Min/Maxing Car Sale for Highest Value and Lowest Headache

We recently purchased a new to us vehicle. You can read more about our data driven decision making in that post. With three cars in our possession and only two drivers, it made logical sense to unload the oldest vehicle.

The first option that many Americans utilize is the Trade-In. When you buy a new car, you sell the old one. Dealers offer the least amount of money, but it is one of the easiest ways to unload a vehicle. Given the age and mileage of our used vehicle, the dealer that we bought from was very straightforward that he would give us bottom dollar for it and suggested we try CarMax instead.

CarMax is a used car dealership that specializes in buying and selling lightly used vehicles. There are many franchises open around the USA, and they make the transaction process very simple. Before I went over for their spiel, I first wanted to explore another low hurdle sales option, friends and family.

While I was cleaning out the Pontiac for a future sale, one of my neighbors commented that their son was in the market for an economical vehicle. It usually pays to listen to others and file away that knowledge for later dates and times. Well, it was a later date and time, so I informed said neighbor that the vehicle was going to be on the market. We were heading out of town for a week, so I left them the keys for an extended test drive and left them with the neighbor discount price.

Friends and family are an easy sale because you know who you are dealing with. There is very little uncertainty about being stiffed or hoodwinked. If there is, you need better friends!

Upon arriving home, we found out that the son was not interested in that particular vehicle. Bummer, it would have been an easy transaction, but it did give me the opportunity to try out CarMax. First though I needed some insurance for if the deal went south.

On Sunday, I took Frugal Boy with me to photoshoot the car ‘just in case’. It was a nice sunny day and I found a great spot in a nearby park to glamour shoot our beauty contestant. With about 30 photos in hand, I had a backup plan in the wings. Now I had a contingency plan in place. You never want to go into a negotiation without a backup plan, an escape hatch, or anything to give you an out. If you have no out, you are hosed and at the mercy of the other person at the negotiating table.

I had looked up the KBB trade-in value for a 2006 Pontiac G6 GT with 116000 miles, and it was around $2200. I would have taken $2000 from CarMax and been done with it. With Christmas, New Years, and work trips all coming up, we don’t want to have the mental baggage of a car sale on our minds while we are busy with life. At a certain point, you lose efficiency trying to squeeze the last drop of juice out of an orange. The CarMax in town was quiet on a Monday afternoon. A representative politely greeted me, explained the process and then set about taking pictures of the car and inputting data into the computer. About thirty minutes later he had an offer available for us.

I braced myself mentally and physically…

It was a whopping…

One thousand dollars.

What?! $500 is considered junkyard status. This was a vehicle that still ran and didn’t have any major known mechanical problems with it. With tender, love, and care, this vehicle would still be running ten years from now.

I put on my best poker face, thanked him for his time, asked for a print out of the offer, and told him I would have to talk it over with my wife.

CarMax offers are valid for 7 days, so you needn’t feel rushed to accept the offer right there and then.

With the borderline insulting CarMax offer in hand, I activated my contingency plan. Craigslist!

Craigslist now charges $5 to list autos. I listed our car at $2700. That put it on the lower end of the KBB good value for private party, but it was also more than any other offering to date.

Here are some of the glamour shots.

Picking good lighting and a good background is key to making your ad stand out. I had even taken the car to an automatic carwash beforehand. Frugal Boy and Frugal Girl were enamored with the whole process.

This was the text of the ad.

Clean, ultra-low mileage, non-smoker car with loads of premium features! Service record available. Priced under KBB value for a fast sale.

• Leather & Heated seats
• Remote start (perfect for cold winter mornings)
• Powerful v6 Engine
• AC
• 116000 miles (well below average)
• Newer tires
• Newer battery
• Synthetic oil changes like clockwork

This is reliable transportation that will get you to and from work/school in comfort. Priced to sell, very little negotiating room. Serious offers only. Cash or Cashier’s check. Test drives available by appointment, first-come, first-serve basis.

Instead of saying it has combined gas mileage of 20mpg, you phrase it as having a powerful V6 engine. Similarly, if you have a scrawny inline 4 cylinder, you would phrase that as getting great gas mileage, not that the 0-60 time is in the double digits.

With the ad posted, it was time to wait, and boy of boy did we wait.

A whole 16 hours before someone was test driving it on Tuesday afternoon. They loved it, and agreed on the spot to buy it at asking price. They just needed a day to get the money together.

By Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours after I posted the ad, the car title was signed over, cash in hand, and two families were very happy.

I thought our last car sale was fast. This one was even faster.

I’m going to enjoy taking the followup phone call from CarMax on Friday.

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