My little 2003 Mini Cooper appears to be on its last legs. It is headed to the shop for the third time in four weeks, which makes me about 80% sure that it is time for a new car. (Or at least a newish one.) My husband is also ready for new wheels. We even agree on what type of car to buy – a Mini Countryman – we gave up on buying an electric car. The countryman has enough room for adults to sit in the back seat, so on the odd occasion when all four of us need to drive in the Mini, we’ll fit. What my husband and I vehemently disagree on is whether we should trade in our Mini at the dealer or sell it to a private party.
Should we trade in our old car or sell ourselves?
I have never traded in a car at the dealer. I loathe car salesmen because of their infamous sales tactics. Even knowing my friend outsmarted her car salesmen is not enough to drag me onto the dealer lot. A huge part of me wants to avoid buying a new car simply because I do not want to get swindled by a new car salesman.
We would also net about $1,300 more if we sell to a private party.
The car is worth about $2,674 if we trade it in, according to Kelly Blue Book. If we sell it ourselves, it’s worth about $3,974. So if we trade in our car, we get less money for our old car, and pay more money for a new car. (Buying a brand new car is always more expensive than buying a slightly used car.) That’s what I call a lose-lose situation.
But my husband has good reasons for trading it in.
He doesn’t want to sell the car himself. With two little ones, our free time is a precious commodity. Spending weekends and evenings emailing potential buyers, setting up appointments to see the car, and haggling over price is his idea of a very bad time. Even if I handled the price negotiations, which I relish because I use these proven negotiating tactics, he’s not interested in making the time commitment to selling the car himself, which I estimate would take about 15-20 hours.
How long does it take to sell a car yourself?
1 hour cleaning the car
30 minutes taking pictures of the car
2 hours writing the listing and publishing it on multiple sites (craigslist, cars.com, carmax.com etc)
10+ hours responding to potential buyers, setting up appointments to see the car
3+ hours showing the car to potential buyers
We’re already up to 16.5 hours.
So here’s my dilemma. We both have our own cars. Should I just let him deal with his car the way he wants? And if I want to take the time to sell mine (when the time comes) to a private party, then I can do it my way?
I hate the fact that we’d lose about $1,300 trading our car in, not to mention the higher price we’d pay for a new car at the dealer. I wish he would do it my way because of the money we’d save, but I can’t force this on him without a LOT of fights and tension. But if I’m not willing to take on the work, is it fair of me to insist that my husband do it my way?
What if we set a fair dollar amount that we can both spend on a new car, then add to that pot whatever we get for our old cars? That way, we are rewarded for getting a higher sale price for our old cars.
It’s his car let him do it his way. I assume you and he are generally on the same page when it comes to finances so if he thinks it’s not worth the time and hassle, he’s probably right. For me personally, I would grudgingly go the trade in route for both the hassle and safety factors. There are too many stories of Craig’s list (in particular) type deals becoming deadly. Have you tried Carmax for a quote? In the past I have found they offered a fair blue book price. There is no negotiation and the offer is good for 7 days and a certain amount of miles. You can take that to the dealer to compare.
Bargain Babe says
@Kathy I suppose you’re right. Everybody’s idea of saving money is different. For some, putting in the extra time doesn’t make sense. I’ve bought cars from private sellers and always had them checked out by my mechanic before I bought. One time, a car selling for $5,500 needed $1,500 worth of work. I told the seller I’d give him $4,000 or he could do the work, and he walked away. I’d never buy a car without taking it to a mechanic first.
Thanks for the tip on Carmax. Having a quote is a great way to negotiate with the dealer. They know you can walk away and still buy the car you want at the price you want – from someone else!
Trading in is easier and safer. Don’t let the dealer try to up the price of the car by upping the trade in value (i.e. $10,000 new car, $1,000 trade-in becomes $12,000 new car with $3,000 trade-in) because you’ll end up paying more in taxes to make his/her sales figures look good. Negotiate the price of the car without the trade in, then bring up the car to trade in.
Find on old episode of Designing Women where they are buying a new van for really good tips. It is one of the later season shows.
If you sell by yourself check the drivers license of anyone test driving the car to make sure that they are licensed because if they aren’t and they get into an accident during the test drive, your insurance will not cover you, Some states i.e. CA require that a smog check be done within a certain period before the sale of a vehicle. Also, get the forms from DMV for car ownership transfer and don’t forget to fill them out and file them with the DMV and keep copies. It will help protect you in case the buyer doesn’t register the car.
Bargain Babe says
@Myke You know a lot about buying and selling cars!!! This is extremely helpful, thank you. I heart the BargainBabe community!!! We have to do a bit more research on buying a new (used) car before we are ready. There is one at the dealer that suits our needs, but they are asking $2,000 more than it’s worth. Nothing like a little healthy negotiation to get your blood flowing!!
I’ll let you know how it turns out, and thanks again for the tips.
Evie K. says
In the past, I have done it both ways, but I realized that it wasn’t worth the hassle of selling it myself. True, you are getting a bit less money, but it is time saving.
As far as getting a new (or slightly used) car, I would suggest before you go to the dealership do an online search. Most dealerships now have their own websites where you can see what their inventory is and what they are asking for the cars online. When we went to go get my daughter a car I did this and found that the car that she wanted the online price was $1,900 lower than the sticker price when we got to the dealership. I was able to bargain them down underneath that lower price as well.
I would recommend not going to CarMax. Just saw on 20/20 how they aren’t completely honest about their cars if they have been in an accident or need repairs.
Bargain Babe says
@Evie. K I assumed the dealer would have the same price online as on the lot, but I suppose they know that if someone is checking prices online, then they are doing their research.
Oh vey! It’s going to take a few hours of research just to get ready to buy a car from the dealer!
PS. As for CarMax, there are a few places you can get a VIN report on a used car. Plus, if you ask the private seller enough questions, you’ll get a sense if they are telling the whole truth and if they are selling the car for shady reasons.
I’d rather ‘waste’ some time, than dealing with the car salesman. I mean even 1500 bucks is quite some money, come to think of it. Why leave it on the table to someone?
You’ll have to clean / prepare the car anyway. Then create a template for the car ad and just copy-paste it where needed. If the pics are good, customers will see exactly if it’s worth their time, so they’ll only call if they’d be really interested.
Anyway .. keeping fingers crossed 🙂
Bargain Babe says
@Dojo Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I agree! It’s a lot of money to walk away from. I enjoy doing things myself, especially if it means I’m saving a bundle. But as Kathy also pointed out, it is his car and he deserves a degree of autonomy when it comes to selling it. We are still debating – in a friendly way – what to do. First we have to get all the repairs done, clean it again, then we’ll be ready to sell or trade it in.
Will keep you all posted!
NPR had a great segment on a few weeks ago about how car dealerships work. First they make a whole lot more on used cars than on new cars. In fact it seems that most dealerships only make money on new cars if they sell the target number that the manufacturer sets for them for that month and get the bonus payment for making the quota. The piece showed the scramble and the below cost deals that the dealer made in the last 2 or 3 days of the month just to get to that quota. After listening to that I will do any new car shopping in the future during the last 3 days of the month. January and February are some of the best months to buy cars so your timing is good.
Let’s put the $1500 in perspective. Minis are relatively expensive vehicles, almost twice the cost of the similarly sized Hyundai hatchback calling itself a crossover SUV. If getting as much for his vehicle as he possibly could and buying the least expensive vehicle in that size range to replace it were really the object of the exercise you would not be looking at anything made by Mini. Set a budget for money coming out of joint accounts for the new vehicle and a limit on how much you would be willing to borrow then let him deal with his car. Trying to control a spouse is never a good idea unless you want to spend that $1500 on marriage counseling.
Bargain Babe says
@Jennifer I heard that NPR segment, too! It was fascinating. I couldn’t believe how much the managers were at odds with their own salesmen and vice versa. It was truly cutthroat! Maybe we should wait until the last few days of the month to go, except we just found a Mini in the model we want with low mileage that is below KBB. Asking lots of questions to find out why in particular this car is priced slightly low, about $1,000 less than you would expect.
Perhaps we should look at other cars. The Mini is more expensive because it is higher quality and you’re paying for the branding. It also is incredibly fun to drive. I’ll take a look at similar cars to get a sense of the Mini premium. Dollars speak very loudly to me! 🙂
Please share what you ultimately decide, BB.
Bargain Babe says
@Diane I will let you know what we do. I thought my husband was ready to get a Mini Countryman, which has much more legroom and performs well on the safety tests (4.5 out of 5 according to US News and World Report). But he decided against a test drive of one in our budget and so now I’m letting him take the reins. We’re looking at other makes and models, thanks to another reader who pointed out we could get a similar car for less money. I don’t think he’s made up his mind what he wants. And now that the car is working again, it takes the pressure off of us.
@BB ~ I’m glad you’re checking for safety–what could be more important? But you should be checking the crash tests done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) AND the Insurance Institue for Highway Safety (IIHS). Their results do not corroborate what US News and World Report states. That publication does not do the actual testing. Also, studies have shown that the Mini has a poor repair record among some other negatives.
Years ago I wrote you that I lusted for one of those cute cars, but one reason we didn’t buy one (in addition to not needing it!) was the foregoing.
Whatever car you select, check out those two invaluable resources!