Trade Your Car Or Sell Privately: Pros And Cons: Part V

August 27, 2010

Life is so much easier when you trade your car with a dealer instead of selling it privately. However, it’s generally assumed you won’t get as much for your trade compared to selling it yourself. What to do? Selling a car yourself is a lot more work and requires skills that not everyone has. Today we look at one of those skills, and one of the biggest mistakes private sellers make when selling a vehicle themselves: pricing incorrectly.

Selling Privately
Price a car too high and no one calls. Often, the vehicle remains unsold weeks or months later. Price it too low and it will sell quickly, but you leave money on the table, meaning you don’t get all that’s coming to you.

When I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I learned that car dealers don’t just set a price and leave it there, hoping the car will sell. Instead, they use a pricing strategy where they let the marketplace decide what the vehicle is worth.

Pricing Strategy
There is a major section in my book that deals with how to price your vehicle when selling privately (see below) because pricing is such an important element of the sale. A quick summary of the pricing strategy perspective is to set the price a bit high, then slowly lower it until you get a lot of action on the vehicle. In this case, “action” means interest in the car. When customers begin calling or emailing, stop lowering the price. You’ve found the sweet spot. See if it will sell and only lower it again in very small increments, and only If you are running out of time and need to sell it quickly.

How do you determine where to set the initial selling price? Begin with Kelly Blue Book ( to see what similar vehicles are actually selling for in your area. Then search Craigslist, Backpage, Kijiji, AutoTrader, and to see what other private sellers and dealers are selling similar cars for. Remember that dealers generally sell vehicles for more than private sellers. Then follow the pricing strategy above. 

Tomorrow we look at some of the websites where you can post your ad.

Good luck.


The author is not only a contributor to this website, but has written the only comprehensive guide to selling your car online: HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online. The book is available on

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