We Sold My Car! What Worked and What Didn’t

Posted by Madison on June 10, 2008

After going back and forth about selling my car, I finally said goodbye to the car last week. It was a little sad, because I loved that car! But since the kids didn’t fit, it truly wasn’t working.

Here’s a recap of the sale process and a summary of what worked and what didn’t.

Getting the Car Ready for Sale

Clean up the car. Before listing my car, we made a small investment and had the car detailed. It was $129 of the best money spent because the car looked like new afterwards.

We considered doing a tiny spot of touch up (where my husband backed into the bird bath!) but found it to be so minor that it wasn’t necessary.


We chose three options for listing the car:

  1. Autotrader. The cost was $60 and it was the biggest waste of money ever. All we got were scammers and dealers, no genuine inquiries.
  2. Craigslist. We had lots of interest for the car, lots of low ballers, but this was ultimately the way that we sold the car.
  3. Fliers. We posted fliers at work and in our neighborhood. We had a few calls and I think it was a great way to get the word out.

The Sale

Holding the car. I recently mentioned that we accepted a 2.5% downpayment to hold the car. This ended up working out just fine and this is who we sold the car to in the end.

Find the title first!
Ten minutes before the buyer arrived to pick up the car, we realized we had lost the title in a bunch of boxes when we moved a couple years ago. We frantically tore apart the boxes looking for it. Luckily we found it, or we probably would have killed the entire deal!

The New Car

After I solicited advice for the next car to purchase, we decided on a Mazda5 “mini” minivan. The Honda Odyssey seemed to be the favorite, but the Mazda is cheaper, gets better gas mileage, and is a little sportier.

It meets all my criteria: safety, gas mileage, fits an expanding family (3 car seats), and is relatively inexpensive.

Used Versus New. We’ve been keeping our eye out for a used one, but unfortunately there aren’t many used ones for sale because they’re not very popular in the U.S.

Because we can use the corporate discounts program to save a bundle on a new one, the used ones (with relatively low mileage) are actually turning out to be more expensive. I’m still keeping my eye out for used ones, though. If we find a good one in the next couple weeks, we’ll buy it.

Otherwise, as soon as we finish our refinance we’re planning to buy a new one. We’re waiting on the refinance because we plan to finance the car (the current financing offer is 1.9%, which is cheaper than paying cash as I can put my money to work elsewhere.)

Until then, we’re borrowing an extra car from my parents (thanks Dad!)

Tips on Car Colors. A tip I found when selecting a new car: Pick the color based on resale! For the Mazda5 it looks like blue and silver will have more value than the other colors. Since the color isn’t a factor in the initial sale price, it’s best to choose the one with the highest value.

Locate the Car You Want at the Price You Want

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Comments to We Sold My Car! What Worked and What Didn’t

  1. Wow. it DOES get a lot better mileage. We bought a new Honda Odyssey about 3 years ago and love it. It’s a V-6 and can tow our pop-up camper easily. I’m impressed with the Mazda though. If you don’t have to tow anything and you want a mini-van, it looks like the way to go.

    Good idea on the color selection. I never would’ve thought of that.


  2. Where would I get info on which colors are best for resale? I would assume that black and silver are best?


  3. I would definitely think silver would be the safest bet. The blue I’ve seen on those 5’s looks a little odd to me, so I would think silver would be the most neutral and lasting in value.

    Those are funky little vans, I’ll give you that 🙂

    No Debt Plan

  4. Nice tips on getting the car sold. Interested to hear about the resale value based on color – I had never thought of that, but it makes sense. I try to go with lighter colors because they reflect heat more than dark blues and black. And avoid red sporty cars because the insurance is usually higher.

    Frugal Dad

  5. MillionDollarJourney: one option would be edmunds.com, color is a selectable option when pulling values and is a line item in the results. Repeat with possible choices.

    My suspicion is AutoTrader works better for rarer cars and not so much run of the mill where users can walk dealer lots, check their newspaper, CL, etc.

    It was almost two years ago now, but I sold my 87 Buick Grand National during the summer that way. I did have a couple firms call me to sell it for me, but I also got a call from a guy one state north who came down and bought it in a matter of days. The “run til sold” option was the dealmaker, I had become convinced I was never gonna sell the thing.

    But then CL became my favorite. I sold my 00 Ranger 4×4 on there a couple months back for right at KBB pp value to the first person who called about it (took a few weeks/listings), and then yesterday I bought the replacement, 00 Maxima for $500 under KBB pp. It was the only thing posted on there not asking substantially over book value (among at least somewhat economical 4-doors at least), and I hopped on it. So far it seems I made out fairly well. Not paying to advertise anything or putting up with dealer BS FTW.

    Dave C

  6. Congrats on selling the car! I think you have given some good advice here based on my past experience. Nice job!


  7. @ Ron: Our other car is a Durango, so we always have that to pull stuff if we need to.

    @ MDJ: I did what Dave suggested and looked up each color on edmunds. Worked like a charm.

    @ No Debt Plan: I agree, the blue is a bit odd, so I’m going to try for the silver. And yes, funky is one way to put it… when I first saw them, I thought they were UGLY! But since everything else is perfect for us, the look is growing on me.

    @ Frugal Dad: Ha ha…. are any companies actually charging a risk based premium on the color of the car?

    @ Dave: The run til sold option is a nice feature of autotrader. With some more time we might have gotten some real interest. You’re right though, nothing beats Craig’s List!

    @ Jeff: Thanks! I’m just glad it’s done!


  8. We bought a new car a couple of months ago and decided to trade in our old one because we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of selling it ourselves. This is very interesting, I wouldn’t have expected the Auto Trader ad to be so disappointing.

    Chief Family Officer

  9. I found the local paper the best way to sell my car.


  10. I’m surprised that AutoTrader.com didn’t work at all. I would guess that you’re right with the assessment that more rare cars will sell on AutoTrader. Most people try to buy locally unless they are looking for something really special or very inexpensive.

    As for insuring cars with a specific color, the color of the vehicle makes no difference when getting insurance quotes. You will note that not once will the adjuster/agent ask you what color the vehicle is when getting insurance. Some color information is encoded into the VIN number, but people paint their cars all the time and it really doesn’t make a difference unless you get some gold flake paint or something. This myth has come from back in the 70’s when SOME companies did charge higher rates for certain color cars, but this was before computers and statistical analysis really caught up to the booming car insurance market. Vehicle color hasn’t affect rates for over 25 years now.


  11. @ David: good to know that vehicle color is not in the rates! Although I wouldn’t be surprised if actuaries can make the case for it in the future statistically.


  12. where do you put money to work for the short at more then 1.9%?


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