How to get top dollar for your used car

Used cars are selling at record high prices, and that’s obviously good news for those looking to sell.

Here are 5 ways to make sure you’re getting top dollar for your sales.

1. Don’t Wait

“I wouldn’t trust him,” he said.

And don’t expect huge windfall gains from an older model.

A 2004 Ford Escape in your driveway isn’t going to get you top dollar, even if it cost a little more than a year ago. The real gain in prices has accrued to the new models.

Edmunds shows retail prices for cars that are five years old or younger, which average $6,000 to $24,000 or more, depending on age. The retail price for a 9 year old car ranges from $3,000 to $13,250.

And if you’re trying to get the best price for your car, you’ve probably missed it a bit.

Here's Why Car Prices Are So High, And Why It Matters

Although the Mannheim Used Vehicle Value Index for June shows a 34.3% increase in wholesale prices compared to a year ago, that number has fallen by 1.3% from the record set in May. But current prices remain very strong – and retail prices are still climbing.

2. Plan Your Car Replacement

Make sure you get a replacement vehicle at a price you can afford, or have decided that you don’t need a replacement.

Just as some home sellers have a hard time finding a new home, it’s a good idea to know what you’ll be driving after getting rid of the car you have now. The supply of both new and used cars is tight, which is a major factor as to why the prices of both have fallen to record levels.

3. Sell the car yourself

One way to maximize the price is to sell the car yourself. This way you can get the retail price instead of the trade-in price, which usually reflects wholesale pricing.

“Usually, the best possible price comes when you sell it yourself,” Moody said. “But it takes time and effort.”

It can also put you at risk of scams to some extent. A car dealer – no matter what you think of your experience with them – is a legitimate business that will not impress you with a bad check or any other trick.

4. Shop Before Selling

If you are going to sell to a dealership, either through a trade-in, return of a leased vehicle, or through outright sale, do what you would do to buy a car – shop around.

Dealers are now desperate to list their used cars. Some are even giving advertisements to buy a car instead of just selling it. Considering the mayhem, there is likely to be a difference in what the same car will get from different dealerships. Some dealers may be more willing than others to ignore scratches or dents or stains from the grape juice cans on the backseat.

“Given that there is little demand for used cars, I would try a few dealers,” Moody’s said.

5. Flip Your Leash

When it comes to getting a vehicle on lease, this is probably not the best time to do so.

Almost all leased vehicles have a fixed price in the contract for which they can be purchased at the end of the lease. That price was determined at the commencement of the lease, based on the expected value. But the rapid rise in the prices of used cars means that the price is well below the current market rate. With this in mind it probably makes more sense to buy the vehicle at the end of the lease, then sell it yourself for a profit.

Moody’s warns that some states do not allow individuals to purchase cars with the intention of selling them immediately, unless they have a dealer’s license. But those laws are typically written to crack down on sellers doing it on a large scale. This is less of a problem for individuals buying and selling a single car.

But the dealer you want to sell the car to before agreeing to buy it at the end of the lease to make sure you won’t have a problem “flipping” the car right after you get the title. Yes, check with him.

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