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Should You Sell Your Car Yourself or Accept Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer?


When it comes time to sell your car, there’s more than one way to do it. A couple of the more popular methods are to sell it yourself or take advantage of Kelley Blue Book® Instant Cash Offer (ICO). Either of these methods will put cash in your pocket that you can spend, save or put toward buying another car — choosing between these options has less to do with which is better and more to do with you and your preferences.

So how do you decide? Let’s take a look at the two options and the factors you should consider when choosing which method to use.

The 411 on KBB

Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is the gold standard in setting used-car valuations. Since 1926, the organization has monitored used-car transactions, publishing market-driven values on pre-owned cars. It’s the source for current transaction prices, whether a used car is a trade-in or sold through a private party or dealer. When people mention a car’s book value, they’re almost always referring to the price determined by Kelley Blue Book.

The Scoop on the ICO

Because KBB is a trusted source in determining used-car values and new car pricing, various dealerships around the country have partnered with the organization to streamline the sale of used cars for private owners. Basically, it’s a quick, no-haggle way to get cash for your car. You simply provide some information to KBB, including your car’s make, model, year and current condition. Based on a car’s features and your description of its condition, you get an offer (the ICO) that is redeemable at any participating dealer.

The ICO amount isn’t guaranteed. If, after inspecting the car, the dealer determines it isn’t in the condition described, the offer amount could be adjusted, so be honest about the condition of your car. The more accurate you are in your description, the less likely your offer is to change.

After the inspection, you hand the dealer the keys. You then have the option of using the trade-in amount as a down payment on another car, or you can pocket the money and walk away.

Selling Your Car Yourself

If you’re considering a service such as the Kelley Blue Book instant Cash Offer, you may have already thought about all that’s involved with selling a car yourself. Unless you have a family member or a next-door neighbor who you already know wants your car, this option can be a bit involved and time-consuming. Nevertheless, people do it all the time; Autotrader has many listings for cars being sold by private sellers.

The internet and sites such as Autotrader have certainly made the car-selling process easier, but there’s still a lot that’s involved. In addition to writing an effective ad and shooting a series of good photos, you must be available to answer inquiries about the car, meet potential buyers for inspections and test drives, and negotiate the sale. Plus, making the actual transaction and exchanging payment for the title can always be a little fraught.

The Trade-Off

Which of these methods is better suited to you really depends on your priorities. You’ll almost always get more money for a car by selling it yourself than by going through a dealer, whether or not the Instant Cash Offer is involved. How much more you’ll net with an independent sale depends on a number of variables, including your ability to negotiate.

On the other hand, there’s considerably more work involved in selling a car yourself. If you have the time and don’t mind putting in some extra effort, selling your car yourself makes sense. If you choose not to do the work, the dealer will have to — and this is why you’ll get a little less if you go that route. If time is an issue for you and you want to avoid the hassle of having strangers come to your house or taking the car to public parking lots for inspections and test drives, getting less cash may be an acceptable trade-off.

What it means to you: Whether you take an ICO (explore that path here) or decide to sell your car yourself, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The quicker, easier method by far is accepting an ICO, and it’s best for those who don’t want to spend time and energy fixing, cleaning, advertising and showing their car. On the other hand, if you absolutely must have the highest price for your current car and have time to invest in order to get that extra money, selling your car on your own is your best bet.

Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book are sister companies of Cox Automotive.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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6 COMMENTS

  1. KBB certifcate was for $18.7k and the dealers offered me $16k! That was 15% less and nowhere close to the amount offered by KBB. KBB makes money of dealeships they sent you to, they don’t care about you or your money. I filed a complain with BBB regarding KBB’s behavior. Don’t use them.   

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