Trade Your Car Or Sell Privately: Pros and Cons: Part I

August 26, 2010

It’s a lot easier to trade-in that old clunker taking up space in the driveway compared to selling it privately. The problem is you probably won’t get as much for it at a dealership as you will selling it on Craigslist, Backpage, Kijiji, or the many premium websites vying for your business.

Today, let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of dealing with a major car dealer when it’s time to get rid of your used car.

Easy As Pie
Everyone in the retail car business knows full well what a pain it can be dealing with them. They have a bad reputation for good reason. However, there are many reasons that car dealers are in business and oddly enough, making your life easier is one of them.

For example, major car dealers love it when customers walk in unprepared. They’ll help you choose the vehicle that best suits your needs (or the one they really need to get rid of), will package the financing application and work very hard for instant approval (be careful they don’t bump the interest rate on you), complete all the paperwork--including for the DMV--and have your new car washed, gassed up, and ready for you to drive home. Easy as pie.

Trading Your Car with a Dealer
The other thing car dealers make easy is trading in your car. When I was Internet Manager for a major dealer, customers would often drive onto the sales lot on impulse. This meant they hadn’t given any thought to their trade, let alone the new car they wanted. The car they drove in with--the one they wanted to trade-in--was often dirty on the outside and strewn with moldy food containers on the inside. I was also surprised at how many buyers had no idea what their trade was worth.

My job was to make the process as easy as possible. After gathering basic information on the vehicle, I handed the keys and registration to my used car manager who did the actual assessment. I then took my customer for a test drive in the new car they hoped to drive home in.  After that it was simply agreeing on a price. But that’s the very crux of the issue for consumers: are you willing to effectively take money out of your pocket and give it to the dealer so you don’t have to sell your car privately. The question usually comes down to how much it will cost you. We look at that question tomorrow.

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

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