer’s average asking price - it worked.

I met the buyers in person and provided the car’s maintenance records. The buyers offered the total asking price if I was willing to replace a defective tire.

So, a win-win

The buyers saved $3,000 to $5,000 by purchasing from a private party, and my net was $7,003 more than the online cash offer.

Was it worth the extra work? You bet.


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