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How To Sell A Car? Dealership Trade In Or Selling Privately?

By Liam Houghton


Updated on

Dealership trade-in versus selling a car on your own

You were so happy when you bought your own car several years/months ago, but now you realize that it is no longer in trend, or that you bought it based on some momentary ambition, or, worse, something is broken and you don’t want to pump money in it for repairs. So, you are thinking about selling it. And here’s the big question: will you use a dealership trade-in service or will you sell it by yourself? So you must be thinking what’s the best option, how to sell my car? Is it going to be dealership trade in or selling privately? Let’s talk about it.

Trade In Vs Selling Car Privately
Trade In Vs Selling Car Privately


What are the pros and cons of each option?

How to sell a car is a tough question, but we’ll make it easy for you. First, you need to weigh in all the advantages and disadvantages of each possibility. Let’s take the situation in which you want to sell your car privately. What do you need? Time and patience first, because it won’t sell from day one. After you make the announcement public, it can take even months before one person contacts you.

Or maybe you’re one of the lucky sellers. Maybe, after all the effort you’ve put in to advertise and pimp it for the big sale, you’ll get loads of phone calls. That will eventually be followed by visits for car evaluation. However, not all the visitors will declare themselves satisfied by what the car has to offer. Especially if you’ve “omitted” to declare some of the problems.

Selling Your Used Car
Selling Your Used Car

The first thing you should do is post your ad on craigslist.com , cars.com , cargurus.com and if you are willing to spend a few dollars sign up with autotrader.com where you get a lot of traffic. Do make sure before putting up your ad that the price is right, check the price with KBB.com. Also take care of putting up HD pictures and a great description to make a professional car ad. Selling your car online is one of the easiest and best ways to reach your target audience, and if it’s a popular car brand that’s in high demand and is priced right, it will sell very quickly.

Nonetheless, in case the sale goes well, transactions can be performed without any wire or bank transfer. Use cash for most of the times, since that’s the best option and that’s one additional hassle you’ve eliminated.

Beware of scams

But, of course, as every advantage has its disadvantages, it so happens that many people are reluctant to contact other individuals for car purchases. Some transactions may give the impression that they are “under the table”, just as others remind of pure scams. There have been numerous cases of people scammed and robbed, especially due to purchasing their car online.


And tricks can occur on the side of the buyer as well. The so-called interested party decides to never show up for the purchase, in spite of tens of questions previously asked.

Working with a dealer is safer, for both buyer and seller

Working with a dealer has its advantages and its disadvantages. Negotiation may be possible with another individual, whereas with a dealer not that much. It’s a take it or leave it offer, many times, which you may be forced to accept. On the other hand, once the car is sold, no private seller will come back to you to emphasize potential car troubles. A sold car remains a sold car.

Nonetheless, scammers exist on the side of dealers as well. But a lot fewer, of course. Law suits can be devastating, so not many firms will take the risk of pretending to be something they aren’t.

Even on the side of buyers, cars presented for sale via a dealership trade-in are much more appealing, because they

  • offer post-sale maintenance (depending on the car price, of course)
  • are less technically risky (presumably, the dealer has done inspections on the car before putting it out for sale)
  • leave room for ulterior negotiations, should problems arise.

Working with a dealership trade-in can save time, but not money

Let’s look at another another case scenario. You’re thinking of using a dealership trade in service because you don’t want to be bothered with the selling hassle. Plus, you want to get rid of your car as quickly as possible. Once the car is taken in by the dealer, you immediately get your money. Which leaves you time to look for a new one. In case you don’t get money on the spot, the transaction will still be faster than selling to a private person, because people prefer dealers for purchasing used cars. Plus, you won’t be contacted by the dealership to ask for money to recondition your old car. Phew!

Money, Time, Value
Money, Time, Value

The main disadvantage with services such as these is that the dealership knows only one purpose: profit. One of the most common techniques to achieve it is by convincing you to sell him your car at a lower price, so that he can sell it to other buyers at a higher price than the one paid to you.

Therefore, you will gain less money than if you sold you car privately. Especially if your car has new amenities you’ve just added. A dealership will never take into account how much money you spent on maintaining you car.

At the same time, the foremost aspect that should be taken into account is that dealers have the possibility to help people get loans. Hence, your used car can more quickly be purchased by someone else. Trying to sell last year’s model of Land Cruiser all by yourself may leave you waiting for months in a row, whereas with a financially facilitated process via a dealerhip things can be different. Toyotas are known to maintain their high value, in spite of the many years they’d been used.

The dealer will take in your car and even offer additional warranty if the car is in impeccable state. So that’s another advantage to working with dealers.

A dealership trade-in will be quick to offer you…another car

That’s right! If the reason why you’re selling your car is to purchase a new one, the dealership trade-in may easily save you the trouble of selling and then buying. Only provided that they own the car you’re dreaming of buying.

If the option should arise, beware of appearing too enthusiastic when willing to perform the trade. Any agile dealer will notice that you’re eager to enter in possession of the new vehicle and will offer you very little money for the old one. You wouldn’t want to risk getting peanuts for it, would you?!

Last but not least, the legal aspect

Trading in to a dealership is definitely more legally reassuring than selling to a private individual. Once papers are signed, little may come in the way. On the side of a private owner, however, things are trickier. If they decide to change their mind, the contract you’ve signed is of no absolute value.

To conclude, when it comes to selling their car, many people would be inclined towards selling it privately, because they will gain some extra cash. On the other hand, such a transaction may take a while. So it’s up to you whether you want to save time or cash, but if you are not in a hurry we would recommend selling it to a private party. That way you can sell your car for cash, and easily sell your car online to make it easier for you. Hope we helped you get some knowledge on how to sell a car. Good luck on whatever decision you make! Let us know how it goes.

About Liam Houghton

Liam has been an automotive enthusiast probably since birth and grew up restoring classic cars with his dad. He still remembers the exact moment when his dad showed him the inner workings of an engine and learned how it works. Also an avid racing fan, especially when it comes to Formula 1, Liam has contributed a unique blend of insight into both the classic car brands and sports car segments on GCB since joining the team in 2016. Learn more about GCB's Editorial Process.