Two men shake hands over car sale.

Where Can I Sell My Car For The Most Money?

Hanna Kielar5-minute read
April 05, 2022

Share:

The automotive industry is changing rapidly to meet the needs of car shoppers and sellers who are pinched for time, money or maybe a bit of both. Unless you’re trying to sell a junk car, you need to know the three main places that buy cars:

  1. Dealerships
  2. Online car dealers
  3. Individual private parties

In order to decide where to sell your car for the most money, while costing you the least amount of time and effort, take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

What's your car worth?

Get a great offer on your car, instantly.

Best Place To Sell A Used Car For The Most Money

Winner: Sell To A Private Party

There’s no doubt that selling your vehicle to a private party will generate the most cash for your car. The question here is: How soon do you need that cash? Going this route is the most time-consuming option available to you.

That said, if you’ve got plenty of time and are short on cash, selling privately will garner you the most cash.

What To Expect

There are a few time-consuming steps you need to take to sell your car without professional help.

  1. Contact your lienholder. If you’re trying to sell a car with a lien, you’ll need to talk to your lender, since you technically don’t own the car on the title. This can get especially tricky with private sales.
  2. Download your vehicle history report. There are plenty of sites that will sell you your vehicle history report for a fee with just your vehicle identification number (VIN). You should check for errors on the report before prospective buyers disqualify your car.
  3. List your car. Potential buyers want to see clear, high-quality images of a vehicle online, along with service records, a vehicle history report and any service warranties included in the cost of the vehicle.
  4. Schedule test drives. Be prepared for your schedule to fill up with coordinating test drives with potential car buyers. Depending on the quality of local listings, you may get interest far and wide.
  5. Gather your documents. There is quite a bit of paperwork needed to sell your car privately, including your title, a bill of sale and an odometer disclosure to release your liability with your local motor vehicle authorities.
  6. Conduct a secure transaction. There’s always a risk accepting a large sum of money in exchange for the keys to your car. While the majority of private sales are legitimate, there are professional scam artists to stay away from.

When you look up how much your car is worth using an online tool like Kelley Blue Book, you’ll see several value options. Private party values are always the highest because you’re skipping a third-party transaction.

 

PROS

CONS

●      Most profitable

●      Most time-consuming

●      Responsible for all legal paperwork

●      Least secure financial transaction

●      Price negotiation likely

Most Convenient Place To Sell A Used Car

Winner: Sell To A Dealer

When you sell to a dealer, you have the opportunity to use the sale as a down payment on a trade-in vehicle. That means you can sell your old car and drive off in a new car the same day — without visiting the DMV.

If you want to find out how much a dealership will likely pay for your car, take a look at the trade-in Kelley Blue Book Value. It’ll be less than a private party value since the dealership must pay overhead costs and still turn a profit on the deal. Essentially, you’re tipping the scales to save the most time and get cash quickly.

There’s an easy way to find out if that’s worth it to you. Take the difference between the listed private party value and trade-in value. Ask yourself if that sounds like a reasonable amount to pay to a dealership for the convenience of completing all the DMV paperwork, paying off any existing auto loans, the security of a safe transaction and, ultimately, offloading the continued cost to own your vehicle.

For example, Kelley Blue Book estimates a 2016 Toyota Prius C to have a $13,732 trade-in value and a $14,866 private party value. Would you rather do the work of selling to a private party for an additional $1,134 or sell to a dealership as quickly as possible?

What To Expect

Here’s how trading in a car works:

  1. Find a new car that fits your budget. This indisputably fun step comes with some financial health homework. If you plan on financing your next car, make sure you get preapproved for an auto loan to help filter your options.
  2. Get an appraisal of your current car's resale value. While Kelley Blue Book offers a standard range of value, the true resale value of your car depends on its condition, mileage, accident history, ownership history and much more. The dealership will have professional appraisers determine the true value of your car.
  3. Compare dealer offers. You don’t have to accept your first offer. Take your car in for appraisal at several other dealerships to build your arsenal of negotiation tools.
  4. Let the dealership handle the rest. This is the part where you wait for the dealership to handle all the DMV, title and lien paperwork for the sale. If you have a loan, the dealer will pay off your loan in full (assuming you don’t owe more on the car than it’s worth).

 

PROS

CONS

●      Most convenient

●      No DMV paperwork

●      Can be completed in a single day

●      Secure transaction

●      Trade-in option

●      Price negotiation likely

●      Less value compared to a private party sale

What's your car worth?

Find out the value of your vehicle, instantly.

Fastest Place To Sell A Used Car

Winner: Sell Your Car Online With An Instant Cash Offer

It’s easier than ever to sell your car online. If you want to sell your car quickly, several auto retailers can offer instant cash offers for your vehicle within minutes. You just fill out a questionnaire that will ask you about the interior, exterior and mechanical condition of the car, its mileage, trim level and modifications. Within minutes, you have an instant cash offer.

Instead of taking your car to various dealerships to get appraised, you can compare instant cash offers from your phone. You won’t get the same value as you would selling to a private party, or maybe even a dealership, but you also don’t necessarily have to leave your house.

Once you accept the offer, many major retailers will simply send a flatbed truck to your house to pick up the car.

What To Expect

It’s truly so simple – just three easy steps.

  1. Fill out an online form that offers information about your car. The form will likely also ask for your contact information, like a phone number and email address.
  2. Get an instant cash offer. The next browser window or email will tell you how much the retailer is willing to pay for your car, sight unseen. The offer will only be valid for a certain number of days and additional miles.
  3. Schedule your pickup. Once you accept the offer, the retailer will offer some pick up window times and transfer the cash to your lender and/or your bank account. Voila!

 

PROS

CONS

●      Online convenience

●      Secure transaction

●      Haggle-free

●      Don’t have to leave your house

●      Less value compared to private party sales

The Bottom Line: Time Is Money

Now that you understand the pros and cons of each place to sell a car, it’s time to do your research. We suggest finding out how much your car is worth in each of these scenarios: in a private sale; in either a straight sale to a dealer or as a trade-in for a new car; and as an online instant cash sale. Then, ask yourself how much the time, convenience and cash are worth to you.

What's your car worth?

Get a great offer on your car, instantly.

Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.