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May 23rd, 2012

Auto Nation Direct: It’s Good!

I’m in the process of selling one car and buying a new one.

We’ve only had two cars before our current cars. One was declared a total loss after an accident and the other we donated. This time is the first time I’ve had to think about trade-in vs. private sale.

The car we were getting rid of was a 2002 Outback Wagon in very good shape with under 100,000 miles. I checked Edmunds True Market Value and the Kelly Blue Book to get an idea of what our trade-in and private sale expectations should be. I also got quotes from a dealer, Carmax, and Auto Nation Direct. Here’s a handy chart:

  Trade-in Private sale
Edmunds True Market Value $4,817 $5,491
Kelly Blue Book $5,971 $7,306
Local Subaru dealer $2000  
Carmax $3000  
Auto Nation Direct $4600  

In summary: Kelly Blue Book gives worthlessly high values. And dealers give you worthlessly low offers.

I decided I didn’t want to go the private sale route because of the hassle (something I don’t need with a new baby in the house). But I was pretty offended by my dealer’s offer (and Carmax a little less so).

In the end I went the Auto Nation Direct route, which works like this:

  1. Go to their site, click “sell us your car,” and enter your car’s details (VIN, features, condition, etc.)
  2. In a few minutes you’ll get a “certified offer” from them based on the information you’ve given.
  3. You’ve got ten days to schedule an appointment with one of their affiliated dealer partners. You take your car there along with the title and registration. The dealer takes 10-15 minutes to look at the car and make sure you weren’t lying about anything.
  4. Assuming the offer stays the same (mine did), you sign a few papers, get a receipt, and a few days later a check will be FedEx’ed to your house.

It was a surprisingly simple process that was nice for a few reasons. First, it wasn’t tied to the purchase of a car at all, similar to CarMax’s “We’ll buy yours even if you don’t buy one of ours.” Secondly, it was a halfway decent offer. It was a significant amount more than either other offer I’d received. Probably not as much as I could have gotten private sale (if one is to believe the “book” numbers), but so, so much less hassle.

So, yay!

(AutoTrader has a similar program. They offered $4500, so I went with Auto Nation Direct’s offer instead, for that extra hundred bones.)

Posted in Cars, Consumer Commentary

Paul May 23, 2012, 4:44 pm


This sounds pretty painless. Maybe the least painless car-related thing I’ve seen in a while. Splendid.

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