Let’s be honest – car dealerships can be…a lot. Negotiating at a dealership can be draining, plus, you can get a much higher price - up to 10-15% more - selling in a private sale. 

Online dealerships, such as Carmax and Carvana, have helped even the playing field by doing away with the back-and-forth haggling that stresses so many people out. This is especially beneficial for groups that have historically have been mistreated and discriminated against in dealership spaces, such as women and people of color. But, while national retailers offer hassle free pickup and price transparency, the offers they make are often far below what sellers expect. 

“For $5K on a $40K car, I can take a few pictures and print out a bill of sale.” 

So why do people leave so much cash on the table by selling with dealerships? Hear from real sellers some of the reasons you may - rightfully - opt for a traditional car sales experience, and the big reasons you may want to sell privately. 

Your Time is Valuable

The biggest downside with a private sale is that it takes a lot of time and overhead. Not only do you have to appraise the car, list the sale, and field questions, but the potential buyers you meet may have unrealistic expectations about price or condition. 

“...[I] got emails, texts, and calls at all hours of the day asking for info, haggling over price, and wanting to set up a payment plan or pay by check…Then I had to take time out of my day off (I own a business and work full time) to show the vehicle to no less than 6 people, all of whom went over the vehicle like it was a brand new Maybach- nitpicking everything and asking for lower selling prices, payment plans, can I write a check, etc”

Sometimes, sellers feel like they aren’t “car people” enough to hold their own in negotiations, or they may doubt their ability to haggle well. 

“It can be a long process with no guarantee of success.”

“Dealing with tire kickers, people who offer insanely low offers with no real offer they can make, flakes who don't show, potential scams, people who waste your time when they can't [get] financing, etc, etc.”

Added to this is risk. While the risk of a dealership is disrespect or frustration, the risk of meeting a stranger somewhere might be more serious. This is often at the forefront of the minds of sellers who are women or belong to marginalized communities. 

“There are risks with private party sales, too. Meeting people in parking lots, dealing with strangers and large sums of cash…”

Finally, you want to avoid this rare but dreadful situation,

“I bought a car on eBay a few years back…We meet, go to the DMV to transfer the title and then I drive it home and I'm all happy. Title arrives in the mail with my name on it and everything. A year or so later a detective arrives at my house with someone from the auto-theft department at the DMV and tell me they need to take the car because it's STOLEN. The car was Canadian and somehow there was no issue with the VIN when transferring the title. I'm out $10k+ and no car.”

cartoon hand trading money for a car

Trading in

“I had an '88 Chevy Pickup in "meh" condition. I had it listed for about a month on Craig's list, and only got one call. The guy said he would potentially be interested in it for around $1,000…I went to a dealership and got them to give me $2000 for the truck as a trade-in. They agreed sight unseen, and I bought a newer car from them.”

Another reason you might want to sell through a traditional dealer is if you want to trade in your car. You’ll receive money for your used car, and transfer that to the down payment of your new vehicle. Often, this winds up being a win-win for both buyer and seller. A dealer might be able to offer a higher trade-in value for an in-demand used car, and the buyer might be able to avoid financing the newer car they want. 

“In Florida, when you trade in a vehicle for another one, it reduces the taxable value of the new vehicle by the trade-in amount. So that's a bit of a savings. For example, if you trade a $10k vehicle in for a $25k vehicle, you save $600 in taxes.”

Another benefit of trading is saving money on sales tax. Many states only tax you on the remaining amount when you subtract the trade-in value from the new car price, often saving you thousands of dollars. 

You’re Selling an EV - and Want Top Dollar

If you have an electric car that you’ve been babying, you may want to sell to someone who is able to recognize - and pay for - the care you have taken. Recurrent now offers a Sell Your Electric Car program that provides you with an evaluation and connects you with EV specialists. It’s quick and free and worth doing even if you decide to sell privately:

  • Step 1: Check your range score. Enter your car’s information to get a Range Score that compares how much the range has decreased from original for that make, model, and battery. We ask minimal questions so you can get an EV Snapshot in minutes. No cost. No commitment.
  • Step 2: See your valuation. Your free valuation combines battery insights from 100 million EV miles with leading auto market data from Black Book. Compare your car to thousands of others using a score that is optimized for EVs. No more guessing on what makes an EV great. A better battery should fetch a higher price. Your vehicle’s recommended Battery Adjustment is our best guess at the additional value based on your Range Score. 
  • Step 3: View instant offers. Ready to sell? Get an instant offer on your vehicle. No spam, just offers you can accept or ignore. Get an instant offer from people who buy and sell used EVs. No phoning around to multiple businesses or filling out endless forms online - it’s quick and easy and we do the legwork for you.

Whether you’re just curious about the market or already ready to sell, you can get started with us for free

EV Estimate from Recurrent Auto
Sample EV Estimate from Recurrent, including Good Battery Premium

When Private Sales Make Sense

The biggest reasons that private sales make sense fall into two categories:


  1. Your brother (or aunt or grandkid) wants the car and you want to offer them a good deal. This one is pretty self explanatory
  2. You have more time than money, so the extra cash you may make in a private sale is worth the headaches. 

After-market upgrades:

Sometimes, you’ve purchased add-ons or upgrades to your car that dealers won’t factor into their valuation. A perfect example of this is free, unlimited supercharging on a Tesla. Often, dealers are reluctant to pay for this because of Tesla’s spotty history of disabling and removing it from second owners. Full self-driving is another such option. However, these options generally do transfer in private sales. You’d still have to find someone who wants - and is willing to pay - for these upgrades, but they will often value them more highly than a business. The same may be true for upgraded sound systems or cameras.