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How to Sell Your Car to Dealers and Get the Most Money

CARS.COM — At Cars.com, we’ve had a lot of experience over the last few years selling our long-term fleet cars. Only recently have we taken to selling to dealers directly, however, and we’ve found that we can turn a good deal into a better deal that way than we expect if we put in a little time and effort. It may be worth it for you to investigate the option.

Related: How Should I Prep My Car for Sale to a Dealer?

Here are some guidelines and rules to maximizing your return when you sell your vehicle to a dealer:

  • Understand what you’re getting into: Yes, if you sell your vehicle yourself online (using Cars.com, say), you can get more money. But if time is short and your need to move on to a new car is high, selling to a dealer can work out well enough.
  • Set realistic expectations: Check your used-car value here first so that you have some idea of what you should be asking of buyers.
  • Visit CarMax: We’ve found that its no-nonsense approach is legit, and the price its folks offer you can be both a floor (so you’re always negotiating for more than that) and a safety net (in case a dealer won’t offer you more than it is).
  • Visit the dealer where you had your service done: We’ve seen both ends of this spectrum. When we sold one SUV, our service dealer said flat-out, “I’ve got no interest in your car.” Another time, our service dealership offered us way more than our previous offers. Either way, it’s a place to start since you have a relationship there.
  • Check multiple dealers in different areas: Check around where you live. You never know which dealer is short on what you’re selling, making them happier to fork over big bucks for your car. We’d suggest always visiting at least three dealers before picking an offer.
  • Do it quickly: Many dealer offers won’t last more than a few days or a few hundred miles (CarMax says seven days and 300 miles). Plus, the whole point here was to complete the transaction of the vehicle faster than selling it yourself.
  • Don’t forget, you can negotiate: No matter who offers you the best deal on your current car, remember there’s still room to maneuver. We had one dealer make us an offer on a vehicle that we countered by asking for another $1,500; the dealer came up with $1,000. We can’t guarantee that will happen for you, but there’s no harm in asking for more cash from your car buyer.

Once we’ve found the deal we want, getting it done has taken very little time. Come prepared with your car’s title and appropriate identification, and be prepared to wait a couple of business days (in some cases) to get your check. CarMax will cut it for you on the spot, but some dealers take a little longer.

We may have taken a few hundred less than we could have gotten, but we know we’ve saved countless hours — even days.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.