Just a month ago I completed the sale of my 2008 Subaru Forester. After making payments on it for 2+ years, I decided that I wanted something different, something that I had owned before. So I bought myself a 2007 Mini Cooper S that is still under the factory warranty with just over 40,000 miles on it. I couldn’t be happier with my decision! But I digress – I want to talk about selling my Subaru and the steps I went through in order to discover what it was worth, what I could possibly get for it, and then finally deciding on a buyer.
The first thing I did was find out how much I still owed on the car – this was my “I must at least get this for the car so I can pay it off entirely and then buy something else” price. Luckily, I made a heck of a deal on the car when I bought it, paying just $19,000 out the door including taxes/fees – this for a car that had a sticker price of almost $24,000 plus tax. So right away, I knew that my “what I owe to residual value ratio” was pretty good. Add in the fact that I always paid more than the minimum payment on the loan each month, and my final dollar amount that I owed as of a month ago was $13,109. This was how much I had to get for the car in a sale to break even and walk away clean. It was my bottom price point.
The next thing I did was start looking up the residual value of a 2008 Subaru Forester. There are many places on the internet to do this kind of research, but my personal favorites (and the ones I find come closest to the truthful price) are Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds. All you have to do is go to the sites, enter your zip code, make/model/year of the car you are learning about, how many miles you have on it, and check off any extras that your car may have been sold with. For the record, my car was a 2008 Forester with 40,000 miles in very good condition. Trade-in value is what you can expect to get selling it to a dealer and Private Party value is what you can expect to get selling it to an individual. This is what each site told me that my car was worth:
Kelly Blue Book:
Trade-In Value in Good Condition – $13,550
Private Party Value in Good Condition – $15,815
Trade-In Value in Good Condition – $13,982
Private Party Value in Good Condition – $15,856
Thankfully, both the trade-in and the private party price is above the “what I owe” dollar amount of $13,109, so I knew I could sell the car and at least walk away without owing any money – and possibly even pocket a little extra. I went ahead and listed it on the local Craigslist here in Colorado, received a few emails and had some local interest – but no sale. So I took it to my favorite last resort car buying company – Carmax. I have bought and sold cars to them before, it’s a very painless and seamless process, and they will give you a fair price on the car you are selling. After they appraised my car, they came back with their offer:
Sold. I get to walk away with a few extra hundred bucks back, I get a fair price for my car, and I don’t have to haggle or deal with individual people trying to get the best price or arrange financing. As an added bonus, my car was still registered in New Mexico, and thus I didn’t have to pay to have it transferred here for a private buyer. I handed CarMax the keys and walked away. Sure, they will sell it on their lot for a lot more than that, but I just wanted to sell the car for a fair price and pay off the balance. Goal achieved!
As you can see, finding out the value of your car and then selling it can take you on many different paths. The key is to explore several different ways of finding out (and running) the numbers to make any deal work for you. If Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds don’t work for you, you can also check out NADA or Cars.com to get even more information.