Selling an Old Car Isn’t Easy

Selling an Old Car Isn’t Easy

Old cars aren’t pretty, but they get the job done. We’ve all had an automobile in our lives that just kept on going, despite practically falling apart on the outside. This phenomenon can create a weird sense of fondness in us.

Still, there’s nothing quite as sweet as finally putting enough money together to upgrade your car to a newer model. Before you do that, you’re probably going to want to sell your old car. However, that’s not always easy to do. After all, if you want to be free of your old car, why would someone else want to purchase it?

Keep reading to find the keys to successfully selling your old car.

There’s really no other way to say it -- selling an old car is hard. There are a number of reasons for this.

Chief among them is the mileage and age of older automobiles. Buyers who are in the market for a new car are naturally going to prioritize options that they think will last longer. As mileage is one of the chief predictors of remaining engine life, it’s no wonder buyers avoid purchasing older cars.

There are a few other challenges you need to contend with while selling an old car. First, all cars are devalued after they’ve been purchased once. Prices continue to drop as the years go by and the miles add up. As the prices for all cars continue to lower, it becomes more and more challenging to get people interested in purchasing an older car.

Old cars are also more challenging to sell through traditional channels. Used car lots are typically much less interested in old cars than they are in newer ones. Although they may offer you some money for it, chances are it’s not going to be what you want. This means you may have to turn to private parties to sell your old car.

Given all of these challenges, you may start to feel like it’s not worth trying; that you should send your old car to the scrapyard and be done with it. Hold off on that for now. With the right process, you can find a buyer for even the oldest cars. You’ll learn more below.

Private sales vs. trade-ins

The two major pathways to selling your old car are private sales and trade-ins. Each offers its own benefits and drawbacks, which are discussed in the sub-sections below.

Private sale

A private car sale refers to a deal that happens between two parties, independent of any dealership. It’s an excellent way to sell your old car. One of the major benefits of private sales is their potential to fetch the best price for your automobile. Since there will be no dealer’s fees associated with the transaction, you’ll retain all of the proceeds.

That being said, private sales aren’t perfect. One of the downsides of these transactions is how hard they are to execute. You’ll have to handle the entire marketing and sales process on your own. This means taking attractive pictures of your old car, creating online listings, arranging test drives, answering questions, and more.

Put simply, private sales offer the potential for increased value with the downside of requiring more time and energy. If you care solely about getting the most money out of your old car, then a private sale would be your best option.


The other option you may be considering is trading in your car to a dealership. The pros and cons of this approach are essentially the opposite of what they were for private sales.

Trade-ins are one of the easiest ways to get money out of an old car. All you need to do is visit a used car lot, talk with a salesperson, and get your money. You won’t have to worry about a complicated marketing process or weeding out buyers who are hoping to scam you.

Of course, these sales come with downsides as well. Most importantly, trade-ins lower the amount of value you can actually get out of your old car. Dealerships need to get value out of the transaction somehow. That’s why they typically mark up used cars by an average of 15-20% over private sales.

Given their profit-driven motives, dealerships are inclined to offer you as little as possible for your old car. Private parties are too, but dealerships have unique costs associated with getting your car sold on their lot.

Which is better?

When looking to sell an old car, people often ask whether trade-ins or private sales are better. The truth is, neither option is inherently better than the other. Instead, the choice that’s right for you is going to come down to your personal preference.

Are you looking to maximize the dollar amount you get paid for your old car? If so, you’re going to want to sell your automobile to a private party.

Or, maybe you just want to be free from your old car and aren’t so concerned about squeezing every last ounce of value out of it. If that’s the case, your best option is going to be visiting a car dealership and signing up for a trade-in.

For the best results, consider both options carefully. Think about how much time and energy you would need to spend on a private sale. Then, try to put a value on that time and energy. If the increased amount of your final sale surpasses that value, then a private sale is the way to go. If it doesn’t, a trade-in would be a better option.

Clean up your old car to make it sellable

Regardless of which way you decide to sell your old car, you’re going to need to make it presentable before you do. One thing you should absolutely do before getting started with the sales process is take your old car to get detailed.

A good detailing job may cost around $50. However, it could increase its value by several hundred dollars. This makes the cost of cleaning services a smart investment that everyone should make. Your car detail should include an exterior wash and wax, interior vacuuming, window cleaning, and surface polishing at a minimum.

As you work towards getting your car ready for sale, you may also want to take the time to fix some of the cheaper problems it may have with its engine. Taking care of minor issues now could make buyers more confident in purchasing your vehicle and willing to pay a higher price for it.

Get the word out

Once your car is cleaned up and ready for sale, the next step is to get the word out about your vehicle. This is when you’ll create ads for your vehicle in various online and print publications.

Before you create these listings, you should make sure you’ve taken some excellent pictures of your old car. Pictures sell cars. Make sure you use a good camera, take pictures at the right time of the day, and offer a wide variety of angles. For the best results, we recommend taking the following photos of your old car:

  • Front three-quarter view
  • Rear three-quarter view
  • Side profile
  • Front
  • Rear
  • Interior
  • Close-ups of any interesting or appealing details

Once you’ve taken these pictures, you can begin thinking about how you want to talk about your old car in its listings. Here, you should make sure to mention your car’s key specs, why you’re selling it, and any issues it may have.

You can also make your old car stand out with a strong, detailed description. Talk about what you loved about the car and why you kept it for so long. You can also utilize keywords that appeal to buyers in your title and description. Doing these things can earn your listings much more attention than they would otherwise get.

Where can you sell your old car for the most money?

As you finalize the preparation process for selling your old car, your next question is probably about where you should list it. As discussed above, you’re going to be able to get the most money for an old car from a private sale. That means your search should center around platforms that allow you to connect with private buyers.

There are many different options to choose from here. You should list your car in a variety of places to garner the most attention for it. Options like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace will put you in direct contact with local buyers. However, you shouldn’t stop the process there.

Instead, you’ll also want to list your old car on marketplaces with a national focus. This is a list that includes, eBay Motors, CarGurus, and CarMax. However, be careful of the cost for listing your vehicle that some of these platforms charge. These fees can help you get your old car in front of more interested buyers, but also may cut into your profits if you’re not careful.Ultimately, the wider you list your old car, the more interested buyers you’ll attract. For the best results, we recommend focusing on private sales by listing your car on multiple online platforms. We at PrivateAuto, for instance, provide you with all the tools you need to sell your car on your own.

  • Dealer-like services in the palm of your hand.
  • List your car for free.
  • Keeps your private info safe - no sharing with strangers.
  • Free window brochure lets you advertise while you’re out and about.
  • State-specific documents you can complete and sign directly from the app.

Buy or sell a used car with PrivateAuto today.