Easiest way to sell a car?
April 13, 2016 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to sell my car and I've never done this. What's the easiest option for me?

After 20 years being car-free, I was given a used car last year. While it's come in handy sometimes, I've put 2500 miles on it in a year, it sits unused most of the time, and I fill it up maybe once every month and a half. Spending even $40-50 a month on this car seems stupid when I could be using that money to pay off debt.

I'm ready to go back to being car-free but have never had to sell a car before. It's a 19 -year-old Nissan Altima, 183,000 miles, some scuffs and body rust from road salt, one window doesn't go down, ripped backseat seatbelt, but mechanically it's in pretty good shape for a car its age. A mechanic told me last year that "at some point" the idle control system will fail. Then again, "at some point" the heat death of the universe will occur.


1) Craigslist--not averse to it, but seems like a lot of work. I would be upfront about all the car's issues, have all the paperwork, etc. but could someone come back and sue me if the idle control does fail? Or timing chain breaks (the car does have almost 200,000 miles on it.)
2) Carmax--seems legit but they might low-ball me? Then again, if they offer me $1500 and I could sell it on Craigslist for $2000, that seems like a fair trade in money vs. time.
3) Other options I'm missing?

I would like to make some money on this (the abovementioned debt), so donating to charity is out.

I'm in Portland, OR.
posted by Automocar to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Carmax is where I'd go - I just sold them a car, and they offered flat blue book, which was $4000 more than the dealership had offered. (This is my third sale to them, and every one has been blue book or better, plus the process is as simple as possible.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:31 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

You can be sued for anything for any reason, of course, but under the law, you are not going to be subject to any liability for anyone who buys your car as long as you are honest. Disclose everything material you know about the car (i.e. if it has been in an accident or salvaged) and do not lie about anything about the car's condition. As long as you do that, sales between individuals are considered "as-is" in Oregon and in most states. The buyer is expected to have done his research before making the purchase. This looks like a good overview of steps you can take to protect yourself.
posted by kindall at 3:37 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have a car of that vintage and mileage. Carmax offered me $500 for it. I chose not to sell.
posted by MsMolly at 3:39 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just for context, it looks like the blue book value of your car (assuming standard options and using a generous estimate of its condition) is under $1000, and probably a lot closer to $500.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:47 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Craigslist was super-easy for me. I listed my car with all its problems, I had half a dozen people interested within the day, I scheduled three non-shady-sounding ones to come look at it on the weekend, and one of them snapped it up. (We let him test drive it, my husband went with.) They paid by cashier's check and that was pretty much that.

It requires a bit of trusting-of-strangers to go through the process but really it was fine and easy and people who were seriously interested were forthright about that sort of thing. You do get weirdos e-mailing you but you can ignore them.

I listed it a little bit under blue book (but above carmax) so I'd have my pick of buyers and nobody would be tempted to bargain with me over "knock off $200 for the mechanical work I'll have to have done" or whatever. I also told a little story about the car in my ad, including its name and how I hated to get rid of her but I had too many kids to fit and so on. I also took the time to wash it and vacuum the interior before "showing" it, but that was really about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:03 PM on April 13, 2016

You can maximize the money or the time or the convenience, not all. Carmax is easiest, Craigslist or other classified will maximize the money.
posted by theora55 at 4:09 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Since you are not under time pressure, I'd go with Craigslist. People can be seriously flakey but you don't need to sell today.

Carmax lowballed me (enough that I was pretty insulted). I sold the car very last minute via Craigslist and still got more than 1k over the Carmax price (and I'm pretty sure it would have been significantly more if I hadn't been in such a rush).
posted by nat at 4:22 PM on April 13, 2016

I love selling cars to Carmax. Yes, you will get less money for your car, but you'll get a not fake cashiers check within 2 hours of showing up and not have to deal with any hassles of no-shows, test drives, low-balling tire-kickers, or any shenanigans that happen between you selling the car and filing notice with the state that it is no longer yours.

For me, the price difference is what I pay to be assured of a safe, simple deal. That being said, I sold my last car privately, but checked with Carmax first to set my price floor + the value of whatever the hassle of dealing with private buyers was worth to me.
posted by hwyengr at 4:30 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

here in Canada cars are regularly sold through Kijiji. If you're in the States you may want to try Ebay Classifieds as well
posted by sharona at 4:32 PM on April 13, 2016

My own philosophy, since the car was given to you, is to just take it to CarMax. Anything you get is gravy.
posted by kindall at 4:43 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've no personal experience with this, but it coincidentally came up in my RSS reader at the same time as your question: This Online Service Made Selling My Car Easier Than Ordering Takeout.
posted by WCityMike at 4:44 PM on April 13, 2016

Assuming you do go private, though, Craigslist is the best avenue for cars at this age/condition. Cash only, at your bank, and give it to the teller to deposit before handing over the title. Google for an as-is bill of sale, keep a copy for yourself, and you'll set yourself up for as smooth of a transaction as possible.
posted by hwyengr at 4:45 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, from that article, a few competitors are listed: "There are several other services like Beepi, TRED, Vroom, or Carvana, and each has their own slightly different take on the process."
posted by WCityMike at 4:47 PM on April 13, 2016

Where I am Craigslist is the go-to for cheap, older vehicles. It's where people are looking, and it doesn't seem to take long to sell them, based on watching my coworkers sell cars recently.

I've sold a vehicle to Carmax and it was an ok process, fast and easy but there is a cost also. (I probably gave up between $1000 and $2000 for that convenience and speed.) When I did it their quote was good for seven days, so there is nothing to be lost by getting a price from them, then trying to sell it yourself for a few days for a higher price.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 PM on April 13, 2016

Nthing Craigslist over Carmax. restless_nomad upthread said your car's blue book value is probably between $500 and $1000. Just state all known issues in your CL ad, but also state that it is in good running condition (if it is), and set a reasonable price such as $950 OBO (Or best offer) with some room left for negotiation. Please post pictures with good lighting at multiple angles, it will make all the difference for a quick sale. I'd state that you will respond only if the interested party includes a name and phone number. It is much filter out the serious ones this way IMO.

b1tr0t upthread has good tips to follow to complete the transaction. I have bought/sold several cars over the last 15 years on CL, it is not difficult at all if you know what to look out for. This article has some tips on selling via CL.

Among other good tips, this article also has an interesting tip about selling a car through a car repair place.
posted by thewildgreen at 8:58 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I sold a 10 year old Lexus over Craigslist. It required a little patience, but ultimately was very easy. I agree with everything that b1tr0t says above.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:17 PM on April 13, 2016

If you do sell via Craigslist, make sure to include a bowl of fruit in the pictures. :)
posted by Aleyn at 9:31 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Carmax was pretty generous with me, and the whole process was incredibly painless. I'd do it again any time.
posted by Caravantea at 5:36 AM on April 14, 2016

I say do both.

Carmax will give you an offer on the car that is good for one week and/or 100 miles, as long as you don't wreck it in the meantime.

Get the appraisal, immediately list it on Craigslist for that amount + 10%, and if you don't have a matching/better offer in 5-6 days sell it to Carmax.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really really despise craigslist and how annoying it's been for me in the past, but for some reason cars like this sell so fast on there.

A super nice piece of furniture all your friends have said they want for dirt cheap? Sits on there for months. A kinda beat up $1000 or less car? Some guy will show up who practically looks like an extra from The Borrowers and crawl around with a flashlight for a minute and pull out a huge pile of wrinkled up 20s.

I think it's a mix of people who will nurse a car like this along with junkyard parts indefinitely, people who just buy cheap cars and then junk them for scrap value when they fail, and people who part them or want an expensive part from your car for the one they already have. I have no real idea, but it works.
posted by emptythought at 2:17 PM on April 14, 2016

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