Sell or Trade?

August 5, 2020

So you’ve decided to purchase a new car. What should you do with your old one? Should you go through the hassle of selling it yourself, or should you just take what the dealer is willing to offer and trade it in? Everyone has their own reasons, and there is a lot of advice already out there, but there are definitely some key things to keep in mind when making your decision.

First off, how old and in what kind of condition is your old car? If it is fifteen years old with 200,000 miles and sounds like the engine might give out any minute, then trade that thing in for whatever you can get. In fact, if it’s too rough, the dealer won’t even want it and you might be better off selling it to the local auto salvage yard.

But what if you have a decent, late model car with a lot of life left in it? This is where the decision gets a bit more complicated. Here are the factors that I consider when helping my clients determine what the best option might be:

Blue Book Value. The difference between private party and trade-in value can be several thousand dollars. That is a significant amount of money that could go toward your new car purchase. If you have a clean, well-maintained car, you will likely come out much further ahead by listing it for sale on your own.

Vehicle Modifications. Modifications such as aftermarket rims, lift kits, or towing equipment can add value for a potential buyer. Typically these items do not increase the value for trade-in however, and could actually make it less valuable, since a modified vehicle may be harder for a dealer to sell. In this case, selling your car yourself will most likely be the best way to go.

Time and effort. Taking photos and creating a listing isn’t very time consuming or difficult, but that is just the beginning of the process. Managing the listing, and meeting with strangers who may not actually be legitimate buyers are a couple of things that make people shy away from selling a vehicle on their own. 

Appearance and overall condition. If your car is in need of significant attention, it might be better just to trade it off and be done with it. The difference between trade in and private party values diminish if the car will require a lot of maintenance or repairs in order to make it ready for sale.

Popularity or desirability of the vehicle. Unpopular cars are not easy to sell, and it could take awhile before the right buyer comes along. In the meantime, the new car you have your heart set on might get sold out from under you. In this case, you might be better off taking the dealer’s trade-in offer.

Ultimately, the decision you make is a question of economics vs. convenience. It can be complicated to figure it all out, but you don’t have to make the decision completely on your own. Clarity Automotive Group is here to help you weigh all of the factors and make the best decision for your particular situation.

Clarity Automotive Group is your personal “Car Buying Advocate.” We assist our clients with navigating the complicated and often frustrating process of buying vehicles. We are based in Billings, Montana and also serve the surrounding areas of Bozeman, Miles City, Helena, Great Falls, and Lewistown, as well as Cody, Lovell, and Sheridan, Wyoming.

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