Selling a beater In These Times
August 3, 2021 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I understand that the used car market is wild at the moment. What, if anything, does that mean for a car that in normal times is probably worth like $200?

So until recently, I was still driving this car. The day has finally come when I gotta offload it. In normal life I would truly just donate it because IMO it is worth genuinely nothing, but is there any chance I could get a worthwhile sum of money as a trade-in or private sale, given the current car shortage?

It's a 2006 Camry, 185k miles, a dent in one side (though it's never created any problems or impacted anything), and needs one new tire and about $1500 worth of repairs for it to be safe to drive. (You can drive it, I drove it yesterday, but it's certainly not a good idea to count on it.) Like, this is not a great car! If donating it is still my best option, I will, but like I said everything is wild right now so I thought I'd check first.

What say you?
posted by goodbyewaffles to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The used car market is hot because there's a lack of new cars. So for a used car to get crazy prices it needs to be a viable alternative to a new car. Cars just coming off a 3-year lease, for example, are going to command very good prices. I'm afraid a 15 year-old high mileage beater will not.

What I would do is to try a private sale to someone that either has the time, money and skills to fix the car, or someone that just doesn't care. See if anyone on Craigslist is selling something similar and see what they're asking. You're selling a Toyota so that's a big plus. But be honest about the condition.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:50 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Well, what is "a worthwhile sum of money" to you? This will be different for everyone.

Several years ago I sold a 20 year old Rav4 in undrivable condition for $600 cash via Craigslist. It was a few hours of headache (texting back and forth with potential buyers, meeting people). I listed it for $900 and was expecting about half, so I was quite pleased with $600. The radiator was cracked, it could not be driven. Plus a host of other issues.

If you want to go that route, take multiple clear photos and be excruciatingly honest about the condition of the vehicle in your post. Only accept cold hard cash money, block anyone who is being annoying to talk to, promise yourself if it's not sold by x day for y dollars, you'll just donate it.

For me, the value for my time put into my craigslist sale was worthwhile.
posted by phunniemee at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, what is "a worthwhile sum of money" to you?

Carvana says they'll take it for $200 and that would be fairly painless, but if I could get, say, $400 for a few hours of work, I'd definitely take it. I guess it's proportional to effort, but as you say setting a boundary for yourself in advance is a good idea.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:59 PM on August 3, 2021

I’d probably see what a dealership would give me if I just drove up and if it was something like $400 just take it.

If anyone is buying a $200 car off of Craigslist I figure they need it badly enough that they can just have it.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:03 PM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

If your time is of no value, sell it on Craigslist.

Otherwise take it to Carmax/Carvana. They'll give you an offer after (literally, not kidding) a 5 minute inspection. Take it or leave it. If you accept the offer there is an hour or two of paperwork and waiting around. Bring a book or your phone.
posted by caek at 2:11 PM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I sold a flooded out, still drove through some Japanese manufacturing miracle but all the electrical was a disaster and the upholstery was ruined, 2005 Camry for $500 to the auto repair guy I’d originally had it towed to in 2019. There’s no harm in putting it on Craigslist or whatever with total honestly about its issues and seeing what happens.
posted by MadamM at 2:37 PM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

You should be able to get more than $200 for an ‘06 Camry, dent or no dent. Regardless of needing work. Even with 186k miles on it. List it on Craigslist for $1000 OBO. It’ll sell quick. I sold my over-ten-year-old 2001 Nissan Maxima, with over 400k miles on it, for a grand. Cash.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:11 PM on August 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

I have been looking casually for a backup commuter car on Craigslist for awhile, and in my judgement the cars being offered in the $1,500-$2,000 range right now are in the same shape they were in a couple of years ago. I think JoeZydeco is right: Prices are climbing for nearly new cars, not tired old ones.

I would be inclined to put your car on Craigslist for, say, $750 or best offer. Describe it honestly, but in terms of specific problems that you/your mechanic have identified, not your mechanic's estimate that it "requires $1,500 to be safe." Many buyers will trust their own evaluation of that over what your mechanic told you (and some may be looking for parts for their own 2006 Camry and won't be planning to repair at all). If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but if it does, you'll have a bit of money and someone who may really need a super-cheap car right now, and knows how to hold it together, may be sleeping more soundly.
posted by gum at 7:58 PM on August 3, 2021

You know, maybe I was wrong. For kicks I did a quick search on Craigslist in my area (Chicagoland) and there are a bunch of 06s going for $3000-$6000 with just as many miles as you.

You might be the right seller to a used car lot that needs inventory and is willing to spend the $1500 to make it resellable AND make a profit. People need cars in that price bracket too.

I think you could list at $1999 and let them talk you down a significant amount, like 1250-1750. If not, Carmax ahoy! (Although they will certainly send it right to an auction)
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:12 PM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

This probably depends on where you are. I just sold a very clean but >200,000 mile, 14 year old SUV for $6000 cash. I asked $7500 and had someone willing to buy it for $6750 if I got a mechanic’s inspection, but then another person looked at it for ten minutes and wanted it. I didn’t want to wait longer/risk losing cash in hand, but I’d definitely search for what similar cars are listed for on Craigslist/local Facebook groups. It might surprise you. I will say it’s an interesting experience - be prepared for a lot of weird emails.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 10:27 PM on August 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just sold a solid running 2003 Civic with 190k miles and rust issues for…. $3000. Last year i might have gotten $1500 for it. Even beaters are going fast for crazy money right now. The person who paid $3000 told me they’d been looking for a reliable beater with a stick shift and found almost nothing. They considered my price a bargain. I probably could have held out for more.
posted by spitbull at 5:57 AM on August 4, 2021

Can I ask for a clarification? Those of you who say you sold your cars for cash: do you mean actual physical folding paper money?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:02 PM on August 4, 2021

Yup, dead presidents only. Period. For every craigslist transaction.

Weeds out rampant scammers and someone who's serious about buying what you're selling won't care if they need to stop at an ATM.
posted by phunniemee at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: WELL after all this, I learned yesterday from the carfax that this car had a salvage title before it came into my possession, which will add an extra challenge. (What a thing to learn after owning a car for seven years!) Thank you all for your help!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:33 PM on August 5, 2021

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