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Everyone with a used car to sell is faced with the same dilemma. How should I go about selling it?  What steps should I take? Do I take the time necessary to sell the car myself — perhaps through Craigslist cars — or use it as a trade in when I purchase my new car from a dealer? That’s the common craigslist cars vs trade in dilemma.

Using Craigslist cars is a popular option, but it’s not always the best approach. Herein, we’ll explain how to best sell a used car online, but we’ll also cover why selling your car on Craigslist may not be the best option. We’ll explain how it can be stressful, risky, time-consuming, and oftentimes, dangerous.

For most used-car sellers, trading in a car to a dealer is absolutely the safest option, and it will reward them with the best value. We will cover how you can best understand the value of your current car and/or early-lease termination options, as well as answer these important questions:

How Do I Sell a Used Car to Get the Best Value (craigslist cars vs trade in)?

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If you’re deciding between selling on craigslist cars vs trade in, selling your used car privately is usually the best way to get the most money. However, if you calculate the cost of the time and effort spent trying to sell your vehicle privately, trading it in to a dealer at a lower price is another popular option.

Every new and used-car dealer, including prominent used-car brands like CarMax, take trade ins and purchase vehicles every day. Any brand or type of vehicle from Fords, to Fiats to Ferraris, can be traded in.

Some dealers require that you attach the trade in to a new or used-vehicle purchase, but many will simply buy your car outright with no obligation to purchase another car, SUV or pickup.

CarMax is well known for buying used cars and making the process painless. After a simple inspection and valuation of the vehicle, the dealership will make you a written offer on your used car, which is good for seven days, although it is not negotiable. The entire process takes about 30 minutes and no appointment is necessary. Don’t forget to bring all of your paperwork with you.

This option also includes leased vehicles. Many lessees looking for early-lease termination options choose to sell the vehicle to a dealer. Every lease has a buy-out value at any given time. When possible, call the finance company and ask for that number before visiting the dealer.

If the dealer’s trade in offer is more than the buy-out figure, which is determined by market conditions, the number of payments remaining and certain terms and conditions of the original lease contract, you get to keep those additional funds. If it is less, the lessee will need to make up the difference.

Unlike selling a car to a car dealer, selling a car privately or through Craigslist cars can takes weeks or even months, and the process will require you to deal with strangers.

How Do I Increase My Car’s Resale or Trade in Value ?

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Whatever you decide between selling on craigslist cars vs trade in, here are four easy steps to ensure you get more value for your vehicle:

  1. Make Small Repairs: Most used cars have a few small issues or minor repairs that owners have chosen not to fix, including things like a broken console lid, old windshield wiper blades and a finicky power-window switch. These aren’t big problems, like a broken transmission, but they can affect the car’s value. Before trading in a vehicle, resolve these issues.
  2. Clean the Car Thoroughly: A clean vehicle will give the impression that it’s been cared for and will therefore be worth more than cars that have had a hard life. Run it through a car wash, vacuum the interior carpet, toss all the trash that’s accumulated in the cubbies and cupholders. If possible, remove any stains from the upholstery and wipe down the wheels.
  3. Reverse Most Modifications: Unmodified vehicles are usually worth more, especially to a car dealer, than one that has been modified. To get the best value for your car, most modifications, including a lowered suspension and aftermarket accessories like a special steering wheel or gauges, should be removed, and the vehicle should be presented as factory stock. Sometimes, expensive, high-end custom wheels can add value.
  4. Time of Year and Location: Both timing and locale can impact a used car’s value. For instance, selling a convertible sports car in Maine in the midst of winter isn’t the best way to get the highest value for the car. An SUV with all-wheel drive, however, would be in greater demand given the same circumstances. So when it comes time to sell, consider your vehicle’s attributes, your location and the season.

Can You Trust Craigslist Cars to Sell Online?

The simple answer is “yes.” You can trust Craigslist cars to sell your used car. The website is popular with private buyers and sellers, as well as dealers. But you need to proceed with caution.

Many individuals are wary about selling or buying vehicles on Craigslist cars. The internet is full of horror stories involving scams, assaults, stalking and even murder. Of course, there are many success stories as well, but the risks are there, and many used-car sellers don’t want to take the chance.

Even People.com has covered Craigslist Horror Stories, which include cautionary tales for both sellers and buyers. It’s a hot topic on the internet. Forbes.com did a piece called 10 Steps to Sell Your Car On Craigslist Without Getting Robbed — Or Worse. A couple tips from the article included not using your personal email address as well as meeting a perspective buyer in a public place (never at your home).

Other scams even include buyers using counterfeit cash to buy a car. Just remember, you’re dealing with strangers. Many will be trustworthy people just looking to buy a car, but some others will have ulterior motives.

Use common sense and trust your gut. Don’t put yourself in a risky position, and always tell a family member or friend where you’re going and with whom you’re meeting before showing the car to a potential buyer.

Can You Sell on Craiglist Cars Safely?

Image of police showing risk in craigslist cars vs trade in

Here are seven quick tips to consider if you’re going to use Craigslist Cars to sell a used car.

  1. Don’t negotiate over the phone before the buyer has even seen the vehicle. If you lower the price that easily, the buyer will no doubt try to get you to lower it again when you meet in person.
  2. Always meet the buyer in person; it’s usually best not to go alone. Bring a friend. It’s not only safer, but some buyers may be hesitant to negotiate in front of another person.
  3. Don’t forget to bring all the cars paperwork with you. Bring along any receipts for recent service, too. It’ll prove you’ve cared for the car.
  4. Put a lot of pictures of the car in your classified ad. Include photos of the interior and engine.
  5. Describe the vehicle completely and honestly. Mention if it has had any recent service or repairs. Use clear language.
  6. Get the car washed before showing it to any perspective buyers. Clean both the inside and the outside.
  7. Cash is best. Always ask for cash. If the buyer wants to pay with a certified check, ask to meet at the bank and have the check issued in front of you.

How Does Trading in a Car Work?

Trading in a car simply means selling a used vehicle to a dealer when purchasing another. The vehicle’s trade-in price is the amount of money a dealer offers you to buy your used car or truck. This amount will then be subtracted from the negotiated price of the new car you’ll be purchasing.

The rest of the transaction can either be financed or paid outright in cash.  Comparing craigslist cars vs trade in, the latter is simpler; just request that the dealer appraise your trade in.

All new and used-car dealers deal in trade ins. They then resell the trade in vehicles as either used or certified used cars after some cleaning and repairs, which may include fitting the car with new tires and other worn items.

Because the dealer is planning to resell the car, the dealer’s trade-in price offer is usually lower than you may be able to sell the vehicle for if you spent the time and effort to find a private buyer. Often the difference is between $1,000 and $3,000.

Just remember that any trade-in price offer is just that, an offer. The trade-in price is negotiable and may differ from dealership to dealership depending on a number of factors.

How Do You Determine Trade-in Value?

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The easiest way to determine the trade in value of your used car or truck is to use the same tools the dealer will use to establish that price. This could help you decide on craigslist cars vs trade-in. Websites owned by Kelley Blue Book, NADA and others offer pricing tools that are easy to use and quickly offer an estimated trade-in value for any car.

Kelley Blue Book has been offering used car values for more than 90 years, and many dealers use the website kbb.com to determine the value of any used car. The “Blue Book Value” pricing tool on kbb.com will ask a few simple questions about the vehicle, including year, make and mileage.

Answer everything correctly and honestly. Within a few minutes, KBB will provide both a Private Party Value for the car, as well as a trade-in value. This is very valuable as it will show the range of a car’s possible worth.

Just remember that any price or price range supplied to you by Kelley Blue Book or any other online pricing calculator is an estimate of your car’s value. And remember, the trade-in value of your car is always going to be lower than the private party sale value.

Of course we all want to sell our car for top dollar, but we all live very busy lives; few people have the extra time or want to go through the hassle of selling their car privately on websites like Craigslist cars. That’s why so many choose to trade in their used car.  Doing so when buying a new one is just easier, and considering the risks mentioned earlier, trading it in is definitely safer and less stressful.

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Craigslist Cars vs Trade in: How To Sell a Used Car Safely Online
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Craigslist Cars vs Trade in: How To Sell a Used Car Safely Online
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Everyone with a used car to sell is faced with the same dilemma: sell on craigslist cars vs trade in. Find out how to make the most of your used car.
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