A man is shown opening the door of a white vehicle.

Out of Your Hands: The Benefits of Selling to a Dealer

Buying a car can be a hassle. If you find the right dealership with the right dealer, it can be a good experience, but most people don’t necessarily look forward to the process of buying a car. At least with buying a car, though, you get the excitement of starting fresh with a new vehicle. Want to know what’s even more annoying than buying a car? Selling a car.

You’re stuck figuring out how to sell, where to sell, how much to charge, paperwork, dealing with potential buyers, and the list goes on. At least that’s the case when you try to sell independently. Selling to a dealer is a whole different story. “Wait, I can sell my car to a dealer?”

Indeed you can, and there is a lot of literature out there advocating for the indispensable benefits of selling to a dealer rather than selling independently. There is truth in this.

However, it’s not that one way is wrong and one way is right. If you’re a retired car salesperson, then maybe you’ve got the chops to strike up an amazing independent sale. Or maybe you’ve got a close, personal friend to whom you’re selling and you’ve worked out a deal that is mutually agreeable. Selling independently isn’t necessarily bad, but if you’re looking for a buyer and you’re not a career salesperson, then selling to a dealer will likely be your best bet. Let’s discuss some reasons why.


Car sales involve heavy negotiating. If you’ve ever purchased a car before (and, presumably, you have), you know what I’m talking about. Even if you’re not a big negotiator, perhaps the other party is. This is especially true when you’re on the sales end of things. You may slap a price on your current vehicle that you think is a great deal—and it might be. But chances are any prospective buyer will find a way to disagree and talk your price down.

If working your way through negotiations isn’t your strong suit, you’ll be better off deferring to a car dealer, whose life is 90% negotiation. Once the vehicle is in the dealer’s hands, they deal with selling it to the next driver. All you have to do is get it to the dealer.

Most dealerships now offer very easy, online ways of determining your vehicle’s value. You don’t even have to drive to the dealership; you can simply upload a photograph of your vehicle with some basic information and descriptions, and they’ll have a trade-in value to you in a half hour or less most of the time. That’s way easier than surveying the vehicle, determining a fair price, and trying to sell it yourself.

A white piggy bank is shown on a car dashboard.

Making the Sale

Ok, but let’s say you do all of that anyway because you feel strongly about selling independently. It is certainly within your freedom to do so. You survey the vehicle, determine the price, and post some ads online using your favorite sites. Great. Let’s say you even have a prospective buyer. Even better!

But what if that prospective buyer stops returning your calls? Sales is a difficult game (ask any car sales professional, I’m sure they’ll tell you), and sometimes potential buyers lose interest and disappear. You can’t necessarily blame them; put yourself in their shoes: If they find a better price on a vehicle they prefer, why wouldn’t they go with it? Reasonable as it may be, it doesn’t make your ability to sell any easier.

Then there’s the hassle of putting your trust in a stranger. Someone may make certain promises to you, like accepting your sale price, and then undercut you on the day they show up with the cash. There are well-documented cases of sellers meeting up with strangers only to be robbed blind. If you’re brave enough to arrange  a sale with a stranger, be sure to meet in a well-lit, public area, and don’t let them test drive your vehicle without handing over some serious collateral first.

By selling to a dealership, however, these problems are off your shoulders. It becomes the dealership’s job to sell the vehicle to somebody else because you have already sold it to the dealership and it is completely out of your hands.

But let’s say you do make a sale. Maybe you went to school for marketing, or maybe you’re just used to convincing your kids that going furniture shopping really will be fun this time and that has translated into great sales skills. So, you’ve got the buyer, they’ve agreed, and you’ve got a sale on your hands. It ain’t over yet.


This is probably one of the most despised words in the English language. Nobody wants it. It feels like an empty void that sucks up our time, energy, and brain capacity while serving no real purpose at all. Apparently, it does serve a purpose somehow, somewhere, and to someone—it’s just that most of us don’t ever actually see the landing place of this paperwork.

Either way, it has to be done. This is the unfortunate truth. If you’re selling independently, you’re going to have to get titles and other forms arranged, signed, and squared away. You’ll also have to keep track of it, submit it to the right people, and enter into the void of time-sucking bureaucratic files.

If you sell to a dealer, you’ll need to sign a thing or two. There are always going to be ads advertising “NO PAPERWORK!” It’s true in the sense that there is almost no paperwork that you have to do, but of course, there will be some necessary signatures. The difference is that the dealership takes care of all the really monotonous paperwork—the kind that would probably make your brain explode if you tried doing it on your own.

Selling to a dealer helps alleviate the confusion, uncertainty, and frustration that comes with having to arrange paperwork on your own. You’ll have to provide a few documents, but the dealer will tell you exactly what you need to prepare, and if you’ve worked with this dealer before, chances are that they have some of these forms on file—or can inform you how to access them (service records, liens, etc.). If you love negotiating, selling, and paperwork, then you should 100% sell your car independently because you’ll have the time of your life.

So, let’s say you do that and it all goes great. The vehicle is finally gone, out of your hands, you pop open the champagne and toast to cars gone by. But the next morning you leave for work and you have no vehicle. Oops.

A couple is shown speaking to a car salesman about how to "sell my car."

Replacing the Vehicle

Chances are you need to replace your old vehicle. Maybe you’re switching over to walking, biking, or public transportation. If so, you’re awesome for that. But most of the time you sell a car so that you can get a newer car. If you sell independently, the sale is only one half of the game, and once the arduous sale is complete, then you have to re-enter into the whole process again—but this time on the other side of the table. Selling to a dealership allows you to trade it in easily and in one convenient location.

Rather than selling the vehicle for cash, using that cash to purchase a new vehicle, you can work with the dealership to arrange a deal in which they take your current vehicle, you take a new or used vehicle from their inventory, and you call it even. Such trade-in values can be calculated online, as mentioned earlier. Trade-ins certainly simplify and streamline the process, meaning less time wasted and more time saved for what is most important to you.

Time is one of our greatest resources. We don’t want to waste it.

Out of Your Hands

Am I telling you not to sell your car independently? No. No, I’m not. I’m simply pointing out that if you don’t like negotiating, trusting strangers, paperwork, or wasting time, then you probably won’t like selling your car independently. Selling to a dealer means that the car gets out of your hands faster, you avoid the more arduous parts, and you can trade in your vehicle and drive off in your new one sooner.