Advantages & Disadvantages of Selling a Car Yourself

Give your car a clean-up before showing it to interested buyers.

Give your car a clean-up before showing it to interested buyers.

When you decide to sell your car privately instead of trading it in at a dealership, an investment of time, and maybe even a bit of money, is necessary to get the process rolling, both of which can be tagged as disadvantages. In addition, once you advertise your car for sale, time and money are still a factor -- all the way up until you close the deal and hand over the keys to the new owner, which is when you can -- hopefully -- realize the fruits of your labor.

Preliminary Legwork

The amount of legwork you will have to do is considerably more than if you trade in your car at a car dealership, which is a disadvantage. For example, you will have to spend time cleaning the car inside and out to make it more appealing to interested buyers. You also may want to have a mechanic go through your vehicle and check it out for any issues that you need to address. At the very least, you'll want to top off all the fluids and inflate the tires to proper air pressure. Additionally, you may want to spend some time rooting around for any repair or maintenance records you have on the vehicle -- buyers like seeing proof of a well-kept vehicle. Also, creating an ad to sell your car, finding places to post the ad -- preferably free -- and making yourself available to answer calls, texts or emails all take time. The legwork adds up to a mountain of time, which can be an inconvenience and a disadvantage.

Profit Potential

If you've ever tried to trade in a vehicle at a car dealership, you probably know that the results are often less than desirable. However, if you put in the time and effort to sell your old car, it's possible to make a profit or at least break even, which is an advantage. For example, if your car is paid for, you can usually sell it for more than a dealer would give you. According to information on the Consumer Reports website, you can always expect to get more than the wholesale price. Even if you owe money on the car, you still may be able to make a profit after a private sale, or at least make enough to pay off the car, which is definitely in your favor.

Vetting Buyers and Showing the Car

Once a parade of interested buyers -- stay positive -- begin contacting you about your vehicle, you'll have to invest time and mental processes to figure out who is serious and who is just fishing for information. You may have to spend time talking to certain buyers on the phone or trading several emails. The buyers may also ask for detailed pictures of the vehicle so they can determine if they want to drive to your location to view it. The process of weeding through prospects, sending extra information, meeting them and showing them the car can be frustrating and exhausting -- both of which are disadvantages. However, there's always a chance that you'll find your buyer in the first one or two meetings.


The possibility of encountering a scammer is a big disadvantage. Not only do scammers waste your time, they also can suck you into believing they are legitimate buyers. If you do get taken in by a scammer, you risk your vehicle, a ton of money or both. Check out the following tips for avoiding scammers. Beware of anyone who asks you to complete a wire transaction for the vehicle. Insist on meeting face-to-face. If the prospective buyer refuses to meet in person, be wary. If the buyer states that he is overseas, look elsewhere. If the emails the buyer sends seem too good to be true or they are poorly worded, be cautious. Never agree to accept a third-party check as payment for the car. Sometimes scammers will send you a third-party check for more than the purchase price of the vehicle and ask you deposit the check and send them the difference. Never agree to this. The check is likely fraudulent.


After you've invested all your time into talking to an interested buyer via phone or email, setting up a meeting and showing the car, the buyer may say he wants to buy the car from you. While that's definitely an advantage, you may have to negotiate, which can be a disadvantage. If you really want to sell the car for your asking price, stand firm. Tell the prospective buyer all the reasons why the car is worth the price you want. He may or may not go for it. The best way to avoid this type of situation is to set your asking price a bit higher than what you're willing to accept. Then, you have some wiggle room, which can make negotiations turn out in your favor.


About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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