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Should I Trade in My Car or Sell It Privately?

At some point in your driving career you’ve probably asked yourself: Should I sell my used car privately, or trade it in to a dealership?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. When you sell a used car you’re obviously looking for the best deal possible, and selling and trading in can both be a good choice under the right circumstances.

While trading it in to a dealer can be more convenient, you have may more control over the process when you handle the details on your own. Ask yourself – are you a good salesperson? Is your used car in good condition? There are many things to consider, but these facts can make the choice more clear.

Should I trade in my car to a dealership?

Trading in your vehicle to a dealership can be more convenient, but that convenience can come at a cost. Working with professionals can move things along quickly as established dealerships have much more bargaining power. In some cases, they may also have higher standards when it comes to which offers they’ll accept and which they won’t.

The first step to trading in a vehicle is visiting a dealership to have the car examined. They’ll consider many factors in determining the vehicle’s trade-in value, using a combination of expertise, tools and resources available to licensed dealers. A trade-in is just what it sounds like – you are trading your current vehicle for a new(er) one – and the amount that you get for your current used car will go towards the car you’re getting next.

You may not be offered as much money for your car if you trade it in as you could by selling it privately, but the process can be faster and easier. The reason dealerships drive a hard bargain is because they account for every scratch, dent, and scuff on the vehicle. Every one of these imperfections translates to higher costs for the dealer to get that car ready for re-sale, and dealerships make sure to account for these expenses before approving a trade-in. Remember that dealerships also have overhead costs to consider that private sellers do not – like rent, utilities and staffing.

Depending on where you live, trading your car in to a dealer can also earn you significant tax savings on your replacement vehicle – check out what the regulations are in your province.

Should I consider a private car sale?

Car sales can seem complicated, especially for private buyers and sellers. Handling your sale on a person-to-person basis means more freedom, but also more responsibility, time and effort.

Car dealerships handle all the required contractual and legal processes when selling or trading in a vehicle. When you’re buying and selling privately, you’ll have to handle these responsibilities yourself. This also makes you potentially liable if something goes awry with the transaction. Every province has different regulations on how to close a sale – we’ve outlined everything you need to consider here.

It’s important to remember that a big part of handling private car sales efficiently is preparing yourself beforehand. You should be transparent with buyers about the car’s condition and your asking price. Sites like Kijiji or AutoTRADER are great places to start researching how much you should ask for your vehicle, and offer solutions to help you market your used car to potential buyers.

If you can handle the added accountability of getting everything in order, you may be able to get more money out of your car than you would by trading in.

How to prepare for private car sales

If you’re working with the dealership, they’ll usually find and gather all the information needed before making a deal. Private buyers may be a bit more hesitant if all the important information isn’t made readily available – they want to make sure that no surprises arise once they get the car home (here’s some info on common surprises they’re watching out for). Getting a CARPROOF Vehicle History Report solves that problem and gives you the advantage of having reliable information ready for the buyer to use to inform their decision.

If the dealer pinpoints the car’s trade-in value at a number that’s not ideal to you, you may want to consider a private sale that could get you more money. The value of a vehicle can depend on various factors including its accident history, maintenance schedule and age. Setting the right price for your used car is the first step to an easy sale. For tips on how to price your car, click here.

The next step to selling your car quickly is to post information and photos that make the car look and sound attractive. This means including a detailed description, clear photos and information about its value – does it come with winter tires? List any added features or highlights like extra warranty or newly installed parts.

Everyone likes to feel like they came out on top when buying or selling a used car, and for some that means trading in to a dealership, and for some that means selling privately. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each option to determine the right move for you.