Suddenly outgrew our brand new car. What to do?
January 1, 2011 9:29 PM   Subscribe

We need to sell our almost brand-new car. How can we do it without losing too much money?

In July we found out we were expecting another child and decided to move up a bit in size and buy a new Toyota Prius. One month after we buy the car (and after the time we can "return" it to the dealer) we find out we're not expecting just one kid, we're expecting twins. All of a sudden, we've outgrown our brand-new car and we need to sell it. Three car seats and a stroller for everyone simply cannot fit.

Six months down the line, we're still trying to figure out what to do. Sell on Craigslist? I'm wary of flakes, especially after trying to sell a used car a couple years ago. The added difficulty of the buyer having to line up financing would complicate that as well. Sell to the Toyota dealer we bought the car from originally, telling our funny sob story? Sell to another dealer? CarMax (the closest one is over 100 miles away)? We're leaning towards buying a used car, possibly from a private party, so
trading it in is probably not an option.

So, any advice, experiences, or anecdotes?
posted by zsazsa to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is totally off the wall, but could you trade cars with someone looking to downsize?

Your story is great and I bet you could find a local human interest columnist or TV news segment to put the word out.

Congratulations on your (rapidly!) growing family!
posted by charmcityblues at 9:36 PM on January 1, 2011

You're not going to get as much from a dealer as you would realize by selling the thing yourself. Dealers will short you as much as they are able, probably to the tune of a full quarter of the purchase price.

I know it's not the answer you are looking for, but if the kids' seats fit the car, shoving the strollers into overhead storage might be a less costly solution. Have you considered a roof storage box? Thule carries a line of storage bins that provide ample extra cargo space for less than $500.00 - which may be less than selling the Prius at a loss.
posted by Graygorey at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

AS you probably already know, when you drive a new car out of the showroom, you lose a big proportion of your value. One of my preferred tactics when buying a new(er) car is to look for cars 6-18 months old, virtually new and thousands under new price. Sorry.

I suggest you use a combination of media to advertise your car - specialised car sales sites, the local rag, on-line communities you belong to, work noticeboards/intranets .... and the list goes on. Selling to the trade, or trading in for a bigger car, will be painless, at least until you look at how little you get - they will take a big slice as margin for themselves.

If you do sell privately, only sell to someone with ID, and preferably for cash.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:38 AM on January 2, 2011

If you do sell privately, only sell to someone with ID, and preferably for cash.

It's also extremely simple to simply meet them at their bank during banking hours and get them to get a cashier check while you wait (and watch from the courtesy table). You can be fairly sure at that juncture it's genuine. Better yet, if you bank at the same bank, go to the window with the buyer and explain that $xx,xxx of their money needs to end up in your account. They'll probably have the buyer write you a check, which you can then immediately cash and deposit.

CL is going to be your best bet, BUT one way you could possibly get "full" value for your car would be trading it for a more expensive car at a dealer. This only really works if your car is pretty much still in new condition, and is in demand locally. But a friend recently did this, bought a new car and quickly realized it wasn't the right one. He got a dealer to give him his entire purchase price on trade-in when he bought a more expensive or slower selling car. This option is predicated on you having gotten a decent deal on your car; if you paid over-market when you bought there is probably no way to make yourself whole.

For example, if Prius' are hot where you live and year-old Elements aren't (for example), find an Element worth the same or more than your car on a dealer's lot and see what kind of deal they can do.
posted by maxwelton at 2:07 AM on January 2, 2011

The money you lost as you drove your new Prius off the lot is gone. GoneGoneGone. That transaction is firmly in the past; the money you lost back in July is not coming back. To avoid losing another big chunk of cash, you'll need to do an especially good job of getting rid of the Prius, and choosing and negotiating for your next car.

Spend some time looking at low-mileage, late-model used cars. Ignore the sticker prices. Get friendly with Edmunds and, both of which will help you estimate typical values for used cars. When you look at a car, write down all the relevant specs -- the exact model, year, options, mileage. Enter those specs into the online forms on those websites, and see what numbers they spit out. You'll see three important numbers in ascending order: trade-in value, private party retail and dealer retail. There will be a spread of a few thousand dollars between the "dealer retail" figure, which will be similar to the sticker price, and the "trade-in" figure, which is roughly what the dealer has actually invested in that used car. The dealer wants to make a few thousand dollars on the sale, but he's still in the black if he only makes a few hundred. Profit, even a small bit of profit, is good. The dealer would rather make a little money than no money. Careful negotiation will get you to a price that gives the dealer only a small slice of profit. Failure to negotiate will cost you another big loss like the one you sustained in July.

At the same time you're going to need to get as much as you can for your Prius. You'll almost certainly do better by selling it yourself. Craigslist is a pain, but it's perfectly possible to conduct transactions safely if you're at all savvy. You also might be able to trade it in at a decent price if you negotiate carefully. Just remember that the dealer's never going to be on your side, because the better the price you get, the less money he makes. You need to be your own advocate. You need to play hardball.

Here's my boilerplate book recommendation for these sorts of questions.
posted by jon1270 at 5:03 AM on January 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

In a lot of states you have an incentive to trade in your old car because you don't pay sales tax on that part of the price, but I think California is different. No help to you, but it will help explain why so much of the advice you will read may skew towards trading it in.

And having said that, don't rule out trading it in -- there is some value in the ease of the transaction, compared to the flakes and weirdos who show up (or more often, promise to show up but never do) whenever I advertise a used car on CL or in the paper. Particularly if you are trading the Prius on a less hot model (minivan, say), the transaction may well work out ok for you.

But jon1270 is right about the money being lost. It's a sunk cost, and not something you will likely recoup.
posted by Forktine at 7:40 AM on January 2, 2011

Have you considered
posted by germdisco at 9:41 AM on January 2, 2011

I believe there are other examples of this service in the bay area, but I am having trouble locating them.
posted by germdisco at 9:43 AM on January 2, 2011

You can't. New vehicles hemhorrage money, and its entirely possible that a car can lose upwards of 30% of its value in the first couple of years. My cousin purchased a loaded '10 Nissan Altima in February of this past year. He got married this past summer, and decided to get something larger. he purchased an '11 Ford Edge. He purchased the altima for 31k, and in November, only 9 months after purchasing it he was only able to get 22k for it. This is why when you buy new, you get what you want and then run it until the wheels fall off, as this is the only way one realizes any return on what is essentially a big expense. Unless you find someone with whom to trade vehicles with, or luck up on a fool who wants a car yet doesn't see the dealers knocking 20% off the top of your car, brand new, you're going to take an enormous hit. It sucks, but that is a very real aspect of car ownership. good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 11:33 AM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, I know we're going to lose a lot of money on this. I just wanted to know how to lose the least amount. We were planning on keeping this car until the wheels fall off.

Like Forktine said, when trading in a car in California, you don't get the value of the trade-in subtracted from the new car's value for sales tax purposes. So trading in is a less-attractive option, especially when dealers don't offer as much as is possible with private sales.

Graygorey has an interesting idea with just keeping the Prius and getting a Thule rack box for the stroller, this behemoth. Not many cars, even minivans, can actually fit that stroller inside along with three kids in car seats, so maybe just putting it on the roof is an option. Three car seats of the right size can theoretically fit in the back of the Prius. We're getting the extra car seat soon so I'll be able to do a test fit.

germdisco: there's a place like that down here called Wheels & Deals (despite the awful website, they have a nice building and lot). We may try displaying it at a place like that.

Whatever we end up doing, I'll follow up here.
posted by zsazsa at 1:15 PM on January 2, 2011

Another option (and I'm only half facetious in saying this) is an external scooter carrier. They make them for mobility scooters (Rascal, etc.) and for motor scooters, too.

Considering your stroller weighs in at ~35 pounds, the roof rack option might be a recipe for a back injury.
posted by Graygorey at 2:15 PM on January 2, 2011

Especially for the momma!
posted by 25 cats named sam at 8:33 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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