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How to Sell Car to Dealer: Is it a Good Idea? + 5 Actionable Tips

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A Step-by-step Guide to Sell a Car to a Dealer


Selling a car to dealerships is one of the best ways to get cash for your old car. However, it might be confusing for many people.

  1. Know Your Vehicle’s Worth
  2. Make Sure All Paperwork is in Order
  3. Find Dealerships in Your Area
  4. Get Your Car “Showroom Ready”
  5. Arrive at the Dealership
  6. Close the Deal

Now let’s go through the process step-by-step so you can confidently sell your car to your local dealership.

Step 1: Know Your Vehicle’s Worth

The very first thing before you visit the dealership is to understand your car’s worth. Simply do the market research by visiting online marketplaces like Craigslist, eBay Motors, or local dealership websites and check how much similar cars are sold for. 

The dealer will appraise your car before offering you a quote for it, but knowing its worth in advance would let you negotiate the best deal.

Step 2: Make Sure All Paperwork is in Order

Once you know your car’s value, you should make sure you have all the required documentation necessary for performing a sale in your state.

Note that different states may have slightly different laws and require different paperwork. 

However, here’s the list of documentation you’ll definitely be required to present:

  • The car title
  • Car registration
  • Car insurance
  • Any other documents the dealership may need

Step 3: Find Dealerships in Your Area

After you’ve collected all the necessary paperwork, it’s time to start searching for car dealerships in your area. Find at least 5 or 6 dealerships that you’re interested in selling your car to. 

Quote: Pro tip: If you have a Toyota car, for example, call a few of the Toyota dealerships in your area. If you have a Ford vehicle, contact the Ford dealership. And so on…

You can also contact private dealerships that accept any brands.

Step 4: Get Your Car “Showroom Ready”

You know your car’s worth, have all the paperwork in order, and already sourced some of the best dealerships in your area. Good. Now it’s time to get your car ready, in other words, get your car “showroom ready”. 

This step is crucial because the better your car looks, the more appealing it is to any buyer, including the dealership.

Here’s how to get your car looking at its best for the sale:

  1. Depersonalize your car. Realizing it or not, we all personalize our cars. Some people use the car as a “second home” and store their belongings there, while others like to add some decorations and stickers to make the car more personal. But before you sell your car, it’s a good idea to remove everything that you’ve added to your car, including the air freshener. The more neutral the car is, the better it looks to the buyer.
  2. Fix any dents and imperfections that you can.
  3. Wash your car on the outside and vacuum the inside. Depending on the condition of your car, you may also want to get your car detailed. Remember, your car has to be neat and clean.

Step 5: Arrive at the Dealership

As soon as you’ve got your car “showroom ready”, you can visit dealerships you’ve collected during the 3rd step of this guide.

Quote: If the dealer doesn’t offer you a free appraisal right away, ask if they provide one. 

Once you arrive at the dealership, simply notify the salesperson who greets you that you’re there to sell your car. The salesperson will then direct you to see the used-car manager with whom you can negotiate the deal and sell your car.

Quote: Pro tip: If you’re selling your old car in order to buy a new one, chances are you can find a good deal in the same dealership or even trade-in your older car for the newer one.

While the manager is gathering information about your car and deals with the paperwork, the mechanics will run an inspection.

There’s a chance that you can take care of the inspection the same day you initially walk into the dealership. But depending on their availability, you may have to come back the next day.

After the dealer checks everything they need, it’s time to get your offer.

Step 6: Close the Deal

If you’re happy with the offer, you can agree on it and start completing the paperwork. 

In case you have your car title and other necessary documents on hand, you could get a check the same day.  Though, some dealerships take as long as 24 to 48, depending on their availability.

5 Tips to Sell Car to Dealership


Be Realistic

Most of us describe (or even see) our belongings as the best things. And cars aren’t the exception. No matter how good you think your car is, step outside of yourself and evaluate its condition from a potential buyers’ perspective.

Ask yourself this: is everything working the way it should? If not, take your car to the professional who will fix whatever’s not working well.

It’s also a good idea to get a professional mechanical inspection. Maybe there are some fixes to be done that you don’t know about?

Find a Dealer That is a Good Fit

There are tons of dealerships within the US, but not all of them would be a good fit for you. Some dealers accept only certain brands of cars, others only purchase new cars, not the old ones. 

What’s more, dealerships want to buy vehicles they can resell. So for example, your 2012 BMW 5 Series may be the best stuff in your city, but if there’s not a high demand for it, the dealership may decline your offer.

As a matter of fact, it’s always a good idea to do good research in your area and get a list of the dealerships that might be a good fit for your specific car.

Look at Dealer Inventory

While doing the research on which dealers to approach, take a look at their online inventories. 

This is an important tip, because a dealership that has a bunch of the type of vehicle you’re trying to sell may not offer you a good price compared to one that has more demand for it.

Get Several Quotes

Just like you should shop around to get the best deal for real estate, you should also get a few different quotes so that you have some bargaining power.

Most dealers will hold their price for a couple of days, allowing you to make a decision. So try to visit different dealers in different areas to get yourself the chance of accepting the quote that offers you the most money for your older car.

Consider Other Options of Selling Your Car

Remember, there are far more options to sell your car. So if you’re not happy with the deal the dealership offers, consider selling your car online.

Sell Car to Dealer Alternatives


PlatformTypeService Fees
PeddleCar buying service$0
CraigslistOnline marketplace$0
eBay MotorsAuction/online marketplace$25 – $95

FAQ


Should I sell my car to a dealer or privately?

Basically, it’s easier to negotiate with an individual, rather than a dealership. However, if you sell your car with a dealer, you can lean back while they guide you through the procedure and even manage the paperwork. So whether you should sell your car privately or to a dealer really comes down to your preferences. 

Can I sell my car to a dealership if I still owe?

Generally, you can still sell your car to a dealership if you still owe for it. But you need to determine the payoff amount because you’ll have to cover the loan before transferring the title. Different dealerships may have different policies regarding this, so it’s best to ask them directly.

Will a dealership buy my car if it has damage?

Yes. But not all dealerships would accept the damaged car and you’ll need to find the one that accepts such cars. It also depends on the severity of the damage your car has.

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