Help me get rid of my car, without sacrificing too much!
July 22, 2010 8:30 AM   Subscribe

How can I sell my car without having to deal with Craigslist, etc, but not get completely ripped off?

I have an 2002 VW GTI 1.8T with almost 180,000 km (~112,500 miles) on it. I love my GTI, but it's been 8.5 years, it's getting very costly to maintain, and I'm ready for a new car. I think I've settled on leasing another VW this time around, but that's not my question.

My issue is what do I do with my current car? The dealerships don't want it as a trade in, it being a high mileage car that needs some work (there's minor cosmetic work needed in and out, it needs new shocks, has a worn out bushing, needs a new caliper, plus new brakes pretty soon and possibly other work I'm probably not aware of). Some have offered me ridiculously low amounts as a trade in credit, but have told me flat out I should just sell it on craigslist. There's a pretty active VW community around here where GTIs are well respected; people would definitely be interested at the right price, but finding those people is not something I'm cut out to do.

I DO NOT want the hassle of selling my car on Craigslist (and/or the auto trader, etc; it's all the same). I'm swamped at work and I don't have time to deal with the flood of emails/phone calls, or the craigslist flakes. I don't negotiate well, I am VERY uncomfortable with the idea of strangers taking may car for test drives and to mechanics (I'm an introvert, and heck, just the idea of even meeting random CL people outside my home is worthy of some anxiety.) The whole process just stresses me out and I simply cannot deal with the extra anxiety right now. Part if it has to do with me being a woman who is consistently treated like easy prey when it comes to anything automotive, but there aren't any reliable men in my life who have the time and availability to help me with this either. It's also a personal safety thing, as well. This is my hang up, I know it is, but the fact is it exists and I'm willing to pay to not have to deal with it. I'm just not sure how to not get completely ripped off.

How much of a scam are those cash-for-your-car dealerships that seem to be everywhere? How do I weed out the scuzzy ones? I realize they're all out there trying to rip me off to at least some extent. Do they typically give more than a dealership would for a trade in? Do I have any other options? Should I just take the money the dealership is offering? (I've had guestimates of $2500-$3000, but they won't commit until they've actually seen the car, as I've been doing this entire car-purchase via email so far. I'm sure once they do appraise the car every little problem will knock that figure down to almost nothing.)

Brilliant hive mind, what would you do in this situation? I'm really looking forward to getting a new car, but this old, much loved beast of mine that needs a new home is ruining the experience!
posted by cgg to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a reliable, trustworthy (and less introverted) friend or relative who you could ask to do the selling on your behalf? Offer them 10% (or whatever) commission as an incentive to get a good price. Once they have found an actual buyer, they can accompany you to meet the person and hand over money, deal with the paperwork, etc.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:42 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Set up a throwaway email address with an auto-response.

Park the car with a For Sale sign on it in a high trafficked location. Put the email address on the sign.

Your auto-response to the email goes something like this:

"Hi there ... I'm selling this car for XYZ price. Here are all the details. The price is non-negotiable, and must be paid in cash or cashier's check. If you would like to make an appointment for a test drive, please email me at , and I will schedule one for you. Since I am a busy person, appointments are available only at location XYZ on days XYZ and times XYZ."

Now you've got the process managed, with no phone calls, and (in theory) you will have pre-qualified all of your potential buyers remotely -- they will have physically seen the car, they can't have found you by trolling or phishing Craigslist, you can meet them in a public place, etc.

You just need to show up for appointments, allow people to take test drives and take cash offers. Bring a friend if you must -- you know where and when it will always be, so it will be easy for them. Remember to write up a sales contract that stipulates the purchase is made as-is, with no returns.

Mind you, it will take you considerably longer to sell the car this way.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2010

If there's a CarMax near you I'd give it a shot. After weeks of failing to find a low-stress friend-of-a-friend buyer, I was in and out of CarMax in less than two hours with an offer that exceeded blue book (or what I would've asked a private buyer) by about 10%. I was (and still am) a little stunned by how easy and pleasant it was.
posted by tsmo at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2010

Swing by carmax. It will probably take about 30 minutes and the quote is valid whether or not you buy another car from them - the amount doesn't change.

In my experience trading 2 cars (but buying) was really quick and easy and they came in over bluebook. Just to be safe though I would make it appear that you are interested in buying.
posted by doorsfan at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2010

See if you can find a local "vehicle display service". This is a licensed business that has a lot where they will keep your car so that prospective buyers can look at it, test drive it, etc. They will charge you a fixed price for some number of months of display service (some will also advertise the car for you on craigslist, etc.), and they might even handle the sales paperwork and DMV transfer for you once a buyer is found. I used one of these services to sell an 8 year old Audi that was due for a major (read: stupidly expensive) maintenance service. I set a very reasonable price, the car sold two weeks later while I was out of the country, and the proceeds were in my bank account the next day.
posted by brain at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2010

First: bring it to Carmax for a worst-case-scenario price, which will be good for a set amount of time.

Now, start offering it on enthusiast boards (for GTIs, obviously) for the Carmax price + whatever your ideal is, and leave it parked on the street in a high-profile area with a sign (if such places exist in your area and are safe, as there are in my area) with the same ideal price.

Now, wait. If it sells for a higher price, hopefully it was worth the paperwork hassle and whatnot -- and if not, at least the Carmax price comes with you not having to worry about sketchy buyers and all that.

Mind you, that doesn't mean the Carmax price is ideal. I've sold two cars there and been very happy with the amount, but a third I didn't bother selling after finding out what they were offering. YMMV.
posted by davejay at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2010

Will the dealer selling you the new car offer you a trade-in for it? Sometimes these offers can be reasonably good, particularly if your car has issues. It'd be effortless, and you wouldn't wind up with an under/overlap where you have two/no cars simultaneously.

Even if the deal isn't particularly great, the difference in costs might be compensated by the fact that you won't have to insure two cars simultaneously or take out a bigger loan.

PS. I see you have Unreliable-German-Car-Stockholm-Syndrome. Me too.
posted by schmod at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2010

n-thing Carmax. I've sold them 4 or 5 cars, and have always gotten a price that, while a bit low, was fair. Throw in the total lack of hassle and dickering, and it's a winner--they have a whole department to handle the paperwork, and they'll never show up later claiming you sold them a lemon.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:37 AM on July 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks... But I'm in Canada (vancouver) and there aren't any CarMax here. I've been googling and I can't even find anybody offering a similar service, give or take the odd sketchy website offering to buy any old car.

Back to the drawing board...
posted by cgg at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2010

I think all you can do, without crossing one of the lines you've drawn in the sand re:negotiation, private selling or taking a lowball price, is to shop it around to multiple potential buyers and take the best offer. I'd focus on used car lots that will sell the car themselves; part of the reason the VW dealer is disinclined to offer you much for your car is that he doesn't sell cars that old at retail; if he buys it, he'll just sell it to a wholesaler, who will in turn sell it to a used car lot, which will finally sell it to another consumer. Who pays the profit margins for all those middlemen? You do, by accepting a very low price. It's not a ripoff; the VW dealer is just the wrong customer for what you're selling. A used car lot that deals in older / lower-end cars is a better bet because you'll be cutting out a couple of middlemen. That's not to say they won't try and lowball you; they probably will, which is why you have to get multiple offers. Don't tell any of these lots who else you've gotten bids from, and don't tell them how much you've been offered. Just ask whether they're interested, what their best price is, and how long their offer is good.
posted by jon1270 at 11:51 AM on July 22, 2010

cgg: I had a similar problem in the PNW, and put it on Askme. There is no Carmax equivalent up north, apparently.
posted by zvs at 2:02 PM on July 22, 2010

« Older Can I manage 6 college courses with a family?   |   Outdoor foosball table? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.