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AutoMatters & More: Selling Your Car

AutoMatters & More: 592 - Selling Your Car
Jan’s Mustang GT
Jan Wagner

There comes a time when everyone who owns a car, truck or SUV is going to want or need to sell it.

There comes a time when everyone who owns a car, truck or SUV is going to want or need to sell it. Vehicles are expensive, so it makes sense to try to sell yours for as much as possible. There are several ways to sell a vehicle, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s use my situation as an example. A while ago I ordered a new car: a Racing Orange, 30th Anniversary Edition, 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata. It may arrive in less than a month. To buy it, I need to sell my 2011 Mustang GT Premium: 14,738 miles, custom Pioneer audio system, 6-speed manual, Brembo brake package, always garaged, no accidents, one owner and new Goodyear tires. Here are some things that I’ve had to consider.

The easiest, safest and most trouble-free way to sell a vehicle is to trade it in to a car dealer on your next vehicle, or perhaps sell it to a car dealer outright. The dealer could be a traditional new or used car dealer, or a large company like CarMax.

AutoMatters & More: 592 - Selling Your Car
20100625 Jans 2011 Mustang GT 50 delivery-KP Ford-D3s
Jan Wagner

The dealer will usually appraise your vehicle on the spot, with no appointment necessary. They want to buy vehicles that they can resell at a profit, so they have a strong incentive to make the process as easy and painless for you as possible.

Dealers have access to a published “book” (such as Kelley Blue Book) that basically suggests to them wholesale and retail values for most vehicle makes and models. The “book” will prompt for the vehicle’s make, model, color, year, mileage, condition and popular options.

AutoMatters & More: 592 - Selling Your Car
Mustang's front seats & dash
Jan Wagner

A car dealer incurs all sorts of costs associated with the purchase of your vehicle, in addition to the price that they give you for it – whether as its trade-in value or as an outright purchase. They need to buy your vehicle at a price that will enable them to cover a portion of their considerable costs (overhead) and also to hopefully make a profit by reselling your vehicle to another customer or at a vehicle auction. Therefore, what they pay you for your vehicle must necessarily be considerably less than what you might receive if you are able to sell it yourself to a retail customer.

Several dealers have made me an offer for my Mustang. The best of those offers has been about $3,000 less than the KBB resale value for the car in top condition, and that does not assign an appropriate value for the custom audio system that Pioneer had installed in my car for review in the media.

The most common alternative is selling a car privately. That can be much more difficult, but if you are successful you might get significantly more money for it than by selling it to a dealer.

AutoMatters & More: 592 - Selling Your Car
Mustang’s custom Pioneer audio system
Jan Wagner

Selling your vehicle yourself can get expensive, and it might not sell for enough to justify the added expense. You will not know until you find a customer to buy it.

To hopefully find that buyer, you might get lucky and be able to do so through word of mouth. However, you can reach many more potential customers and greatly expand the geographic sales area if you advertise, such as on or Craigslist. Advertising can get expensive and does not necessarily lead to a sale at the price you are hoping for. While you look you will be paying for insurance and registration, and your car will continue to depreciate.

Some improvements that might improve your vehicle’s resale value need not cost you much money – just your time and effort, such as detailing it. Other improvements – and needed repairs – can get expensive. Such things are factors in determining the condition of your vehicle, and how much someone may offer you for it.

If and when you finally find a buyer, you will need to get paid. If you sell it yourself, beware of scams. For secure payment, meet your buyer at their bank so that a teller can prepare and give you a Cashier’s Check or cash.

AutoMatters & More: 592 - Selling Your Car
Mustang’s 412 hp V-8
Jan Wagner

Prepare and have signedan “As Is” bill of sale, and submit a release of liability form to your Department of Motor Vehicles.

I am still trying to sell my Mustang. Please help me and others who read this by providing your vehicle sales suggestions in the comments.

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Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #592r1