How to Get the Most When Selling a Used EV or Other Car

  • It’s pretty easy to understand that a cleaner car is likely to sell than a dirty one, but do you also have paperwork to back up your claim that the car was only serviced at the dealership?
  • You want to get the best price, sure, but “aggressive negotiations” work better in Star Wars than with a dealer whom you want to buy your car.
  • There’s a special kind of vehicle history report you can get if you’re selling an EV, thanks to a new startup called Recurrent.

    Used cars continue to be in high demand these days and, as we mentioned last week, that can give sellers the upper hand. But if everyone knows that they can get a good deal for their old car right now, then how can you make your ride stand out?

    Most sellers can name the basics, like having good, clean pictures of the car if you’re listing it online, but Joe Neiman, chief customer success officer at ACV Auctions, says you can sell that sizzle a bit more by showing off the work you’ve done to keep the car in good shape. If you’ve only ever had the car serviced at the dealership, bring that paperwork along, for example. You also want to have the vehicle in “trade-in ready” condition, he said, so make sure it’s clean and empty of unnecessary gear.

    “The condition that you present your car in represents its upkeep for the duration of your ownership,” Neiman told Car and Driver. “It is also worth it to spend a little extra money for a professional detail before you head to the dealership and then talk up your effort on-site.”

    Nieman, himself a former used-car dealer, says that if you’re going to work with a dealer, it’s best to be educated about your own vehicle—where the title is, if you still owe money, etc.—and be upfront about the status. That kind of straightforward attitude should carry over into the money phase, he said, adding that aggressive negotiating is unlikely to help get you a better deal.

    “Be friendly and confident when negotiating about price, and remember that dealers are experts who understand the basics of the process,” he said. “Playing ‘hardball’ is not advised, it will likely make the dealership less willing to try and work with you.”
    Neiman’s last tip is to leave about a half-tank of gas in the car when you bring it to a potential seller.

    “A dealer will assess the value of your car based on several factors, and the amount of gas in the tank is an indicator of how much value the car holds to you as the seller,” he said. “If you walk into a trade-in with the gas light on, it gives the impression that you have squeezed the life out of your car and are ready to walk away from it. This will give dealers leverage to offer a lower value, plus you can’t jump in the car to go elsewhere.”

    Brave New World of EV Selling

    There’s a somewhat similar, and certainly lower-emission, factor to consider based on the energy your car uses when you are trying to sell an electric vehicle. Having a used-car buyer ask for a vehicle history report from a place like Carfax or AutoCheck is relatively standard these days, but EVs introduce a new wrinkle to the provenance game. While traditional reports can tell you a lot about a car’s accident history, what if you have a question about an EV’s battery pack? The answer could be Recurrent.

    A new startup based in Seattle, Recurrent is the first company that offers an independent, third-party report of the battery life and range of a used EV for car buyers. It can also help sellers get the most value out of their used EV, Recurrent CEO Scott Case told Car and Driver.

    “Battery health is the new odometer for electric cars,” Case said. “You could be selling an EV with a great battery that is just like new, but potential buyers discount it because it’s got high mileage. That’s where our used-car battery reports come in, helping buyers get more confidence in the battery, which is otherwise literally a black box.”

    Last year, a study by AAA found that up to 40 million Americans might consider buying an EV the next time they buy a car. Recurrent believes a lack of information about battery condition and range stops some of these purchases, so it collected detailed data on range and battery condition information from volunteer EV drivers. The company then used this information to build a database that can predict an EV’s future battery life and range, and it provides vehicle reports to participating dealers and to EV buyers and sellers themselves.

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