Selling Your Present Car (Your "Trade-In")

What are you going to do with the vehicle you own currently own? Of course you can always keep it or give it to a friend or family member. However if you want to sell your present vehicle, you have five good options:

1. Sell the car on your own.

Selling your car on your own is the best way to get the most money for it.
And getting the most money possible for your car can be especially important if you still owe money on it to a bank or credit union. If you do owe money, call the bank or financial institution and ask for the "pay-off" price -- the amount of money you have to pay to own the car outright. Ask them, too, how long this amount is valid for -- it's usually ten days.

To determine how much money to ask for your car, here are a few tips:
  • Visit the NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book websites and get the current selling price for your vehicle. When figuring the value of your car, be sure to include all of the options and the accurate mileage.
  • Since the true value of used cars is heavily influenced by supply-and-demand in the local marketplace, look at the classified ads in your local newspapers and online to see what others are asking for similar vehicles in your area.
  • If you are a member of the American Automobile Association or other automobile club, call your local chapter and ask if they offer a used car appraisal service. Many do.
Once you've determined how much to ask for your car, place a classified ad in the local newspaper or online at websites such as craigslist. Then be prepared to show the car to prospective buyers.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most money for your car and save time and hassles:
  • Clean the car thoroughly inside and out. A good detailing can raise the vehicle's value.
  • Ask for more money than you want, then negotiate the price. Have a target price in mind, the minimum you will accept.
  • Be enthusiastic when you show the car.
  • Demonstrate the car's features such as stereo, air conditioning or sunroof.
  • Mention any recent repair or maintenance work. Show receipts as proof.
  • Don't lie about anything that may be wrong with the vehicle. You can be held liable.
  • Have all of the paperwork ready. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to get the proper forms.
  • Sell the vehicle "as is." Don't make any promises or guarantees. Have the buyer sign an "as is" agreement.
If you plan your "big sale" by having the car clean and ready to go and you have the necessary paperwork on hand, you may be able to sell your car quickly. It may be easier than you think.

2. Let a consignment dealer sell it for you.
There are some used car lots that will sell your vehicle for you, taking a percentage for their trouble. If you don't want to sell your car on your own, this may be an easy option. Look in your local phone book under "Automobile Dealers--Used", then call around to the various dealers to see which ones are willing to sell your car on consignment. If you do assign your car to a lot to be sold, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

3. Sell your car directly to a used car lot.
First, clean the car thoroughly. Then drive in to any used car lot or the used car Department of any dealership and ask them how much they'll give you for your car. The amount they offer will be very low, about the same as you would get if you trade the car in to the dealership. (The price will probably be below the current Kelly Blue Book trade-in price.)

If you do choose to sell your car directly to a used car lot, be sure to get appraisals from several different lots, then take the best offer. Selling your car to a used car lot won't make you a lot of money, but it's certainly quick and easy.

4. Trade it in to the dealership.
If you absolutely don't want to sell your car yourself or to a used car lot, then you can always trade it in to the dealership at the time you buy your car. Seller beware.

When you trade in your car, the dealership may use the situation to take advantage of you. Here's how it works:

First, the dealership's Used Car Manager will appraise your car and the appraisal amount may be hundreds or even thousands of dollars below the actual market value. But you may not ever see that appraisal amount. The amount that the salesman may tell you could be even lower than that.

If you accept his super-low offer, then the dealership has made a hefty profit and the salesman has made a nice commission since your car is worth more. Car salesmen call this "stealing from the trade."

However, if you try to negotiate his low trade-in offer, then he's got you where he wants you. Now you're negotiating on two figures: the value of your trade-in and the selling price of the vehicle you're buying. If the salesman is also talking to you about your monthly payments and down payment, then he's got you negotiating on four figures. The more numbers you talk about, the more he can confuse you. It doesn't matter how sharp you are because the Sales Manager has the computer at his fingertips. He can jumble the numbers around any way he wants.

So if you don't want to sell your car privately, you should probably sell it directly to a used car lot or the used car department of a dealership. You'll save yourself money and lots of hassles by avoiding the trade-in games.

If you still insist on trading in your car to the dealership, then be sure to get at least a couple of appraisals from used car lots beforehand. This will give you a helpful guideline for negotiating. And clean your car inside and out. Even the most jaded car professionals are impressed by a clean car. And that means more money in your pocket.

5. Donate your car to charity.
Donating your car to a charitable organization is a great way to do some real good for your community - and to get the benefits of a tax deduction at the same time. This option is great if you don't need the cash from the sale of your car. To donate your vehicle, call your favorite charity and tell them you'd like to give them your car. In return, they'll give you a receipt - and their thanks.

For more info about donating your car to charity:
  • America's Car Donation Charities Center
    These folks will pick up your vehicle in any of the 50 states and donate it to the charity of your choice. You can choose from their long list of national charities including the United Way, American Diabetes Association and dozens more. Call them toll-free at 1-800-513-6560.
  • Wheels For Wishes
    Donate your car to benefit the worthy Make-A-Wish Foundation and you'll help children with life-threatening medical conditions. They'll pickup or tow your vehicle even if it is a "junk car." For more info, call them at 1-877-431-9474 or visit their website.
  • Kars 4 Kids
    The proceeds earned from your vehicle donation will benefit "Joy For Our Youth," an international organization providing for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of distressed and at-risk youth. They offer pickup in all 50 states. For more info, call 1-877-KARS-4-KIDS.
  • Cars To Cure Breast Cancer
    Donate your car to benefit the The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and you'll help to fund breast cancer research. They'll pick-up or tow your vehicle whether the vehicle is running or not. For more info, call them at 1-855-450-2873 or visit their website.

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