New ways to get more for your old car

These days, you can sit on your couch and get a pretty accurate answer to the age-old question: “What’s my trade-in worth?”

As online used car retailers streamline the buying process, they’re creating more convenient ways to handle the Achilles heel of car buying, the trade-in.

And, with the current shortage of used cars caused by the pandemic, you could be getting a surprisingly high price by selling your car to them rather than trading it in.

You don’t have to sell, of course; you just discovered what is your trade worth as accurately as possible – the price someone will actually pay.

Here’s what the process looks like and how you can use the results.

Places to get a quote online

While there may be other places in your area to trade in or sell your car, currently there are three companies that dominate used car sales online: Carvana, Shift and Vroom.

These companies allow you to evaluate your car yourself and get a quote to sell your car or trade it in for one of their own. The transaction and paperwork are contactless.

Not all of these companies are nationwide, and your vehicle will be inspected by a company representative – and the offer maybe adjusted – before you receive your money.

Another way to sell or trade in your car is to CarMax, a large used car store with outlets in 40 states and an in-person review process that takes approximately 45 minutes.

It may be easier to research the value of your car on, where you can get a CarMax quote without even having to go to one of its parking lots.

A real-world comparison test

Before starting the appraisal process, I looked at the Kelley Blue Book pricing guide, known as KBB, to get a feel for my cars’ trade-in values ​​at a dealership and then collected the online offers from CarMax, Carvana, Vroom and Shift.

At these sites, you can fill in the information manually or provide your car’s license plate number or 17-digit vehicle identification number to retrieve the exact year, make, model, and finish. They will ask you about the car’s options, color, if the car has been smoked and warning lights or personal injury.

You will usually receive an offer within a few minutes.

Here are the results of my 2014 Volkswagen SportWagen TDI with 41,000 miles:

• KBB trade-in estimate: $ 10,213.

• Lowest purchase offer (CarMax): $ 8,700.

• Best Buy Offer (Carvana): $ 13,067.

I ran the same numbers for my son’s 2016 Mazda3 Sport with 72,732 miles:

• KBB trade-in estimate: $ 10,085.

• Lowest purchase offer (Vroom): $ 7,750.

• Best Buy Offer (Shift): $ 9,100.

And a friend let me drive his 2019 Honda Civic Si with 4,200 miles:

• KBB trade-in estimate: $ 22,225.

• Lowest purchase offer (CarMax): $ 21,700.

• Best Buy Offer (Carvana): $ 23,077.

As you can see the prices vary a lot. The more sources you contact, the better.

Do you really have that many?

These companies promise a fair, no-haggle price for your trade-in.

But does the price change when the company representative shows up and combs your car?

Sometimes salespeople overlook important aspects of their car’s condition, such as frame damage from an accident or rust, says Toby Russell, co-CEO of Shift.

In these cases, after a physical inspection, the price is reduced. However, there are times when a customer gets more for a car because market conditions have changed.

While a customer is transparent when describing the condition of a vehicle, “we don’t anticipate having to change our offerings,” says Carvana spokesperson Amy O’Hara. “But we are ready if the situation arises.”

Comments online on sites like Reddit support these claims. Most consumers have found the process of trading or selling at these businesses to be fast, transparent and convenient.

Don’t forget the sales tax

With these numbers in hand, you are in a strong position when you visit a real dealer.

In most states, if you trade in your car, you only pay sales tax on the difference between the cost of the new car and the old one.

If your new car costs $ 30,000 and you get $ 20,000 for your trade-in, you pay sales tax on the difference: $ 10,000. In a state with a 10% sales tax, you saved $ 2,000 by redeeming.

This should be taken into consideration if a dealer’s offer does not quite match the offers you get online or through CarMax.

Let the dealership give you their best deal. Tell the used car manager, internet sales office, or salesperson that you have previously rated your car on price guides and obtained quotes from online retailers.

You don’t need to share the deals you have, just ask for their best price.

Factor in sales tax before you reject anything, but with the backup offers it’s easy to walk away, sell the car independently, and come back with the money to close a better deal. case.

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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