The common adage is that when you’re buying a car, the moment you drive it off the lot is the moment its value starts to depreciate. Your car continues to depreciate in the first five years to the point where this decline costs more fuel, maintenance, and insurance combined. Now, “experts” from auto sources like Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Association’s NADA Guides say there are very few 10-year-old-cars are worthy of the “excellent” rating. However, there are numerous car models on the market today that hold their resale value — some up to 65% of the original price, as much as 60 months later.
To get your money’s worth from selling your car, you need to be able to pinpoint the condition or state it’s currently inaccurately. When a buyer looks at it, what do they see and how do they perceive it? Once you can correctly categorize your car, you can take a few strategic steps to get your money’s worth on its sale.
Types of Cars Sold On the Market Today
Before you get your car ready for a sale worthy of its condition, you should consider and evaluate the state and health of your vehicle. If your vehicle fits a particular set of criteria, then it may be worth much more than you realize — regardless of whether you think it’s a “junker” or not.
Little to No Problems
Cars considered to have “little to no problems” are considered “nice” cars. Notice how evaluating this category has nothing to do with how messy your car is or whether it has a few nicks or scrapes here and there.
Instead, it’s about how well your car runs. Cars under this category:
- Are paid off (if financed), or you owe less than a clean trade-in value
- Has a clean trade-in value of over $2,000
- Have a clear use and market for selling, but you don’t want to go through the hassle of doing it yourself
Nice cars have plenty of potential buyers, from trade-ins with dealerships to private buyers. As long as you clean up your car well and have the paperwork ready to go, these cars won’t be too much trouble to move off your driveway.
Needs Some Level of Repairs
These cars are not quite junk cars — they’re nicer, but something needs to be fixed.
Cars that need repairs lie on a spectrum though. Just because one part is malfunctioning doesn’t mean it’s a total loss. So, your car could also require significant maintenance for issues like:
- A blown motor
- Bad transmission
- Body damage
Depending on the level of damage and work, the clean trade-in value of your car could be more than $5,000.
Keep in mind that these criteria apply to almost any make or model, but certain cash-for-car dealers may have their own preferences. CarsSold for Cash, for example, specifically looks for Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, and Subarus, though they’ll accept and assess any vehicle.
The category of junk car is quite specific and, unlike the previous classifications, doesn’t lie on a spectrum. If a car is only worth scrap metal, it’s a junk car. It has little to no value — on a clean trade-in, an owner would receive less than $1,200. It also has a high mileage count, presents with multiple serious problems, and is an old model.
Using the categories above, you can self-evaluate where your car falls, and this can help you zero in on your target market. For example, if you have a “nice” car that comes under the “little to no work” category, then you can focus on private sellers and used car dealerships.
Junk cars — or those that are a little nicer than junk cars but still need major repairs — call for a pivot in focus. You may need to work with salvage yards or specialized auto businesses that are actively looking for these kinds of cars.
To squeeze out your car’s worth and value, ask and answer the following questions:
- “How common is my vehicle?” The more common your vehicle is, the higher its dollar value because the demand for parts will be high for parts from popular cars
- “How much metal is on my car?” Many newer vehicles are a combination of metal and plastic, so if you have an older car, it may be prized for the amount of metal composition alone
- “Are there any missing or damaged parts?” Again, this depends on who you’ll be selling it to. Your target buyer may not care if a part is missing because they may be looking for a car for the scrap metal. On the other hand, a buyer may be looking to acquire a car for that specific part, in which case your car will be a no-go. Finally, a buyer who is looking to drive the car, will expect all parts intact and certified by an independent inspection.
Before you start with any upgrades, paint jobs, and repairs, figure out your car’s worth and value as it stands today. From here, you can then better calculate whether any of these additions or improvements are a good investment or not.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle also play a role in how much value they inherently hold.
A Toyota Tacoma or a Jeep Wrangler, for example, are both in the top 10 best valued used cars in the market. Fords, Hondas, and Subarus also build incredibly durable vehicles that can withstand the test of time, and their valuations are far more than you might expect — even if you might classify them as “junk.”
Missing Or Damaged Parts
Damaged parts are less dire than missing parts. The difference between the two — missing or damaged — will tell you whether your car is worth investing into repair or whether you’ll need to replace entire parts. And if you’re planning to sell your car for purely financial reasons, investing money to upgrade a car that has reached the end of its utility might not be the best decision.
However, if the part is missing but it’s a minor one or a relatively easy replacement — such as brake pads, for example — then you’ll get a much higher value, as long as all other aspects are running well.
Reported Auto Defects
If your car has been recalled or there’s a high number of cars with a make and model similar to yours, you may end up receiving a lower valuation for your car.
Crunch the Numbers
Now it’s time to crunch the numbers. Based on the category you’ve classified your car in, make a list of its defects, damages, repairs required, and parts that are either missing or need replacement to be driveable again.
Do some research with online buyers, salvage yards, and dealerships and compile the valuations or offers in a spreadsheet. If you want to get fancy, order the offers from highest to lowest.
Next, work out how much it would cost you to make your car road-worthy again. If your car is only seven to 10 years, with under 150,000 miles, it may still have a lot of life left in it. In this case, you may want to extend its life for someone else.
You won’t get as much as a newer car, but you’ll be able to present a potential buyer with records of all new parts.
This could make a significant difference in the sticker price.
Research Potential Or Comparable Offers
You also want to consider the various options you have for selling: Should you be doing a trade-in, selling to a used car dealership, junk and salvage yard, or a private seller? Keep in mind that many dealerships and yards will try to lowball you on an offer so your research spreadsheet should also include a “notes” section. This is where you can include reviews on how reliable or honest the auto business is.
To set up a baseline value for the car against which all these offers will be weighed, set up an independent inspection at a local auto mechanic shop. Ask for an itemized estimate on each fix or repair and then judge which source you’ll make the most money selling to.
Pro-tip: Even junk dealerships offer quotes and not all junk and salvage yards will price a car out the same. Because many compete with each other, make sure your research includes several quotes from junk dealerships.
For private sales, it’s best to search online to compare your make and model against other cars. Check out the listings of other private sellers and see how much they’ve priced their vehicles at, along with the advertised condition.
Regardless of who buys your car, it will be scrutinized. That’s why this prior research will help you make a better decision about whom to sell your vehicle to when you’re trying to get the best deal. The key to getting your money’s worth is about knowing your car so well, you also know exactly the kind of buyer who would want it.
As one of Utah’s leading auto businesses, Cars Sold for Cash has worked with hundreds of thousands of individuals, from locals in the area to visitors driving through Utah while experiencing a sudden breakdown. Big Tane and his team of proficient auto technicians drive to each customer and assess vehicles on the spot, often offering their owners cash on the spot as well.
And Big Tane’s offer always gives you your money’s worth!