Getting Rid of My Car: What's the easiest way that will make the most?
August 26, 2014 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I inherited my mom's car three years ago, and since then my (old) car has been sitting in my driveway. I would like to get it out of my driveway, and if possible make a little money on it, but want to do it in the least time- or effort-intensive way.

I've been putting off dealing with selling the car and my boyfriend is getting tired of looking at it (and the space it takes up). It's a 2004 Hyundai Accent with only 64,000 but was keyed at one point, so it's not in the most impressive physical condition. No major mechanical problems that I know of, although it was in an accident and rebuilt years ago (and I haven't driven it for about two years). Kelley Blue Book estimates trade-in value at $1800 and private sale value at $2600 (for good condition. My car is probably between good and fair).

I have considered just donating it to my local public radio station, which is probably the easiest option, but obviously won't give me any profit (other than the tax write-off).

I have also considered taking it to Car Max (or some place similar), but I have no experience with that, and am not sure how it works (whether they would want my car at all, for example).

I could try to sell it on Craigslist, which would probably give me the most cash, but I really don't want to deal with that if it isn't absolutely necessary.

Are there any options I haven't considered? Are there aspects to each of the options I've mentioned that I should consider? Any advice/experiences appreciated!
posted by odayoday to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you can donate it to NPR, and whatever service they have will come and get it wherever it is. (In my case, I parked it on the street and put the keys under the mat or something.) You just have to fill out an online form with some minimum questions about model and condition.

Super low effort, and you can pick some moderate blue-book value to claim it as a deduction on your taxes.
posted by acm at 2:08 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Carmax will take just about anything. I remember when I sold my car to them they said it'd probably get sold off to another used car dealer rather than trying to sell it themselves, but they still gave be a much better price than I was offered for trade-in.
posted by ckape at 2:17 PM on August 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I haven't driven it for about two years

Have you been starting it somewhat regularly? Or has it really truly been sitting for 2 years?
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:24 PM on August 26, 2014

Response by poster: I drove it around the block once maybe a year and a half ago, but that's pretty much it. I tried to start it several months ago and it made a noise like it wanted to start but the engine wouldn't turn over, so I bought a new battery and we're going to replace it this weekend (so hopefully it will start).
posted by odayoday at 2:26 PM on August 26, 2014

Carmax will buy anything. If you can get it to start, drive over to Carmax and they'll give you a quote pretty quickly. The quote is good for 7 days so you can always get the Carmax quote and then continue to weigh your other options. You'd probably be able to sell it for more to a private party, but then you have to post an ad, deal with people, schedule time for people to come see it, etc. If you're looking for the quickest and easiest way to sell it instead of donating it, you can take it to Carmax today and have money today.
posted by Arbac at 2:33 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

it made a noise like it wanted to start but the engine wouldn't turn over,

Just to correct some (surprisingly common) terminology issues - the engine 'turns over' on the starter motor (The whirr, whirr noise as the starter rotates the engine) but doesn't 'fire' or run if it just rotates on the starter. At least, that is what it sounds like. If it is just going 'Click-cli-cli-cli-cli' and not turning the engine (watch the belts to see) then the battery is just the issue (or the starter).

People often use wrong terminology and it makes it very hard to sell/diagnose their cars. If you tell me your car 'won't turn over', I am assuming the engine is seized and would then be (probably) buggered. In this case I suspect it just needs to crank (turn over) on the starter for some time and it will probably fire.

if you can afford to throw away $1800 then by all means put it in for charity donation. Personally I'd make sure it runs, wash it off and put it on Craigslist with a full disclosure advert for $1500 as seen. Drop it to $1000 if there is no interest and someone will take it. It's a low mileage, cheap to run car. That is a lot of money just to..... throw away? Especially if it was a perfectly good car three year ago.
posted by Brockles at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, what Brockles said. Also, fill it up with new gas-the biggest problem with cars sitting around for a year or two is gas goes 'bad' (not really bad like food goes bad, more like loses all the stuff that helps car's start and prevents rust in your fuel system) and new gas in the tank will really, really help it start and run good for selling on craigslist. It is hard to sell a car for 20,000 on craigslist, not so much for $1500. I have sold numerous cars, motorcycles and 'stuff' on craigslist with no problems for that amount. A LOT of people can come up with that cash for a running car. Just make it a first person who shows up with the cash gets the car, period policy, no holds or favors or anything. Hold firm to 1500 and that will be worth the payoff (who couldn't use and extra 1500?).

Make sure: they sign a bill of sale, with as is condition stated explicitly and most DMV's allow you (the seller) to notify them of the sale-both of which you want to do and document in case of the car being used in any shenanigans (btw it is usually parking tickets-this saved me several hundred dollars on a motorcycle sale about 10 years ago).
posted by bartonlong at 2:55 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a (hopefully helpful) reference point: I once sold a non-running car, which was in need of significant engine repairs, on Craigslist. It took about 3 hours from my listing to having cash in my hand. Pick a day to be "car day," make a full disclosure ad at a fair price ("fair price" will require maybe 15 minutes of research by comparing your car to others on Craigslist), and if you don't sell it that day, take it to carmax.
posted by pril at 2:57 PM on August 26, 2014

For ease of getting rid of it, CarMax or donation --- private-party selling it (Craigslist or otherwise) will just lead to hassle with people who'll try to get it for damn near nothing or just drive it off forever when they test-drive it or just plain not show when/where they said they would.

CarMax will buy anything, which gets it off your hands and a little into your pocket; donation doesn't put any money in your wallet but it does give you a tax break. (And you can donate to lots of places: NPR, Salvation Army, Goodwill, a lot of veterans organizations like Purple Heart, schools and rehab centers and more.) And you KNOW the paperwork will be good, unlike a Craigslist buyer.
posted by easily confused at 3:05 PM on August 26, 2014

Yes, I'm not sure why you just want to chuck this thing away unless, as Brockles said, $1,800 means nothing to you. Depending on how you file your taxes, the tax deduction might not even be useful to you. If you have a mechanic nearby, it might even be worth having it towed there so that they can look it over, change all the stuff that needs to be changed (oil, maybe spark plugs, air filter, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid), check the brakes and tires, make sure nothing in the suspension is frozen up, and check to make sure there aren't any hornets' nests or stray cats tucked up underneath. Assuming the car was OK before you parked it, that work shouldn't cost too much, and it would allow you to advertise the car as being roadworthy with a clean bill of health. The low miles are a big plus.

These cars are a little primitive compared with cars of 2014, but when they're well-maintained, they provide good, reliable, frugal transportation for young people, students, and other people who don't have a lot of money to burn. There are definitely people out there who would want one in decent shape. $2,000 is nothing for a decent well-running small car. is showing Accents with good paint and more miles than yours going for $3,000 and up, so it might even be worth getting a cheapo paint job if the paint is really bad.
posted by Leatherstocking at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2014

Also, by this point, the tires are probably going to have flat spots from sitting for so long. So if you do decided to sell it, go to Sears or your local tire place and get a set of cheapo tires put on. It'll make a huge difference to someone test-driving the car. The tires probably won't last more than 20,000 miles, but that's not your problem.
posted by Leatherstocking at 3:17 PM on August 26, 2014

nthing Carmax. Far and away the best and easiest experiences I've ever had with a car transaction.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 3:19 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You know, I sold a car "as is" after a tree fell on it while parked on a very windy day and took out the rear window. It wasn't a whole lot of hassle. I think the first person who looked at it took it.

If you don't want to get new tires and futz with other stuff, advertise it "as is" with pertinent details and a reasonable price. You could ask less than $1800 just to get rid of it and still be much better off than if you donate it.
posted by Michele in California at 3:37 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

fwiw, I buy used tires ($35) and have never been sorry. Often they're nearly new. The last pair I bought was $35 per tire, which included installation. Bring your old ones and they'll put new tires on the rims for you.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:41 PM on August 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone! We'll take a look (and hopefully a test drive) this weekend, and either list it on Craigslist or go to Carmax.
posted by odayoday at 6:00 AM on August 27, 2014

I recently sold my old 2000 Jetta with 200,000 km on it. Fair price seemed to be about $2000, so I listed it at $1800 on craigslist, kijiji, and autotrader for like four months. I kept getting a steady stream of people coming to look at it and no one buying it. Finally, the time came where I needed to get rid of it to free up the parking space. I dropped the price to $1300 and my phone started ringing off the hook and I sold it almost instantly.

I bet if you list your car at below $1500, it will go within a day or two. If it doesn't, drop the price to $1000 and I guarantee it will sell immediately (presuming it starts and drives). Dealing with people on craigslist is annoying, but it's not more than $1000 worth of annoying.
posted by 256 at 7:06 AM on August 27, 2014

If you haven't started the car in a year and a half, expect that there will be a lot of things wrong with it. Even if you can get it to start up, it will make funny noises, the brakes will squeak like crazy, the fluids will all need to be changed, and problems you never had before will continuously spring up over the next 6 months. (source: a coworker parked his car when he had to leave the country, then couldn't come back so I inherited it about 9 months later. It wasn't an old car, but it never worked well again.) I would have a hard time selling to a craigslist buyer who wants a car for driving and easy cheap transportation; I'd only be willing to list it as "for parts" or with the questionable compliments "runs!" and "great project car!"

There's a chance you'll put a new battery in, and it will start, and you'll drive it to CarMax, and it will only make occasional crazy noises, and they'll offer you more than $1500 for it. If so, take it, and catch a cab home. Don't assume that it will continue to run long enough for you to drive around town, visit a mechanic, send CL buyers on test drives, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

A thought for if you *really* want to minimize your personal hassle factor:
Do you have a friend who is a mechanic, or is at least car-knowledgable and mechanically-handy? And you trust? Call your mechanically-handy friend, explain the situation, and ask if he would sell the car for you, in exchange for a cut of the sale price. So for example, if you think you can definitely get $1800 for it, offer your friend $500 to sell it at that price. Car is gone and an easy $1300 Hands-off for you, and an unexpected $500 cash for your friend for what a mechanic/car-handy person would consider a very easy sale situation.
posted by Ardea alba at 8:59 AM on August 27, 2014

I would take it to Carmax and get a bid, see what similar cars are listed for on Craigslist,,, and

If Carmax bid $1,500 and you see similar cars listed for $2,500 (as an example) list yours for $2,000 on Craiglist and as long as someone offers you more than $1,750 (or whatever amount you decide makes it worthwhile to sell it on Craigslist vs. Carmax).

It's a small enough amount that you can require cash only so you don't need to worry much about getting scammed and if you don't haven't sold it after a couple of weeks, you can always take it back to Carmax. Their bid might only be good for 7-days but I doubt the answer will be different if you bring it back after two weeks.
posted by VTX at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2014

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