Consumer Reports: Tricks of the trade-in

If you're in the market to sell your car, getting top dollar for it may seem like a daunting task. But Consumer Reports reveals some tricks of the "trade-in" which can help get you every penny your car is worth.

Kelly Jancski wanted to sell her 12-year-old BMW, so she took it to a local dealer.

"They offered me as a pity move maybe a thousand dollars for it, which was very disappointing to me," Jancski said.

"The sweet spot for getting the most for your used vehicle is at the 3-year-old mark because dealers can resell it under a certified pre-owned program," said Consumer Reports Auto Editor Jon Linkov.

Even after five to seven years Consumer Reports says vehicles can still have value because the repair costs usually haven't started to escalate.

But knowing exactly what your car is worth can be challenging. Using Consumer Reports' handy market value calculator or taking your car to a Carmax store can help.

Although Kelly's car was 12-years-old she continued her research, determined to get more than $1,000.

"I came to the conclusion that the car was worth somewhere between $2,500 and $3,500."

Consumer Reports says offers can vary and recommends taking your car to a few local dealers to find the best one. You can also solicit offers through websites like Autotrader.com, Cars.com, and TrueCar.

"But keep in mind if you sell your car to the dealer, you're likely going to take a financial hit,"Linkov said. "On the other hand, you can sell the car yourself and make more money, but that's going to require more time and effort on your part."

"All of a sudden all of this burden comes on me. Now I have to photograph it, make up an ad, and start to figure out how I'm going to market it," Jancski said.

In the end Kelly decided to exhaust word of mouth first.

"Luckily, I hit the jackpot," she said. "I ended up selling it for $2,000."

Also keep in mind a clean car goes a long way whether you decide to sell privately or through a dealer. But getting it detailed can cost between $150 and $250, cutting into your profit. So you might want to wash and vacuum it yourself.

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