Selling a dead battery car: Dealership or Craigslist?
May 28, 2009 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Car with a dead battery (sorta). I want to sell it immediately. Will I be better off selling it to a used car dealer or on Craigslist? If the former, can anyone recommend a dealer in Seattle?

So when I first moved to Seattle, I bought a used car ('95 Mitsubishi Mirage) for $1300. I just needed a jalopy to get me from point A to point B -- or so I thought. It turns out, I don't really need a car at all. So the car has just been sitting around, with me driving it around every couple of days to make sure the battery doesn't die.

As it happens, I kept procrastinating moving the car around and now the battery is dead. Even though I got it jumped (and had the battery checked by AAA), I don't drive the car nearly enough to hold the charge and it's just a hassle now.

Really, all I want now is to sell the car quickly and without hassle... but I don't want to get completely fleeced.

Will I be better off selling it to a dealer or putting it on Craigslist as a car with a dead battery? It seems like both options are equal, hassle-wise. Which do you think will get me more money? If the former, can you recommend a place in Seattle that buys used cars? .. and assuming the car is in slightly below average condition, what's a reasonable price to ask for / expect?

Help me just get this over with, please.
posted by carpyful to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Is jump starting really too much work? Buyers want a car that starts when they turn the key. Also, a battery you couldn't bother to jump willl let a buyer know you probably weren't religious on the oil changes or any other routine maintenance either.

You'll probably get the most money with the least work by getting it running, cleaning out the interior, and putting it on Craigslist with a few good pics.
posted by codswallop at 11:27 PM on May 28, 2009

If the battery has been checked and found OK, and the only reason it won't hold a charge is because you're not driving it often enough to compensate for its self-discharge, then go buy an el cheapo battery charger from your local el cheapo store, and keep it topped up from mains power. That way, when you go to sell it, it will start.

Nobody expects a $1300 car to be completely trouble-free. $1300 cars tend to hold that value pretty well. I don't see how you'll fail to sell it privately. You won't get as much for it from a dealer as you will by selling it privately, and whoever ends up buying it will pay less to you than they'd pay to a dealer that resells it.
posted by flabdablet at 12:29 AM on May 29, 2009

In other words: an el cheapo battery charger will cost you, and your prospective purchaser, much less than dealing with a dealer.
posted by flabdablet at 12:30 AM on May 29, 2009

I don't see how you'll fail to sell it privately.

Well, it goes without saying that if the buyer can start the car and drive it away, they will be willing to pay much more than if they can't see it works.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:18 AM on May 29, 2009

If getting it over with is really all you need to do, then give it away. If you care about the money at all then I'll nth everyone else: charge it up or buy a new battery before selling. The difference in value between a car that can be test-driven and driven away, and one that can't be test-driven and must be towed away, is many times the cost of a battery or charger.
posted by jon1270 at 2:18 AM on May 29, 2009

There's something not right if it drains the battery that much. I would leave my Impala for months at a time and it would fire right up.

Get a new battery for selling the car, and disconnect it between drives in the meanwhile.
posted by notsnot at 3:12 AM on May 29, 2009

Agreed that a new battery seems worth it, most notably because potential buyers can drive the car (and make sure the transmission, brakes, etc., are in decent order or at least not hopeless). At that price range, anything new is an upside and inexpensive as batteries are, relative to lots of other car problems, dead ones can be a real pain.

Sho nuff, people won't expect vehicular greatness at that price, but, "Well, at least I know the battery won't croak in two days or two months" is a good thing from the buyer's perspective.

That aside, my best sense is that you would see relatively little money from a dealer. If the amount of money is the primary factor in the decision, going with craigslist is almost certainly the better choice.

I'd be real surprised if a reseller would give you more than $700 if they are confident the could sell it for $1,300. No guarantees, but in my experience, resellers pay dramatically less than their anticipated selling price.

As people have noted, safe to assume that more than enough people will be interested in a low-end car that's not pure crap. Lots of people have reasons for seeking cars like yours.

As one who has ultimately been happy with efforts to sell things, to include a motorcycle, via craigslist, it's likely that you'd hear BS, tales of woe--"I'm so desperate; please, please, please could I have it for $400"--and deal with some flakes who don't show up. If you want to set what you know is a really fair, good price, it might be worth mentioning, "no low-ballers," and "price is firm." From what I gather, having seen more than a couple posts with things like, "How many times and how clearly do I have to say...," there may still be some minor irritants.

That said, regardless of your choice, I would check the market via looking for comparable cars on Craigslist, eBay,, etc. Kelly Blue Book,, is worth a look, though market conditions may vary.
posted by ambient2 at 4:51 AM on May 29, 2009

You might be able to pick up a used battery cheap. Try Craigslist. Easier to sell it it's working.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on May 29, 2009

A battery is what, $70?

Bluebook has the trade-in value as between 300 - 600, depending on condition. They also suggest the private sale value is around $1,000.

It's definitely worth buying the battery, if you can afford the time of dicking around with the private buyers and associated headaches.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:31 AM on May 29, 2009

Private sale will get you more than a dealer.
Seling with a working battery will get you more than selling without a working battery, even after the cost of the battery is factored in.
That's really all you need to know.
posted by davejay at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2009

Disconnect the battery while the car is parked.
posted by qvtqht at 10:53 AM on May 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

I guess I'll be going the route of trying to sell the car after getting it to work.

Notsnot mentioned that my battery sounds like it could be wonky but it looks pretty new (although I realize that's not a solid indicator..) and the guy from AAA said it was charging up fine when he checked it with his little gadget.

So to follow up, do you think it'd be smarter just to get a fresh battery or buy a 300amp jump starter from Amazon? The reason I'd rather get the jump starter is because that way the couple bucks I spend doesn't go completely down the drain.

Hope you all don't mind this follow-up :x
posted by carpyful at 10:54 PM on May 30, 2009

Best answer: do you think it'd be smarter just to get a fresh battery or buy a 300amp jump starter from Amazon?

No. I think either of those options would be dumber. The smarter thing to do would be to get an el cheapo four amp battery charger from the local el cheapo shop, and use it to keep the battery topped up with an overnight charge once every two weeks.
posted by flabdablet at 6:41 AM on May 31, 2009

Response by poster: Followup: I ended up picking up a car-tender online, charging the battery up and selling it for the same amount as I bought it for. Thanks, mefites!
posted by carpyful at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2009

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