Selling Your Used Car Vs Trading It In

Posted by: Dan on 22/02/2017

Category: General

The time has come to sell your car – now you just have to decide how to go about it. When it comes to selling a vehicle, there are several ways you can pass it along to a new owner and make a tidy profit in return.

For most buyers, the decision is usually between trading in their car at a dealership or selling it outright. With over 18 million registered vehicles in Australia, there are plenty of people trading in and selling cars each year. Both options have advantages, as well as potential drawbacks. Here’s a look at some of the factors you need to take into consideration when deciding whether to sell the car yourself or trade it in.

1. Do you have a good eye for detail?

Australia is renowned for being a friendly and easygoing nation. This means you’re more likely to get a visit from a potential buyer in a singlet and boardshorts rather than in a suit and tie. You’ll more likely have a casual conversation with the buyer about the vehicle, rather than encountering someone with a clipboard full of questions for you. But regardless of how informal the conversation might be, the sale must still conform to Australian law.

That means that a contract is formed once the car is sold, and the buyer could take legal action against you if they feel they got a bad deal, just as you could if you got a bad deal when buying. If you’re honest and forthcoming, you have nothing to worry about in this regard, but a private sale still might be a stressful process for you. If you don’t want the extra fuss or worry, a trade in will likely be the best option for you.

2. Do you actually know that much about cars?

You may be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon in your day job, but also a firm believer that a car is just a device to get you from Point A to Point B. It’s totally OK to think that, but you also need to be honest with yourself when it comes to your ability to sell the car effectively. A trade-in means you only need to deal with one buyer, as opposed to selling it yourself and having to deal with a whole bunch of them (and all their questions).

If your car knowledge is minimal, a trade-in of your vehicle is likely to be the better option. It’s still a good idea to have some knowledge about the vehicle and the process as you go to trade it in, so be sure to do your research beforehand, and bring a friend who is a big car nerd to help you out.

3. Do you have the time to sell the used car yourself?

If you’re like most car sellers, you hope for an ideal scenario: you list your car on a website, and a rich billionaire comes along and agrees to pay well beyond the market rate for your humble old commuter car. It seems like it will be so simple – and then you start getting calls and emails at all hours of the day.

Selling a used car yourself is completely doable, but it also requires a lot of time. You can save yourself some time by writing a good ad and being explicit about things like availability, e.g. “I can take phone calls during business hours only” – but however you do it, being patient is a must. If you have the sort of life where you feel that spending an hour a day until the car sells would be impossible, look to a trade-in instead.

4. Have you sold a car by yourself before?

In addition to setting aside some time to meet with buyers, selling a car yourself also brings up a lot of challenges that you didn’t plan for. Most of them are no problem, like giving the car a quick oil change before selling, or throwing in a spare set of tyres as part of the sale.

Other factors though, like the need to constantly give the car a fresh wash (as each seller gets dust and mud on it with each test drive), can become really frustrating and annoying if you’ve never done this before. If you don’t feel ready to deal with all the extra factors that come with a private sale, a trade-in is the way to go.

5. Do you have a rare car?

Any dealership that buys your trade-in vehicle must always do so with the mindset of selling it at a higher price point. While you can certainly look to get a good price from a dealership for a rare vehicle, a private buyer who has been looking everywhere for a car like yours will always pay more.

Many classic car fans often have strong networks of fellow buyers and sellers. Along with the satisfaction you’ll get selling your rare sports car to a fellow fan, you may also have the chance to connect with a new seller for a car you want in future. So, if your car is rare, a trade-in is unlikely to be your best bet.

Selling a car yourself or sending it to its next owner via trade-in is largely a decision that depends on you, your car, and your ideal outcome. Using this list can help you decide which option is the best for you. If neither works, there is also a third option available.

You can first take the car to a yard for trade-in, and get a quote. Then, list it as a private sale for a week at a price higher than the quote. If you get a buyer within the week, the deal is done; if not, you can return to the car yard for that trade-in. The result will be guaranteed either way.


What other tips do you have for selling your car yourself vs. trading it in? Let us know in the comments below:


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