Have car, will travel one-way
February 11, 2008 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Can I sell my (out-of-state) car in Fairbanks, AK at a day's notice?

Hi all,

This summer, I am planning a long (4-8 weeks) trip to Alaska, its primary purpose being hiking, kayaking, photography, etc. I want to see several distinct parts of the state, but basically start off with sights in Kenai Peninsula and finish with a long spell in the Brooks Range up in the interior. This will be my first time to Alaska, and I am very much looking forward to the experience.

I am now trying to figure out the logistics of seeing all these different parts of a very large state. It seems that driving within AK is basically a must. I have two choices in the matter: fly into AK and rent a car, or bring my own. It would actually be fairly simple for me to bring my own, as I live in Seattle, and there is car ferry to Alaska I can take from Bellingham, WA. It would take a while, but I think it'd be a great experience going up the inside passage, taking photos, meeting people, etc. The only trouble is, my time is limited and I don't want to do this again on the way back. Nor am I especially enamoured with driving the car back down to Seattle - it's a long way, and I am sure I will already be quite sick of being in the car by that point.

This got me thinking: I have been meaning to buy a new (to me) car for a while now. The following thought has occurred to me: what if I took my own car up to AK, drove it around for the length of the trip, and then sold it before flying back home? I would not expect to get the top price for it, but I think it may still work out financially because: (a) I already set my mind on upgrading the car, (b) I would save at the very least $1000-1500 in car rental charges, and (c) I have enough Northwest/Alaska miles for a free plane ticket home. The only question is whether I'd realistically be able to find a place to sell my car to at a day or two's notice.

I am assuming that given the timeline, selling to a private party is out. I've never sold a car to a used dealership before. I don't even know whether they buy from consumers. Any advice or experience? FWIW, the car is a 95 subaru impreza, in less-than-ideal cosmetic condition, but running well. Would be realistic for me to sell it to a dealership for (say) Edmunds/KBB price minus $1000, with minimum haggling? Or not at all tenable? All thoughts are welcome - thanks!

P.S. The sale would have to happen in Fairbanks, as I will be staying there for the last couple of days of the trip with my girlfriend's family before flying out.
posted by blindcarboncopy to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
You will feel better if you give yourself a couple days to do it to be on the safe side, but the paperwork shouldn't take that long. Look at it this way: if you wanted to buy a car on the same day, then the dealer will make it happen. And, if you want to sell your car at a low enough price, the dealer will make it happen.
posted by cotterpin at 12:10 AM on February 12, 2008

If by KBB/Edmunds price you mean minimum trade-in value, then yes, absolutely this is a possibility. If you are hoping for top-dollar private-sale value, then keep hoping. I did this once -- I was leaving town and was in a hurry and had advertised my car but no one had bought it yet, so I went by the dealer that sold that brand and asked the manager who deals with used cars and trade-ins what he would give me for it. It was close enough to what I could have sold it to a person, and a thousand times more convenient, so I went for it.

But if your car is undesirable in some way (too old, too rusty, they just have too many on the lot) they might say "no thanks" -- they'll take anything as a trade-in, but they are pickier about what they will pay cash for, understandably.
posted by Forktine at 4:48 AM on February 12, 2008

Someone buying your car in Fairbanks will want a block heater. On the other hand, April-September Fairbanks tends to be warmer and is way drier than coastal towns. There's enough loose rock on or near roads that windshield and front damage is common, so cosmetic issues aren't big--just don't add to them by tailgating.
posted by gregoreo at 6:36 AM on February 12, 2008

One minor thought which may or may not apply to Alaska, but people in remoter, colder climates in Canada tend to worry much more about the running condition of their cars. If your car breaks down in Seattle, you might get a little wet. If your car breaks down in Northern BC, you might get dead.

That may affect the saleability of a used car in that market. I know where I grew up, most people tried to buy their new cars new, or very gently used, even ones who didn't otherwise seem like the type to buy new cars.

On the other hand, a used car that doesn't have several Alaska winters on its track record might be considered unusually desirable, since winter is so hard on cars.

If you're staying with your girlfriend's family, can you/she ask them what the used car market looks like in Alaska? They might even be willing/able to help arrange a private sale if they happen to know someone who is looking.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on February 12, 2008

The value of a 1995 Subaru Impreza in less-than-ideal cosmetic condition is about $1,000. Give or take a hundred or so.

Also, most dealerships probably won't touch a car that old.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2008

It should be super easy to sell a running Subaru in AK. Triple A Subaru in Anchorage would definitely do it for you, maybe call them and ask if they have a branch in Fairbanks or can recommend someone. AFAIK there is only one dealership and they're in Anchorage.

Block heaters are cheap and easy to install, don't worry about getting one, the new owner will do that.
posted by fshgrl at 8:49 AM on February 12, 2008

Which isn't to say you couldn't sell it - 'tis true an AWD will be an easy sell in Alaska. But you'll probably have to do a private sale, through craigslist, etc.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:02 AM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: I lived in Fairbanks for 7 years until I moved to Anchorage last summer. I have never sold a car in less than a week in Fairbanks.

Subarus are well-loved in Fairbanks. They are durable and can handle the cold weather and icy roads just fine. There are also a ton of them for sale, but if yours is in tip-top condition then it might sell. It would go quicker at a dealer, but you won't get much money for it. You could get more with a private sale, but Fairbanksans don't usually like to make deals that quickly.

There are three kinds of people that live in Fairbanks: military families, college students, and long-timers. Military families tend to buy brand new cars, college students want something cheap but they won't really be in town during the summer, and long-timers buy a little bit of everything. And long-timers don't like to be rushed.

But have you calculated the cost of taking your car on the ferry? I used to work for the Alaska Marine Highway System, and bringing a vehicle on the ferry can get pretty expensive, especially if you plan on taking it from Bellingham all the way to Seward. Bellingham to Haines used to be around $800 for a car. It might be more cost-effective to rent a car or even buy a really cheap beater for the time you're in state.

But then again, I have some contacts up there as well as in the rest of the state. My email is in my profile if you still want to pursue this, and I can see what I can do to help.
posted by rhapsodie at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: Forgot to add: as for dealerships, you should contact one in Fairbanks and ask them how feasible it is to sell your car in a short period of time. Try Affordable Used Cars - I've had great dealings with them over the years both in buying cars and trading mine in. Their site looks down now, so here is their contact info:

Affordable Used Cars
2525 S Cushman St, Fairbanks, AK 99701
907.452.5707 - 877.811.4235
posted by rhapsodie at 12:38 PM on February 12, 2008

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