Is it Better to Sell a Car Privately or Trade it in?

It would be nice if we could give you a straightforward answer, but there are several factors that you will want to consider in order to make the best decision for your circumstances. We will list a few of those factors along with a tip or two to help you get the best price possible.

What To Do First

No matter what you do in life you want to arm yourself with knowledge. In this case, you want to know what a good price for your car is: both to a private buyer and as a trade-in. There are two major resources to search out. The first is probably the premier name in car values: Kelley Blue Book. Their website,, is easy to use and you will be quickly prompted through the process. Another well known resource for used car values is This site is also easy to navigate; however, the values given differ somewhat from those on Kelley. If you average the two values, you will have a good starting point for price negotiations.

Making The Deal

Alright, you have a price in mind, now you have to make sure you get it or close to it. You will want to start by setting an asking price that is at least 10 percent higher than you want. For example, if you want $5,000, you will want to ask at least $5,500. The goal of setting a buffer amount of 10 percent or more is to allow for negotiations that will satisfy both parties.

Which will you pay more for: a dirty car that you can imagine in better shape or a car that is shining in the sun and has a super clean interior? You will want to detail the car to the best of your ability before putting a for sale sign in it.

Lastly, look the car over carefully. Do you see any puddles from leaks, large dents, fading paint, bald tires, worn hoses, etc. If you see them, a potential buyer may and a person appraising a car for trade-in definitely will. All of these items will be used to get you to lower your price. Prepare yourself by rehearsing an answer and steeling yourself to stick to your price, or budge grudgingly.

What Next

With a value in your hand, it is time to exam yourself. Are you willing to be tied down for awhile? Can you tolerate the “lookie-lou’s” who will inundate you before a buyer comes along? Do you feel comfortable having strangers visit your home to exam the car? If you still owe money on the car, do you know how to clear the title so the new owner can take possession? If so, then you are good-to-go to sell the car yourself. If not, then it might be time to head to the dealership to trade the vehicle in.

Well, after these few tips, the answer to the original question ”is it better to sell a car privately or trade it in” is still up in the air. In general, you will get a better price by selling a car privately, especially the older a car is. You need to be prepared for the fact that you could be inundated with people who are just ”looking,” making the whole process tedious and frustrating.