Private Sale vs Trade-in Calculator

Private Sale vs Trade-in Calculator

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

Looking for and buying a new or used car can be a difficult task in and of itself. But what do you do with your current vehicle? You could sell it privately or you could trade it in. Each has its own pros and cons. In order to help simplify the decision-making process, CJ’s created a tool that allows you to enter some general information, such as your cars' trade-in valuation and cost of the vehicle you are looking to purchase, to help you decide what you should do.

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Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of a private sale versus trading in:


Pros: Convenient. Vehicle can be in any condition. Potential sales tax advantage

The biggest advantage of trading your vehicle in is how convenient it is. The dealer will take care of all of the paperwork for your used vehicle while they are doing the paperwork for your new vehicle. This will allow you to focus on enjoying your new car without worrying about selling your old car. Dealerships also don’t care about the condition of your car which could be a hindrance when trying to sell privately. In addition to the added convenience, some states will allow you to pay the sales tax on the difference between the cost of the vehicle you are looking to purchase and the trade-in value of your current vehicle. While this might not completely make up the difference between a private sale and trade-in, it will certainly help.

Cons: Getting wholesale value vs retail value

All of that convenience comes at a price. The biggest disadvantage of trading your car in is you won’t be getting a retail value for your car. The dealer is going to take that trade-in vehicle, clean it, and will want to turn your trade-in around and sell it for a profit. In order for the dealer to make money on a trade-in, they need to obtain it at a wholesale price.

Private Sale

Pros: Potentially more money. More Flexibility

In most cases, you are likely to get more money from a private sale since you are cutting out the middleman: the dealer. And since you are selling the car yourself, you’ll have more flexibility to negotiate with a potential buyer. If you aren’t happy with an offer, you can always keep it on the market and find a new buyer. You’ll also have more flexibility with the money you receive from the sale. You could put that money towards the new car or you could put the money towards something else if you’d like.

Cons: Time. Risk

It may take a while to sell your car. First, you have to list it for sale: online ads, newspaper ads, word of mouth. Then you have to be patient and wait. When you start to get inquiries potential buyers will want to look the car over, take it for a test drive, and even take it to their mechanic to be inspected. Each buyer will need some of your time and if you have a lot of people out to look at the car, that time adds up. Even when you agree to terms, you still have the paperwork to complete. Making sure the paperwork is complete and accurate is imperative to remove yourself from any potential future liability. You also could run the risk of being taken advantage of which could leave you without a car.

Which Is Right For You?

There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to deciding what to do with your old vehicle. You can always try to sell it privately before getting your new vehicle and if you don’t have any luck, then you could trade it in when you go to get your new car. If you aren’t sure what to do, go with what you are most comfortable with.

Sources: Selling/Donating a Vehicle, DMV | Should I Trade My Old Car In or Sell It Privately?, J.D. Power | Should I Trade In My Car or Sell It Privately?, Jalopnik

The Private Sale vs Trade-In Calculator is meant for entertainment purposes only.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.