HomeCarsWe might have just sold our car.

We might have just sold our car.

Girl Ninja and I spent a lovely Saturday/Sunday exploring Seattle (we had a little “staycation” to celebrate GN’s upcoming 25th B-day this Wednesday). Upon our arrival back home on Sunday afternoon, Girl Ninja immediately started cleaning the house. It wasn’t all that dirty, but when she’s been away for more than 24 hours, she has this weird OCD thing where she just has to clean something. As she was going to town on our tiny little rental, she asked me if I would help clean the floors. So I did what any logical, loving, caring husband would do. I said “No, let’s go car shopping instead.”

The last thing I wanted to do after a nice relaxing weekend was get on my hands and knees and start scrubbing. We’ve talked about test driving cars for a long time, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get myself out of some cleaning. Off we went to the Honda certified used car dealership.

We have pretty much narrowed down our next car to either a Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or Acura MDX. My personal preference being the Pilot, and Girl Ninja’s top choice obviously being the luxuriously expensive MDX. We walked the lot with the salesman, told him some of the things we were looking for (optional third row) and he showed us the five or six different vehicles they had in stock.

I wasn’t a fan of the MDX because I’m not stoked about the mileage to price ratio. Girl Ninja was not a fan of the Pilot as it felt a little boxy and too big. With neither of us to fond of each other’s top choices, we turned to the Highlander.

They had a 2005 Highlander Limited with 81,000 miles listed for $19,976 (which after a quick blue book check on my phone showed it was already about $1,500 over blue book for a certified pre-owned vehicle). We took it for a test drive and really liked it. It’s big enough that it will provide ample space for the baby mill we plan to operate one day (still can’t believe GN wants four kids), but not soooo large it feels like you are driving a monster truck.

After the drive, the salesman asked how we would be paying for our next car and we told him we would be using cash from the sale of one of our cars, couple with personal savings to cover the difference. He recommended, for obvious reasons, that we consider trading in Girl Ninja’s car instead. Although I have NO desire to trade in her car, I did want to see what their trade in offer would be on her car and mine.

I learned two things yesterday; 

  1.  Getting in an accident sucks. I got in a fender bender (my fault) in 2007 in my ’07 Scion tC and it shows up on the carfax. As a result, the dealership only offered a trade in value of $6,000 on my car. Blue Book shows private party retail for my year and mileage at $13,000. Had my car not been in an accident he said my trade in value would have been around $10,500. Accidents suck the value out of a perfectly functioning car.
  2. Trade in values in general are low, low, low balls. After running the numbers and inspecting GN’s car thoroughly they came back with an offer of $5,000. I laughed and told him we could easily sell it for $7,000 on Craigslist. He laughed and said, I couldn’t.

After about 20 minutes of his Jedi mind tricks, even bringing his manager in to “sweeten the pot”, they finally realized we were standing our ground and we wouldn’t be buying that Highlander. We walked away feeling like David must have after conquering Goliath. 

So last night, I got home and posted both of our cars on Craigslist. I posted mine for $12,000 and Girl Ninja’s for $8,200. Of course, my car hasn’t gotten a single bite because of the accident, but Girl Ninja’s did. We are showing the car later today (assuming the person doesn’t flake as many CLers do). We talked on the phone for quite a bit about it and the dude seems reasonable. I told him I’m selling to the first person that gives me cash and he seemed a little panicked by that. He told me he would bring money for a deposit on the car tomorrow, and if everything checks out according to how I described it, he will bring the rest of the money on Tuesday to pick up the vehicle.

Did we really just sell Girl Ninja’s car that fast? I feel good about the $8,200 list price and wont sell for a penny less. Her car does have typical wear and tear (minor dings and scrapes), her headlights are a little foggy, and the most significant issue is the rear window on the driver’s side no longer works (motor died) so it’s not like her car is in tip-top shape. Not to mention, an $8,200 sale nets us $3,200 more than the dealership’s offer.

The only downside to selling Girl Ninja’s car is that we would immediately become a one car family. I have a work car so this doesn’t impact our professional lives, but man would it sure be annoying for personal reasons. We’d obviously be motivated to replace her car quick, but not so quick we buy something we don’t like or is stupid expensive. No, like a good Ninja, I will wait patiently for a reasonable deal.

Crazy that a simple request from Girl Ninja to mop the floors, turned in to selling her car. I’ll keep ya updated if we are carless by the end of the night.

You ever bought a car on Craigslist (I’ve only sold on CL, but not bought)? Are certified pre-owned vehicles worth the dealer mark up compared to private party sales? Why do so many people “trade in” their vehicles when they could probably sell them on CL for a few thousand more?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I ended up mopping the floors later that night. 

p.s. my friends over at USAA sent over a few tips after reading this. Thought they were good enough to share with y’all. Check ’em out if you want…

How to Get the Most Dough for Your Used Car.and From Financing to Floor Mats: How Auto Dealers Make Their Money.



  1. I have bought one of gumtree if that counts? Was (so far) a great experience!

    Good for you guys standing your ground!

  2. We’ve bought a car on Craigslist before. As long as you have a good mechanic in your family, usually it goes well!

  3. I just traded my car in for a certified pre-owned Toyota, and I love it. We ended up getting a great deal on a Camry and I couldn’t be happier. The trade-in offer for my car was lower than I could have sold it for privately, but we chose to lose money because it had become dangerous. It started accelerating independently and no auto shop could find a reason for it. We couldn’t sell it in clean conscience to another person/family. But to a dealer who could take it apart/sell it for parts? Sure!

    I love my toyota!

    • We had a similar issue with ours. Our car started literally heaving down the road (if we were moving) and stalling (if we were at a light) when the heat or defrost was turned on. We live in Canada. Not using either isn’t really an option.

      In the end, given the shape it was in, I think we got about as much as we would have privately and we didn’t have it on our conscience.

  4. I have a 2003 VW Passat on Craigslist right now. It’s an interesting experience as there has been a lot of interest but only a handful of “offers”. Like you, we don’t need two cars, but the convenience is nice. However, it just makes sense to sell it now and save on inspections, insurance and other expenses.

    My wife also loves the MDX and saving up for it is my 2012 goal for her!

  5. A geographical perspective on trading in a car to a dealership. In Missouri, where I live, if you trade in your car where you buy your new car you only pay property tax on the difference between the two vehicle prices as opposed to the entire amount of the new vehicle. So, that makes trading it in more appealing here. And that can be a fairly significant amount and when you factor in the hassle factor of selling it privately, lots of people choose to trade it in.

  6. To help out my sister, a couple years ago I posted her 1997 Geo Metro on ebay (specifying a “cash only” pickup deal). We got about 5 different bidders in her area and she sold that old, tiny, 3 cylinder, manual transmission, no a/c, no power windows, no power steering Metro for $2000. More than it was worth. But that was the first time that gas prices jumped up in a long time and people were panicked. It was a great experience for us, and we sold the car honestly and told the guy of any problems it had, and so I assume it ended up working out well for him, too. 🙂

  7. Pick up a 7 dollar bottle of meguiars rubbing compound and use it on the headlights. It will clear them up.

    I have bought and sold on cl. Consider a pre purchase inspection for peace of mind.

  8. I’ve NEVER bought a car from a dealer. I have only used craigslist, and the green “trading post” (back in the day before the internetz.) I’ve sold cars the same way.

    I’m an intelligent person and can make my own decisions; also, I am always a cash buyer. Dealers mark up the cars PLUS in my area add a charge (anywhere from $149-$500) just for taxes and tags. I’ll go to DMV for an hour to save $500!

    Don’t worry. If something doesn’t seem right, you will know it. I’ve always met my buyers/sellers at the bank, and asked for a cashier’s check which is immediately deposited. The bank crew will help you.


  9. Just sold my truck and then purchased a Subaru Outback on CL about 3 months ago, couldn’t have gone better. You did the right thing with the price, too many people start high and then end up lower than needed due to a lack of interest or serious buyers. Better to start by offering at a good deal and then hold firm if you have good interest. I sold my truck in two days that way, and got $2,000 more than offered in trade.

    When buying, make sure to ask if they are ok with mechanic inspection prior to going to see the car. If they refuse then don’t go. If they agree, make sure you have a mechanic in the area that can check it out during your test drive, but only do that if you are serious about buying. Well worth the money, and either gives you peace of mind, or if you find mechanical issues it can give you bargaining leverage for a great deal. For example, if the brakes are about gone that’s fine, just factor the cost of new brakes into the price and let the seller know you are doing that. I actually like it when purchasing for the car to need new brake pads, new tires, etc. It gives me great leverage for pushing down the price, and I’d rather have brand new brakes or tires anyway.

  10. My mom has sold a couple of cars on Craigslist. Make sure the car is super clean, that really helps seal the deal. And having newer tires and all the car history and maintenance records.

  11. I had always heard that when buying a car, you want to handle it as (3) separate transactions. First, negotiate the price of the car. Then, negotiate the trade-in value. Finally, negotiate the financing.

    And never, ever, tell them you will drop a bag of money on their desk for the car (the dealership makes most of its money in the financing department).

    Of course, I am no expert. That’s just what I have heard.

  12. I’ve only sold a car via internet (on Kijiji, here in Canada). I’ve bought lots of other stuff (like furniture and a lawnmower though).

    Just wanted to say – I own a 2008 Honda Pilot EX and I love, love, love it. I bought it used from the Honda dealership. It’s the best vehicle I’ve ever owned.

  13. Oh my word – you guys are funny…and fast! We bought the trusty Lexus on CL from the nicest family ever and it’s been great. If the owner seems nice, lives in a nice house, that means they probably took good care of their car and you’d prob be safe with a private party purchase. That’s my philosophy.

  14. All our cars have been bought on TradeMe – our local site that’s a hybrid, I think, of Ebay and Craigslist.

  15. My first car bought off a private party way before Craig’s list was a thought (1999 lol) and then bought my second car from a dealer (2006).

    Not related to the point of the post at all, but something really stuck out for me 19K for a car with 81K miles that isn’t a luxury car seems INCREDIBLY HIGH. Am I missing something? This is a 7 year old car that isn’t German with 81,000 miles! Sure there are plenty of stories about cars lasting to 150K or so, but man there are many more stories about cars crapping out way before that.

  16. I’ve never bought a car on Craigslist, but I have sold one. It was fairly painless. I didn’t run into any no shows. The car sold relatively quickly and without much negotiating. It definitely beat trying to sell it to a dealership and getting low balled.

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