Edmunds: How to Sell a Car in a Pandemic, and Do It Safely

by Ronald Montoya of Edmunds

Associated Press

Saturday March 13, 2021

A prospective buyer surveys a long row of unsold 2020 pickup trucks at a Ram dealership, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Littleton, Colo.
A prospective buyer surveys a long row of unsold 2020 pickup trucks at a Ram dealership, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Littleton, Colo.   (Source:AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Selling a car privately has long been a way for people to potentially get more money for their vehicle compared to trading it in to a dealership. But it's always been a laborious process. You need to photograph your car from all angles, create ads, take calls and texts from strangers, and then meet them so they can test-drive your car and complete the deal. Add potential exposure to COVID-19 during in-person interactions and suddenly selling your vehicle this way can be downright unappealing.

So what are your options? Edmunds' experts have highlighted three ways to more comfortably sell your vehicle amid the pandemic. Note that none of these options get rid of human interaction, but they are more of a known quantity and you'd deal with fewer people overall.

TRADE IT IN AT A TRADITIONAL DEALERSHIP

This option will be most useful for people who already planned on buying a new car. By now, most franchise dealerships have been trained on how to handle customers during COVID-19. You'll want to start by reaching out to the dealership that you're interested in purchasing from. Call ahead to schedule an appointment not only to get an appraisal for your trade-in but also to test-drive the vehicle you are interested in. This strategy allows you to maximize your time because the dealership can appraise your car while you're test-driving another.

Note that you're not obligated to make a decision on either front that day, so you can take your time to consider. But remember to keep the negotiations for the trade-in and purchase separate to avoid confusion. Finally, you'll want to compare the trade-in offer you get with an online appraisal to serve as a reference in determining whether you were offered a fair price. If the numbers check out, the dealership will handle the remainder of the sale and you can focus on other tasks at hand.

USE AN ALTERNATIVE TO A NON-FRANCHISE DEALERSHIP

This option is good for two types of sellers: 1) those who need cash for their vehicle and don't want to feel pressured to buy something else and 2) those who want a faster alternative to trading in at a franchise dealership. On the Edmunds site, for example, you can enter your vehicle identification number or license plate to get an instant offer on your vehicle. Then all you have to do is redeem the offer at a participating dealership — it will verify the condition of your vehicle and make a check out to you. There are very few people to interact with, and you don't have to get in the car with anyone for a test drive. If not many people are at the dealership, you can be in and out within an hour or so. Compare that to dealing with weeks of Craigslist or Facebook messages.

Another option is third-party car-buying services, some online and some local, that specialize in making remote offers to purchase your vehicle. They offer similar low-contact services that can potentially yield more offers on your vehicle. Edmunds hasn't tested these services, so make sure you read reviews on them before deciding who to do business with.

CONSIDER A CAR BROKER

Many car brokers also offer assistance with selling your vehicle. In this scenario, you're only dealing with one point of contact versus a few at the dealership. You're not selling your vehicle to the broker. Instead, the broker will use his or her network of dealer contacts to find the best offer for it.

Make sure to inquire upfront about any fees the broker may charge and whether the sale is contingent on purchasing another vehicle. We can't vouch for all car brokers out there, so make sure to research them a bit and see what the reviews have to say.

EDMUNDS SAYS: There are safer alternatives to selling your car privately during the pandemic. These methods will make it possible for you to get a fair price for your car while minimizing contact with others, and they can prove more convenient than selling it yourself.

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This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Ronald Montoya is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @ronald_montoya8.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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