Where can I sell my car?

We’ve all been in that stressful quandary: “Where can I sell my car?” (Ideally, without getting lowballed.) Normally, selling a car is a somewhat time-sensitive endeavor; most of us can’t wait weeks and weeks to have it done with. Whether you’re moving, need the extra money to use towards a new car or some other large purchase, or something else entirely, the last thing you need is a lot of hoops to jump through to make it happen. But we also want a reasonable price for it.

It all depends on what your situation is. The key thing is to first determine what you’re optimizing for: do you want the most money possible for your car and are willing to wait however long it sell it? Or is the exact price not as important as getting it out of your driveway quickly? As they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. But there is a compromise solution that will let you get the best of both worlds.

Where can I sell my car for top dollar?

We hate to say it but… yes, selling your car private party (like on Craigslist) is probably the best way to get the most money possible for your car. Because you’ll have the ultimate freedom to negotiate with buyers, you can determine what you’d like to get for the car and work backward from there to set a good price. The (major) drawback, as you might be able to guess, is that there’s no guarantee it will sell at that price and how long it might take to find a buyer. If you’re determined to go this route, godspeed! (Here are our tips for making the process go as smoothly as possible.)

Where can I sell my car fast?

As the saying goes: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Sometimes it’s easiest to know you’ll walk away with cash in hand. Companies like CarMax and We Buy Any Car will reportedly send you on your way with a bank draft or check to deposit immediately. Pretty nice, huh? The only downside is you have to come to one of their locations.

Where can I do both?

Some companies will offer a nice compromise between convenience and price. Shift, for example, can complete transactions in about an hour and because it uses algorithm-based pricing, ensures you’re getting a fair market-based price for your car. Plus, you don’t ever have to leave your driveway. Not too shabby!

There you have it! The quick-and-dirty rundown of where you can sell your car and the pros and cons of each.

How to Sell a Car on Craigslist — Part II

So you’ve done the (seemingly) tough part of listing your car to sell on Craigslist. But that’s only half the battle. Here’s your guide on how to find your car a new home, quickly and easily.

Step 1: Get your affairs in Order

Make sure you have all your paperwork lined up:

  • Title (If you have a loan on the vehicle, contact your bank to notify them of the sale. You won’t be able to get the title from them if you don’t, and without the title you can’t complete a sale.)
  • Registration
  • Dealer and repair paperwork (if you have it)
  • Contract of sale (also known as Bill of Sale)

If either the title or the registration are missing, you’ll have to apply for a replacement with the DMV. Luckily, this is a common process that is inexpensive and straightforward.

Image via Alexa Mazzarello

You’ll want to have two copies of a contract of sale, which can be downloaded from the internet and printed out. Some sellers will have a printout of their car’s Carfax history report and KBB price as well to pre-empt lowballers or aggressive negotiators.

Step 2: Schedule a test drive

Privacy and safety is important for both you and the buyer. You may want pick a public and convenient place to meet buyers, like a shopping center, and arrange a time that is relatively safe (for example, a weekend morning). Some buyers and sellers also choose to ask a friend or family member to come along with them for added safety (and moral support!), so be ready for it to be a party.

PRO TIP: Make sure to remind your buyer the time, date, location, and preferred form of payment to avoid any confusion.

The Lease Buyout: Getting Out of a Car Lease

Step 3: Prep your car to sell 

A couple hours before your scheduled test drive, give your car a once-over to get rid of any bits of trash and other unsightly elements, take it for a final wash and vacuum, and then go meet your buyer.

Some sellers insist on being in the car during the test drive, but it’s probably easier and more comfortable for both you and the buyer to just take a picture of their driver’s license and let them take it for a spin themselves.

Step 4: Sell Your Car (FINALLY!) 

If you’ve done all your work, pretty soon you’ll find yourself in the closing negotiations. It’s normal for buyers to negotiate for a better price. Decide beforehand a price that you won’t go below. If a buyer does try to go lower than that number, don’t be afraid to say no. It’ll only be a matter of time before you find someone else.

Closing the sale
Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time for the paperwork:

  • Collect your cashier’s check (politely decline personal checks)
  • Fill out the contract of sale
  • Transfer the title to the buyer

Since every state has slightly different laws, it’s best to do a Google search for car sales in your state to check if there’s additional documentation required. And that’s it! Cash your check at the bank and pat yourself on the back.

One thing to be aware of: Getting your car listed is generally fairly quick, but the process of actually selling your car on Craigslist often takes much longer — several weekends on average. If you’re on the West Coast and want to save some time, Shift can cut it down to about an hour or less.

Whatever way you choose to go, happy selling!

Can you deduct your car on your taxes?

As a car company, we often get customers asking us, “Can you deduct your car on your taxes?They’re not alone: Americans everywhere are starting to think through their finances as tax season approaches. But most people don’t know all the ways that their cars can have an impact on their returns, or vice versa. We’ve rounded up some of the best tips you need to know to maximize your money. 

Your taxes and your [next] car

Perhaps the most obvious way to get the most out of tax season is if you receive a refund from the government after filing your return. The average American receives about $2,900 back on their annual tax refund. Compare that to the average used car price of about $20,000, and an average 12 percent down payment of $2,400. So it’s easy to see how that extra cash windfall can literally pay for a new set of wheels. It’s no wonder why TurboTax lists replacing your car as one of the best ways to spend your tax refund. Some people also use that cash to pay for service or upgrades to their current vehicle. 

One of the hidden benefits to putting a tax return towards a car’s down payment is that you can generally either afford a more expensive car (a higher-value asset). Alternatively, you can apply more money towards the down payment, which can lower your overall loan amount and APR. Keep in mind that high-quality used cars tend to retain their value better than brand new cars, so your money will go farther if you choose to buy used. 

Moreover, if you purchased or used a car for professional purposes (for example, a van for your catering business), you can also write that off on your taxes. Here’s a full rundown of the tax considerations for business vehicles.

Other Ways to Use Your Car on Your Taxes

Even if you don’t have a refund coming your way, you can still take advantage of some vehicle-related benefits come tax season.  You can deduct sales tax on a car purchase for local and state taxes when you itemize your deductions. (Given the large price tag of a new car, that’s a lot of sales tax).

On the flip side, if you live in certain states, you can also get a huge sales tax benefit by trading in a car. Those states will let you apply your trade-in credit to the total price before tax is applied, meaning it will bring down the overall taxable amount. So you’ll end up paying much less in sales tax upfront. 

Pro tip: Run the numbers first to see what your payments and APR might be when accounting for that extra cash. Better yet, get prequalified to get an accurate estimate of your monthly payments upfront. (Shift’s prequalification tool even lets you shop based on your predicted loan terms.) That’s some savvy financial planning.

Tips to Sell Your Car

Preparing your car for sale properly is key to getting it sold quickly at a good price. Whether a buyer is looking at a picture of your car online or in person, you will only have a few moments to convince them to take a closer look. So whether you choose to sell to a “private party” through a listing on craigslist, opt to trade-in to a traditional dealer, or use a full car selling service like Shift, it’s important to make sure your car looks clean and well taken care of. Here are some tips to sell your car and (hopefully) increase it’s curb appeal:

1) Clean up your car

This car selling tip may seem simple, but you’d be surprised how many cars are put up for sale without proper cleaning. Here’s what a cleaning should entail:

  • Wash & vacuum; wax is optional.
  • Clear out all of your belongings. Your entire car and trunk should be empty.
  • Wipe down your wheels, hubcaps and dashboard with car cleaning products so it looks new.
  • Clean mirrors and windows inside and out.
  • Wipe down leather seats with a leather cleaner.
Clean Car Trunk - Lexus IS
Source: shift.com

2) Consider minor upgrades

Small upgrades may be easily worth the money. You’ll be surprised how many things can be upgraded for $20-$70 that may mean you can sell the car for hundreds more. This might mean new seat covers, floor mats, headlights, or steering wheel covers — anything that will make your car look newer and more attractive. Small investments can pay off big time.

Car Inspection Repair
Shift mechanics doing a car inspection

3) Get your car checked by an ASE certified mechanic

C You’ll want to say with confidence and with a report that your car is running smoothly without any problems. This could make a huge difference for a buyer on the fence or a buyer trying to make a quick decision. It will also give you peace of mind to know this buyer isn’t going to come back a week later, fuming because something broke down or a warning light came on. You may also want to get a vehicle history report to show the buyer that the title is clean and the odometer reading is accurate.

4) Minor car repairs may be worth it

Aside from critical repairs that affect the car’s performance and mechanics, some minor repairs may be worth it when trying to maximize the sell price of your car.

Consider getting quotes to fix large, visible dents or scratches which can significantly lower the value of your car in the minds of buyers, particularly  in very noticeable areas such as the door or hood. People are more likely to be okay with scratches and dents on less-obvious areas like the bumper.

Consider other highly visible items to repair. Is your headlight broken? Is there rust from scratches that makes the car look old and worn? These kind of visible fixes can make a big difference in how a buyer evaluates your car. Generally, non-visible repairs like new brakes or tires won’t make too much of a difference in the offer price.

5) Unique Upgrades & Modifications

Keep in mind that a sleek, expensive modification to your car may seem awesome to you, but may not be what a buyer is looking for. In many cases, you will not retain the value of expensive 3rd party modifications. You may even want to consider having the mods removed if you want a larger pool of interested buyers (sometimes you can sell the parts separately, too).

This is particularly important when trying to do a trade-in at a car dealer or getting it appraised by an online service like Shift. As dealers both buy and sells cars, it needs to consider the needs of the buyer and has to be able to vouch for the modification. Thus it is not uncommon for dealers to devalue modification or outright reject cars with too many serious modifications. You may feel like your modifications are great and installed well, but keep in mind that a dealer can’t guarantee its quality and performance so they may adjust your quote.

6) Vehicle Age & Mileage

You may not be able to take back or change the age or mileage of your car, but you can be sure to sell it at the right time. Do not underestimate the psychological power of numbers. The value of your car can depreciate significantly when it hits specific milestones such as 100,000 miles or 10 years of age. If your car is nearing certain milestones, consider reducing your use of the car and selling it sooner than later.

7) Paperwork is important

Having poor paperwork can really hurt car’s sale price as well as increase the hassle of the transaction. It’s important to gather and have all your maintenance records, your title, and lien release papers ready at the point of sale. Be sure to review your documents early and correct any issues before engaging a buyer. This way you don’t lose out on a sale or be negotiated down due to the extra hassle and wait.

If all of this seems like a lot of work or you find yourself too busy to go through the process, consider an all-in service such as Shiftthey’ll pick up your car and handle everything (inspections, repairs, paperwork, car wash and sale). Good luck selling your car!

#IHeartShift: 5 Things People Love About Shift

When it comes to finding your perfect car, we at Shift love playing Cupid! During Valentine’s Day, we featured some of our very own happy customers who met their dream cars on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In case you missed it, we rounded them all up for you here in one post.

Curious about what it’s like to buy or sell a car with us? Just read on and get the scoop straight from the folks who went through the easy-peasy experience!

Continue reading “#IHeartShift: 5 Things People Love About Shift”

How to do a lease buyout

Looking to get out of a lease? You’re not alone—buying out your car’s lease can be surprisingly unapproachable. Every car lease is different, but what they all have in common is their complexity. That’s why we talked to our  team of lease specialists to put together an easy guide on how to do a lease buyout.

Little Mermaid contract signing

Why would you buy out a lease?
New baby? Moving house? Went over your mileage allotment? Or maybe the lease on a car you love is expiring soon? Whatever your reason, anyone leasing a car should consider when and whether buying out your lease makes sense. No matter the case, weighing a buyout will depend on how the current market value of your car compares to your total cost of buyout.

Calculating your cost of buyout
The primary consideration of your buyout is: what’s it gonna cost me? Calculate it with the following equation:

Cost of buyout = Residual value + Outstanding monthly payments + Fees

Residual value: the lion’s share of your buyout
A car’s residual value is an estimate of the car’s worth at the end of its lease term. This number is agreed upon with the dealership when you signed your lease and can usually be found on the lease’s first page. However, only considering this number is insufficient, because the other two factors can often be fairly substantial, so read on, friend.

Outstanding monthly payments: the time-dependent cost
This is what you still owe on the car for the agreed upon lease period. Depending on when you are considering buying out your lease, this number can be small (buying out at end of lease), or large (early buyouts). To calculate this number, multiply the number of remaining months by your monthly payment.

Fees: the unavoidable 🙁 in leasing
Like death and taxes, fees are pretty much unavoidable when it comes to leasing an automobile. On top of that, there is no standard lease and each one is likely to have different fees associated with it. The key consideration here is 1) what types of fees you are on the hook for in case of lease buyout or expiration and 2) how much they’ll cost.
Here are some examples of the types of lease fees you may encounter at expiration:

  • Mileage fee for exceeding your agreed upon mileage allotment. Usually charged on a per mile basis.
  • Damage fee for dents and harm to the car beyond normal wear and tear.
  • Disposition fee for turning your car over at the end of your lease. This covers the lienholder’s cost to recondition and re-detail your car.

Even if you buyout, you can’t avoid fees. Often you will see a purchase option fee if you decide to buy the car. You can usually find the fees you’ll be responsible for in the case of a buyout or at lease expiration outlined near the residual on your original lease, often a bit further down the page.

Cost of buyout vs. market value
The lower the total cost of buyout is relative to a car’s market value, the more sense a lease buyout makes for you. Here are some examples:

Total cost of buyout > market value

  • Total cost of buyout = $15,000 and your estimated value = $13,000. Unlikely to be a profitable buyout, but other personal considerations may apply.

Total cost of buyout < market value

  • Total cost of buyout = $15,000 and your estimated value = $17,000. Definitely consider buying out your lease, it’s time to make some money!

Total cost of buyout is very close to market value

  • The wisdom of a lease buyout will depend on a case-by-case basis here. Maybe you love the car or are happy with it and aren’t ready to part ways with it. In cases where profit is not the primary consideration, it may make sense to buy the lease out.

When should I be thinking about a lease buyout?
You’ll want to start thinking about buying out a lease a few months before your lease actually ends. You may say, “but I still have weeks on my lease!” but it’s best not to wait too long. For one, you’ll need time to do your research. For another, you need to find a buyer if you want to sell your car. Some states have a limit on the time you can wait to resell your vehicle before you have to resell it.

California, for instance, only gives you ten days to transfer ownership to a new buyer before you’re charged sales tax on the lease buyout. If you transfer ownership within 10 days, then they acknowledge that you completed the buyout with the intent to sell and don’t charge you sales tax (which, at California tax rates, is no small sum!). At Shift, we work with sellers to line up a buyer up before the buyout so that you’ll never run into this problem.  

Still have more questions on selling and lease buyouts? We’re here to help.

What’s My Car Worth? The Science of Car Pricing

We heard this one all the time. A simple question with a not-so-simple answer: What is my car worth? Since the car market isn’t usually top of mind, it can be hard to think about value of your car. Car pricing guides like Kelley Blue Book act as good price anchors. But one-size-fits-all car pricing guides tend not to capture every element that could affect a car’s true value.

So we put together three real-world considerations that can impact car value that every seller (and buyer!) should have in mind the next time they’re in the market.

How Market Forces Affect Your Car’s Worth

The question of what your car is worth depends, in part, on what people are willing to pay for it. The laws of supply and demand lie at the heart of every transaction, and used cars are no different. But unlike commoditized goods like milk and coffee beans, the supply and demand for used car can vary widely from place to place. Think about if you live in a rural area — you probably want a car that can handle rough roads. If you live in a packed city on the other hand, a compact car is your best bet. So the demand for those vehicles will change with the location. When it comes to supply… well, your car might be a great one, but if there’s lot of your exact same car on the local market, it could make yours harder to sell at its KBB value.

Other things like area dealer presence and activity, seasonality, and even weather can also impact car pricing. The best way to capture this would be to look at a variety of actual, live listings in your area, how long they’ve been on the market, and compare them to each other. Shift’s estimate tool actually does this precise calculation for you, and when you schedule an evaluation, our Car Enthusiast will actually show you a graph of local vehicle listings similar to yours for your reference.

How Features Affect Your Car’s Worth

The car’s features can also throw a monkey wrench into an already tough calculation. How do the features of your car influence price? Well, it depends:

Paint color – 61% of the cars sold through Shift are black, white, silver, or grey. While not the most exciting, safe neutral colors are still the easiest to sell.

Shift's most popular car colors
Grayscale colors represent a whopping 61% of cars sold on Shift

Bright or exotic colors can fare well among collectors and buyers looking on edges of the color palette, but because there are simply fewer adventurous buyers, you’ll either have to be more patient or lower the price of that lime green Beetle.

Color's effect on sale price at Shift
Purple: a fun color that’s not fun to sell

Transmission – Much to the dismay of car enthusiasts everywhere, fewer and fewer cars are being made with manual transmissions. As a result, fewer people are learning to drive stick. So if your ride sports a manual transmission, you are already significantly limiting your potential buyer audience and may have to lower the price or wait longer to sell.

Trim and package – While most used car shoppers would prefer leather seats and premium audio (hey, who wouldn’t?), whether or not they are willing to pay a premium for it is going to depend from buyer to buyer. Generally speaking, the older a car is, the harder it is to recoup the original cost of your car’s options.

Aftermarket parts – You’ll often see Craigslist listings that list out how much money has been put into the car in after market parts, but these modifications almost never bring a very good return on investment. In fact, because aftermarket parts have a poorer reputation for quality and durability, they could even hurt a car’s resale value. Some sellers will even reinstall the stock parts and just throw the aftermarket pieces into the deal (or sometimes not at all). When it comes to aftermarket mods, seller beware.

How Condition Affect Your Car’s Worth

It should come as no surprise that a car’s condition is a huge factor in determining its value, but when it comes to flaws, not all damage is the same. Deployed airbags, wheel misalignment, and frame damage, for example, are far more likely to hurt a vehicle’s value than fender dents or paint scratches. (That’s just one reason why every car listed on Shift must first pass a detailed inspection by our ASE-certified master mechanics — and why only 3 out of 5 cars make the cut.)

By that same token, not all repairs are the same, either. Even assuming that all repairs are done by an equally skilled hand (which isn’t always the case), some repairs can do more to improve a car’s value than others.

So if you find yourself confused about car pricing, you’re not alone—determining a car’s worth is no easy task. Know that car pricing guides such as KBB are just starting points. If you’re ever looking for a second opinion, check out our quote estimate tool, which already takes your local market into account.

How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist — Part I

Looking to sell your car on Craigslist? There’s a reason it’s so popular — it attracts a large number of car shoppers and you can generally get more for your car than what a dealership will offer you. It isn’t always seamless, and can be downright dread-inducing if you don’t know what you’re doing. But is IS possible to avoid the stereotypical hassle and cash your check in fast. Here’s how.

Step 1: Decide How Much To Sell Your Car For
The price is a primary search criteria for any buyer, so you’ll want to pick a number that reflects your car’s worth but will attract reasonable buyer inquiries relatively quickly. This is one of the most critical factors to selling your car. There are many ways to go about determining it, but the quickest is to visit the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) website.

(Bear in mind: KBB doesn’t factor in your locale or compare live listings, so a second opinion might be a good idea.)

Once you have some figures in hand, consider your urgency, willingness to negotiate, and the car’s condition to arrive at your listing price.

Step 2: Wash Your Car
Every buyer is going to want to see pictures of the car, so before you do that, let’s get your ride looking as presentable as possible. This is important to do to sell your car quickly.

Basic car wash or a full exterior detailing? Generally speaking, how good your car looks will have an impact on how much you can sell it for, and you’ll often make up the cost of the detailing in the sale price. Ultimately, how you clean your car is up to you, but get it spic-n-span before moving onto step 3.

Step 3: Photograph your vehicle
This is one of the most important but overlooked steps when you go to sell your vehicle. Done well, good photos show off your car in its best possible light. They help set proper buyer expectations, and they make it easier to establish trust.

  • Exterior – Start by shooting the exterior in good daylight. Get multiple angles of the exterior and try not to get too high or too low. Hold the camera at a medium height and frame the car well.
  • Dents and flaws – It may be counterintuitive to take highly detailed photos of damage, but they’ll make sure the buyer knows exactly what they’re buying. If you avoid them, it’s only ammo for the buyer to negotiate during the test drive, so save yourself some time and hassle and capture the dents, tire wear, and paint chips.
  • Interior – Get good shots of the driver’s view and don’t forget the odometer and dash. Don’t forget the trunk area, which is often an important buyer consideration. Get some detail shots of the fabric or leather, as well as interesting interior highlights.

What’s My Car (Really) Worth? The Mushy, Inexact Science of Car Pricing

Step 4: Write an Awesome Description
Paired with your awesome photos, a good description and title is going to help your car stand out from the pack and ultimately sell your car faster. In the title, Craigslist will add the price and location automatically, so you should start your title with your car’s year, make, and model.

For the description, keep it skimmable. Use bullets and break out the basics (mileage, interior/exterior colors, engine details and horsepower) from the detailed features and options. Include a paragraph on its general condition, why you’re selling the car, how you used it, and accepted method of payment (cashier’s check is recommended). Feel free to apply your creativity here, but avoid writing too much.

Step 6: Create the Listing
Now you’re all set to introduce the world to your car. Head over to Craigslist.org, select your geography, and click post to classifieds > for sale by owner > cars & trucks > your neighborhood to get the process started.

Insert the title and description you’ve already written, and fill in the rest of your car’s details. Select CL mail relay (which won’t make your email public) and click publish (it costs $5 dollars).

Congratulations, you did it! Let the test drives commence.

Read PART 11: Test drives & sale

Selling a Car on Craigslist? Read this

Buying or selling a car, especially a used car, is usually a pretty terrible experience. It’s inconvenient, time-consuming, and plagued with uncertainty. By and large, the predominant method for most people is still selling a car on Craigslist.

Need groceries? There’s Instacart. Need to sell your vintage jeans? threadUp. Need tickets to Kanye? StubHub’s got them. The list goes on. But when it comes to selling your beloved Prius — one of the biggest financial decisions you’ve made to date — your options are not only limited: they’re antiquated. For most people the process looks something like this: three weeks of dealing with flaky, indecisive buyers; half a dozen text messages in the middle of the night; a person over the phone asking if you’ll extend them a “personal line of credit.” In the 21st century, when there’s an app for almost everything, it’s hard to believe so many people still begrudgingly resort to selling a car on Craigslist.

That’s why we introduced the Shift selling program. It’s an industry-first resource that provides consumers a customized car valuation by considering nuanced data that isn’t used in existing pricing standards like Kelley Blue Book. Our proprietary algorithm considers everything that could impact the sale price: actual transactions, real-time demand, market dynamics and geographic variations (a car that regularly drives through the snow in Salt Lake City will likely be worth a bit less than the same car driven every day in sunny San Diego), making as-needed adjustments for mileage and demand at auction.

How to sell a car on Craigslist

So how does it work? All you have to do is enter some info about your car on our website. We’ll schedule a time to come evaluate your car in person, give you a final offer, and drive it back to our hub. There, we’ll give it a final once-over with our team of mechanics, and send payment straight to your back account. That’s it. Seriously.

Our app is just one more way that Shift is pushing the car industry forward, while staying true to our founding principle: to offer consumers exceptional service for less money, and create a higher standard for the entire industry. That’s why we’re one of the largest dealers in California, and growing.

We think the future of car ownership isn’t selling a car on Craigslist, but rather selling your car in an hour, from your home, in a safe environment, with the money sent directly to your bank. No more wasted Saturdays or late-night texts or sketchy interactions. Just peace of mind.