What I Learned When I Sold My Old Car

How I Sold my Old CarYou know that I didn’t want the measly $400 trade-in the dealership offered me. I also didn’t want to go through the hassle of selling my used car. But I was sure that selling my used car on my own would be worth the time and effort.

Here’s how it actually went down:

The car sat in our driveway for at least 3 months. Why? I told myself that I didn’t have time for several things. But these excuses were so lame, because none of these tasks actually took a lot of time or took place in the way I anticipated.




First, it never seemed like the right time to meet with potential buyers. We always had something going on during the weekend. Turns out, I sold it on a weeknight, so I shouldn’t have been waiting for a weekend. Also, each test drive took no more than 15 minutes.

Second, I didn’t want to spend the money to take the car to the carwash, because I’m so cheap frugal. But I didn’t have any car soap. I finally bought soap for the car and found my old microfiber rags to wash it. Then I didn’t have time to wash the car. Turns out, it took only 15 minutes to wash the car. But because it had been sitting in the driveway, it took longer to wipe all the accumulated dirt and pollen out of the doorframes, etc. I’m lucky a mouse didn’t take up residence in there.

Third, I didn’t have the time to take 20 pictures of the outside and interior of the car. Turns out, just 3 photos — of the exterior — were enough. This isn’t a high-end car. The most common question I got was not “does it have bluetooth?” but “will it pass inspection?”

I listed the car on craigslist and got a few inquiries, but no test drivers. Then I renewed the craigslist listing and lowered the price. I had it listed for $1,500, but realized that people might search craigslist using $1500 as their max, so I lowered it to $1425. Once I lowered it, I got double the number of inquiries. Only one person from craigslist test drove the car, however.

I got many more inquiries when I posted the car on my town’s local yard sale page, and two people came by for a test drive before it was sold. All three test drivers were parents who saw the listing and wanted their son or daughter to buy the car! I can only imagine the discussions that took place between them: Mom convincing daughter that it’s a good, reliable car and daughter complaining at how boring and beat up the car looked.

The third test drive was the charm, and I was thrilled to sell it to her. Her dad saw the listing and set up the appointment, and she arrived with cash. During the test drive, she said that she loved how it drove, which made me feel good about selling her the car. After all, I’ve owned this car for a significant part of my life. Heck, I used to be able to move all of my belongings in that car (in 2 trips) and now I need a 17-foot truck.

She offered me lower than the list price and I countered somewhere in the middle. After all,

if you don’t ask, then the answer will always be “no”!

All in all, it took 15 minutes to clean the car, 10 minutes to take photos and list it, three fifteen-minute test drives, and another 30 minutes to negotiate, sign the title, and drop off the car. That’s 1 hour and 40 minutes, for a $1,250 payout.

It did cost me $35 for an extra license plate and I’m not sure how much for the 3 months of insurance, but in the end I netted about $800 for an hour and 40 minutes of work. And that is much higher than my hourly rate as an attorney.

Annoying? Yes.

Worth it? Yes.

Now … I have to figure out how to be responsible with this cash.

Image: everydayplus, via freedigitalphotos.net


4 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Sold My Old Car

  1. Congratulations! We went through a similar experience this year…. Rejecting the 4K dealer offer and the slightly higher Carmax offer, and believing we could sell it ourselves. It did cost us 3 months of incremental insurance (we knew the cost), a carfax report and one final oil change. But we knew we’d find the “well-meaning dad who wanted a safe and impeccably maintained car for his child” buyer. Took 3 months, but we got 7k in the end. Very easy to justify that time and financial investment with that success!

  2. Hey, that’s great! We’re going to have to sell my husband’s car next year, and I’m not looking forward to it. I know he’ll probably want to take whatever the dealership offers, thinking the extra effort it would take to sell it ourselves isn’t worth the money, but you’ve certainly made it sound pretty simple!

    • It’s so much easier than it looks! I think it’s important to remember that you don’t need full blue book value for the car, but anything above what the dealership offered and what you paid to advertise the car is better than just doing the trade-in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *