how to get rid of a car quick
November 29, 2009 3:23 AM   Subscribe

How do I get rid of a car in the SF bay area? Slightly above junk level...

Simple question. I'd like to quickly and easily sell my car, ideally in the next week or so. I have the title sitting around somewhere, and there are no liens on it. The car needs a few grand of work, and it's not worth much even before work, so it's not something I could take to the private party market. At the same time, I think I could do better than just sending it to a junkyard for parts.

This would be a perfect moment for Carmax. Except: I live in Palo Alto, CA, and the closest Carmax is 60-some miles away in Modesto. I'd really like to take it somewhere accessible by public transportation so I can just drive it over there, sell it, and take the train home.

Does anyone know anywhere Carmax-like but actually in the bay area? Or have any other bright ideas? Should I just craigslist it?
posted by paultopia to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
This is actually a great place for eBay, despite what you might think.

eBay provides the wonderful benefit of setting the closest-to-full market value you'll get for your vehicle, no matter its condition. I once listed a 1985 Toyota Supra that wasn't running, sold as-is, with 180,000 miles on it, and with the buyer well aware that they would need to literally tow the vehicle FROM my garage.

I received one request to end the auction early and let them have it for $100, but when all was said and done, the auction cleared $400.

If the car is running, someone WILL buy it. Chances are, even if it's not, someone will take it off your hands--they'll have the time to part it out or to scrap it properly and they'll make some money off it. Or they'll fix up a junker and have a simple daily driver they can drive into the ground.

eBay used to charge a flat fee for car listings (something like $45) which is a bit high on $400, but not terrible on $2,000, etc.

You can Craigslist it as well, as I feel more people check there than eBay anymore, and just ask people to make an offer and treat it like an auction that way.

Without mentioning the exact condition, make, model, and mileage of the car in question, it's a bit hard to give more concrete advice, but I wouldn't worry about Carmax. eBay or Craigslist it and let the masses big over your heap. Someone will buy it.
posted by disillusioned at 3:30 AM on November 29, 2009

Response by poster: I didn't initially mention the make, model, etc., because I didn't want to give the wrong impression (as in, I'm not trying to unload this thing on mefi!). But if it'll help people give advice, I will.
posted by paultopia at 3:43 AM on November 29, 2009

I had a buddy who amused himself by buying $100 cars from eBay and craigslist, getting them just barely running (he was a gearhead), and then holding impromptu demolition derbies in his dad's cow pasture.

Put it on eBay. Somebody wants your car.
posted by Netzapper at 3:59 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

i know folks who have sold astounding shitbox cars on ebay.

also, check around for common scams perpetrated on people selling cars to be less likely to get shafted.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:06 AM on November 29, 2009

Craigslist will move it. Do not accept a personal check. Do not accept a money order. Only deal with local people. Bank checks are best, cash is OK too.
posted by Alterscape at 6:13 AM on November 29, 2009

I have bought three cars on eBay and sold my last one (and a camper van) that way. People tend to be honest about their vehicles, listing the faults as well as the pluses, to build buyer confidence. So long as you make sure your buyer doesn't get any unpleasant surprises on seeing the vehicle at collection time, you should be able to expect a smooth transaction. List all the faults, with photos if you can.

Slightly OT but maybe this will help:

I made a couple of mistakes the last time around: I didn't set a reserve and had a buy-it-now price of UKP800. Some shyster dealer immediately put a bid of UKP500 on it, which made the BIN price no longer available, then he emailed me asking if I would accept UKP650 for a quick transaction. (If I had put a reserve on it, the BIN would have remained until it had been reached.) I didn't reply and put a notice in red ink on the auction saying I wouldn't end early: that too helps to build buyer confidence since so many cars are pulled from auction if it doesn't look to be going well. All the action was in the last half hour, and it sold for UKP780 which wasn't bad.

The other thing I made clear in the auction was that I wasn't going to haggle at collection time (this happened when I sold the camper a few years ago). In the UK, a winning bid at auction is a legally binding contract and I didn't want any messing about. The collector put the money on the table and drove off with the car. No hassle, no silliness. I think eBay is excellent for such sales if you play it right.
posted by BrokenEnglish at 6:35 AM on November 29, 2009

Also, note that Carmax doesn't buy older junker cars -- they're looking for 60,000 miles and less in cars no more than 3 or 4 years old.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:30 AM on November 29, 2009

Not that I think it's a better idea than Craigslist or a donation, but I have sold a car at the Carmax in Roseville and then taken Amtrak back. I enjoyed the experience as much as anything, and I did plan for it to take the entire day. You'll come through Emeryville to SF (via bus over the Bay Bridge) so that you can grab Caltrain, or take BART from Richmond, etc.
posted by kcm at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2009

I sold my truck to Gulliver ( without hassle. While it was less than I would have gotten from Craigslist, it was almost exactly what I would have gotten from Carmax (I know, I drove out there).

It will depend, however, on their determination of junker vs. desirable used car.

As everyone else has said, Craigslist is certainly your best bet. But I'm a bit social phobic when it comes to Craigslist, thus the Gulliver route.
posted by Gucky at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2009

Best answer: I had great luck selling my NON-RUNNING car for several hundred dollars to PICK-N-PULL in Oakland. They even came and got it, they took a few dollars off for travel fees, but I still made a surprising amount on the deal.
posted by goml at 9:50 AM on November 30, 2009

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