Trade-in vs. private sale


I have a 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5 (turbo)wagon with 29K miles on it. In great shape.

I like the car, but the gas mileage isn’t hot (22mpg give or take)I’m considering either trading it into the dealer for an '06 or '07 wagon without the turbo…or should I sell the car and find a used car without the assistance (profit)of the dealer? Tips anybody?


If it’s at all convenient for you to do it, you will almost certainly wind up ahead selling it to a private party. The only advantage to trading it in is the convenience factor. Car dealers will only give you a fraction of what your car is worth in a private sale, even if they hide it by messing with the price or financing of your new car.


You should be able to get more money selling the car yourself, but it’s a hassle.

You may wait weeks before you find an interested party. You will wait at home for callers who never show up. Folks will try to low-ball you. What do you say if a stranger asks to take the car for the day so his mechanic can check it out?

Some sellers don’t mind. It’s up to you.


I have a similar car which we love, 2005 Legacy GT(turbo) wagon and get similar mileage. The non-turbo in similar driving will only gain you about 3MPG overall. You have to figure out if that 3mpg is worth it.


You’ll do better selling it privately. But a non-turbo model won’t do much better in the fuel econonmy dept; you’ll be able to use regular gas and you might gain 3 or 4 MPG, but you’ll have less power. From a financial standpoint you’ll probably end up taking a hit. Not worth it IMO. Besides on a mid-sized wagon with AWD 22 MPG is pretty good.


Honestly, if you are going to stick with Subarus your mileage won’t get much better. You need to get into a 2WD of some sort. Maybe a nice Mazda 3 or Honda Civic would appeal to you.


And since no one has said it yet…you’ll be far better off just keeping what you have. There is no way you’ll be able to recoop the difference in cost and payments.


I can echo what Steve said.

The three times in my life when I sold cars, rather than trading them in, the hassle wasn’t worth the return. In all cases, it took an extended amount of time before a serious buyer appeared, and the advertising costs plus the cost of continued insurance on the vehicles severely ate into my so-called profit.

I also experienced phone calls at inconvenient hours, along with more no-shows than people who actually showed up to look at the car. And, for some reason, most of the phone calls at inconvenient hours also included the most idiotic questions.

Despite the fact that the ads stated the odometer mileage, the color, the engine size, the asking price, and the fact that the cars had a manual transmission, the calls invariably included inane questions like:

What kind of transmission does it have? (Oh, a manual transmission, I wanted an automatic.)

What color is it? (Silver? Oh, I wanted a blue car.)

How many miles are on it? (70,000? Oh, I wanted a car with less than 50,000 miles on it.)

How much are you asking for it? ($2,000.? Would you be willing to take $400.?)

Apparently, those with the worst reading comprehension are the most likely to call you at 11:30 PM!

The worst case was my '81 Chevy Citation. In that situation, the dealer actually refused to take it in trade, due to the dismal reputation of the GM “X” cars, and after approximately 8 months of advertising costs and insurance costs, I finally sold it for an incredibly low price to a co-worker just to finally rid myself of that albatross.

Maybe you will be luckier than I was on those 3 occasions, but overall, I think that convenience is worth a lot. The dealer may not give you what you think that car is worth, but after you pay for newspaper ads, after you pay for continued insurance on the car, and after you have endured “Weirdos” who come to your house plus continuous “no-shows”, you may conclude that the convenience of a trade-in was actually worth a considerable sum of money.


I think the trouble is that people ask for what their car is “worth”. The trick isn’t to ask the same thing that the dealer does, which a lot of people who spend months and months trying to get their cars sold, but to price it somewhere below what a dealer would charge for it and somewhere above what you’ll get for it as a trade in. In most cases, if you put your car on the market for 25%-30% more than what the dealer will give you for it, it’ll still be quite a bit below what most people are asking and it should sell reasonably quickly.

Though I suppose it depends on where you live as to how the used car market is and how many eccentric tire kickers there are!


I did price my cars at least 25% below the retail price on a car lot, but still had a very long delay in selling them plus exposure to a lot of very…strange…people. The cars in question were: '71(?) VW Karmann-Ghia, '74 Volvo 240GL and '81 Chevy Citation.

Never again!


By the time you add in the cost of the new car, the mileage advantage will be lost. What matters most is the money you spend for transportation, not neccessarily what you spend it on. And yo will spend far more on a new car and a marginal improvement in gas mileage.


you’ll be able to use regular gas

Lets hope he’s been using premium in his car since he bought it, for the sake of the future buyer.