Private Sale or Trade In?!?!?!

So you're ready to purchase a new(er) vehicle...and you have another vehicle to get rid of. You've gotten advice telling you to trade it in, also advice telling you to do a private sale. WHICH DO YOU DO? Purchasing a vehicle can be a mix of emotions (stress, excited, fear, etc) all in you add to that emotional roller coaster by trying to figure out what the best decision is with your current vehicle! (PULL HAIR OUT HERE)                                                                                                                                  

Do you listen to you friends, the car salesman, google...? What is the "scientific" correct answer and choice?

Answer: (sit down and get ready for this big reveal...)


So many factors go into this as well as personal preference and need. Here are some things to consider and an article put out by JD Power to help you make that decision.            

Age of Vehicle   -   Condition of Vehicle   -   Features/Options in the vehicle   -   Current Market Demand on your type of vehicle   -   How much TIME do you have to deal with it   -   Do you have a payoff through a lender?      Will you need to use the car as a down payment?   -   How much of a tax exemption will your trade in offer you

 (bet you didn’t know that trading in had tax benefits when purchasing a new vehicle huh?)


Trading your vehicle in will SAVE YOU TIME! Do you have time to put on Craigslist & do the paperwork so everything is legal? If you do, and you think you can get more out of it as a personal sale…DO IT! Make sure you research tips on how to get the most of a private sale. Vehicle must be CLEAN, SMELL good, be relatively empty, everything in working order, scratches/dents buffed out as much as possible. Also have records on past maintenance and new parts that you have had done. All these questions will most likely be asked and reviewed by the buyer. (believe me…we deal with buyers every day!! Super picky – and rightfully so!)

No time to clean, smell proof, get records together, etc?...Then you’ve answered your question – TRADE IT. Dealerships don’t care if it smells like butt crack and has left over food from 3 months ago. Nor do they care if you don’t have the service history/records on it!  

Enough from our point of view…check out this third party article from J.D.Power  and make an educated decision for yourself! Of course, you can always call out and talk to a salesperson and get some examples and experiences they’ve had. Again…we do deal with this every day so we’ve seen all kinds of scenarios!

The most common dilemma facing new car buyers is whether to trade their existing car in to the dealer, or sell it privately. The answer to the question is determined by what kind of vehicle you own, the condition of the vehicle, the availability of time, and the financial implications.

The best candidate for a private sale is a popular model, equipped with the kinds of features shoppers want, in excellent condition with low mileage and all the maintenance receipts. This kind of car will sell fast. If your current car does not meet these criteria, you might want to consider trading it in.

A car dealership will accept any car in any condition. They don't care about dents, dings, rust, rips or stains in the upholstery. Even if the car doesn't run, you can have it towed in as a trade. You obviously won't get top dollar for the car, but you will rid yourself of the vehicle and all of its headaches. Plus, trading a car in to the dealer is simple. In total, it takes all of 5 minutes and you can do it on your schedule any day you'd like. There is no investment of time or money, and after a few simple signatures the dealership takes care of all the paperwork.

On the other hand, selling the car yourself will put more money in your pocket. However, most private party buyers will examine the car top to bottom, inside and out. They will question the service history,accident history, the tear on the seat, and the wear on the tires. If your car cannot withstand the scrutiny (or you don't have the disposition or time to handle the task), it may be wise to trade your car in.

Selling a car privately can take weeks. It can take months if the car is not in demand (a convertible with a manual transmission, duringJanuary, in Detroit, for example). During that time, you will have to invest in advertising and keep the car clean as potential buyers will call to see the car on a moment's notice. You will need to be available to take test drives with prospective buyers, or allow them to take the car for a test drive without you. In most cases, you won't know that it is sold until the day the buyer arrives and takes it away. Once you've someone interested in the purchase, you will have to go to the DMV to process the paperwork and complete the state inspection.

As far as finances are concerned, the dealership will always offer you less than "trade-in" value for your car. The reason is because a trade-in will either be cleaned up and placed on the dealer's used car lot for sale (and only the best trade-ins go back onto the lot), or the trade-in will be wholesaled at an auction. The dealer is spending money and time processing paperwork, preparing the vehicle for sale,transporting the vehicle to the auction, and absorbing other expenses.Therefore the dealer will not pay much for a trade-in unless it is in near-perfect condition and will be an easy re-sell.

In nearly every case, the amount of money you would receive when trading a car in will be significantly less than what you would receive from a private sale. If your car is only a few years old, this could be a significant amount of money. On the other hand, if your car is in poor condition, or is a car in low demand, or is a car with high mileage, it might be best to trade it in to avoid a major investment of your time and money.

Categories: Buying Tips
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