How I Safely Sold My Car

I wanted to sell my car (to live car-free) but wasn’t sure how to do it.  I hesitated to sell it through Craigslist, Autotrader, Ebay, or newspaper classified ads.  These methods require you to field phone calls from strangers, and then have those strangers come to your house.  Then you need to trust that they’ll safely test-drive it, and trust that the check they give you will be good.  These things were concerning to me and I imagine also to busy people, single parents, elderly folks, or anyone concerned with time, safety, or privacy.

I decided to take my car (a low-mileage 1997 Honda CR-V) to four local new and used car dealerships and ask if they wanted to buy it and how much they’d offer.  I called around first to make sure each place actually bought used cars.

I started at 10 a.m. and was done by 2:30 p.m.   At each place I was straightforward about what I was doing, letting them know I was taking it to various dealers and asking for their highest offer.  They typically had a mechanic check it out, then conferred with managers.  They all noted that Kelly Blue Book values were their starting point, but the offers varied quite a bit:

  • $1650.  CarMax
  • $800.  Honda dealer
  • $2300.  Toyota dealer
  • $1250.  Used car buyer

It was funny that the Honda dealer gave me the lowest offer by far. 

I drove my Honda CR-V back to the Toyota dealer, who had the highest offer, sold it them, and they cut me a check right away.  I’d only visited dealers near a bus stop, so was able to hop on a bus, and start my car-free life.

This was a completely safe and fast way to sell a car.  I probably could have gotten as much as double the amount by directly selling it to an individual, but this way it was fast, safe, and easy - worth so much to me.