There comes a point in every vehicle’s life when it’s time to move it on to a new owner. Many owners trade theirs at a dealer, deducting the value from the cost of the new vehicle. Another advantage is that because you paid the sales tax on your trade-in, you don’t re-pay as much tax on the new car. Example: If your trade is worth $10,000, in New Jersey the sales tax on that would be $700. If the new vehicle is being sold to you for $30,000, normally the NJ sales tax would be $2,100. However, your trade reduces the cost to $20,000 so you only pay $1,400 in sales tax or $700 less. The ease of that kind of dealer-handled transaction, one where the dealership does all of the paperwork and “makes your old car go away” is really tempting. But there are a few things to consider. First: Are you getting a fair price for your vehicle? Unless you do your homework at used car valuation sites like Kelly Blue Book, you may be giving away money that you should not have to. Second: Do you really know what you are paying for the new vehicle? Dealers have a sticker price and that’s always posted (or should be) but they also have an invoice price. That’s the price they paid for the car when they got it from the manufacturer. These days, that number is also readily available at sites like Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds. You can, at these on-line sites, also get the “sticker” or list price for options like satellite navigation or special wheel plus they also provide the dealer’s cost for the options. With that information, i.e., knowing the value of your vehicle on trade and the dealer’s cost from the manufacturer, you can make a more informed decision. The rule for new cars (for me, anyway) is negotiate up from “invoice” not down from “sticker”.
If your calculations show that you won’t get a good trade-in value from a dealer because the trade has too many miles on the odometer or it’s too old for them to retail, selling it on your own is your next choice. Just as with a trade-in, you need to do your homework and know the “private sale” value of your vehicle. The web sites I suggested (above) will give you an approximate value for your car. Of course, when you go to sell it, you can add or subtract money based on improvements done (or wear and tear). This could be items like new tires were installed, a recent full service was done or an after market, high quality sound system was installed. These add-ins should work in your favor. All you have to do next is decide where or how to sell it. Here are a few choices.
Many people I know have bought several used vehicles through eBay motors. These friends are a mix of real gear heads and casual car shoppers looking for a deal. This on-line auction site is searchable, practically, world wide so your vehicle would get a much wider audience of potential buyers than a classified ad in the local newspaper or a for sale sign in a parking lot. Based on popularity, it is definitely worth considering. Another option is selling though a site like CarMax. Both sites present your vehicle to a wide “internet” audience but there is a cost to you when it sells so investigate that before hand so you know your rights and responsibilities.
If you have decided to sell your vehicle on-line, you will need lots of pictures. I feel, the more the merrier! A simple point and shoot camera is all you need plus most new smart phones have cameras that take high quality images so you getting useable images should be no problem.
Here is what I think you need to shoot to tell your vehicles’s story. First, give an overall impression of the vehicle by taking front three-quarters and rear three-quarters shots from both sides of the vehicle so the viewer can see that there isn’t any body damage. Next, full side shots done from the left and right as well to further show the condition of the body. Close up pictures of all 4 alloy wheels to show any damage (e.g., curb rash or dents) is important. Shoot pictures of the interior, focusing on the condition of the seats and carpets. Shoot pictures of the trunk and engine. For the trunk, vacuum it out to make the best impression and for the engine, a quick wipe with a damp cloth and some spray cleaner will do wonders.
If there is a special sound system, a picture of it and upgraded speaker grills (if any) is worth a shot. Shoot pictures of any body damage, rust or significant dents and scratches. In car sales as in life, honesty is the best policy. Shoot the pictures in good light and use a flash for the interior, engine and trunk. it may not be beautiful but it will tell the best story since you are not making art, you are making commerce!
The last thing to remember is that you must use caution to keep yourself safe. Most police stations have signs in their parking lots for eBay or Craig’s List exchanges. I recommend that you find and use these locations to meet potential buyers. Being cautious, you probably do not want the buyer to know where you live. Another big concern is the test drive. I think getting in your vehicle with a stranger is a little scary. I suggest you have a friend accompany you and take a picture of the person and his or her vehicle along with the license plate number as a precaution.
When you test drive at a dealership, they make a copy of your driver’s license and I would insist on seeing the potential buyer’s license before letting him or her drive yours. Some car thieves ask you to drive the car to demonstrate how it rides and then, when you swap seats, they jump in and drive off, leaving the owner stranded on the road. If you get out of the car to allow the potential buyer to get behind the wheel, shut the engine off and take the key with you. You can hand it back after you are in the passenger’s seat. If they balk at that or complain, drive them back to the police station and say good bye! If they get abusive, leave them at the side of the road and call the police and explain what happened. It’s your vehicle and your safety!
The slide show accompanying this article will give you a few ideas for on-line photography. This link will take you to an in-depth article on staying safe when selling a vehicle privately.
Remember – be careful and be cautious!