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Start With an Online Offer When Selling or Trading In Your Car

Whether you want to sell your vehicle on your own, trade it in to a dealership, or are simply curious about its value, you should start with the same first step: Getting an online offer. An online offer differs from an appraisal in that, rather than being an estimate, the offer is a firm price that you can take action on.

Here's how it works. You start by entering your license plate or VIN on our instant offer page. Next, verify the vehicle style and options, then answer a few questions about its condition level. It is important to get the options right and be honest about the condition level since this will greatly impact the accuracy of the offer. Ultimately, you'll get an instant offer that's good for seven days at any CarMax location.

Notably, while some sites will ask for your personal information and hound you with phone calls, the Edmunds instant offer is hassle-free and allows you to decide what's best on your own terms.

Here are a few ways the Edmunds instant offer can help when selling or trading in your car.

1. It Gives You a Trade-in Baseline at the Dealership

Vehicle trade-ins can get complicated. People may find themselves negotiating on two fronts — the selling price on the car they want to buy, and the trade-in price of a car they currently own. This is why Edmunds recommends handling these transactions separately, ideally on different days.

The most effective way to negotiate a trade-in is to get an Edmunds instant offer before reaching out to the dealership. Next, make an appraisal appointment with the dealership where you'd like to purchase the vehicle. If the vehicle appraises for less than your Edmunds offer, you can tell the dealership that you've been offered more through Edmunds — and nicely ask if they can improve on their offer.

Alternatively, you can simply redeem the Edmunds offer at CarMax as your first step. This will make for a shorter day at the dealership since you've already taken care of the trade-in.

2. It Provides a Private-Party Backup Price

Setting the right price is critical in a private-party sale. Price it too low and you're leaving money on the table. Price it too high and you won't get any interest in your vehicle. We recommend you use the instant offer as a baseline for your selling price — specifically, use the private-party value that is included as part of your Edmunds vehicle appraisal. If your Edmunds offer comes in at $15,000, for example, the private-party value might be $18,000, in which case you'll want to list your vehicle at or slightly above that price. If the buyer wants to negotiate, you'll have some wiggle room before you get down to the Edmunds offer. At that point, you can just take the sure thing and save yourself the hassle of a private-party sale.

That's a key point, because while selling a vehicle privately has the potential to get you more money, you have to be comfortable dealing with strangers and handling all the paperwork. And in the COVID-19 era we live in, there are health and safety concerns as well. Private sales naturally take longer, too, since you have to wait until the right buyer comes along. But if you want to dip your toes into it, try listing the car for a few days and see what happens. If you're not comfortable with it or aren't getting any bites, simply redeem your Edmunds offer and get a check that same day.

3. It Helps You Determine if You Have Equity in Your Lease

There are times when market conditions change and the residual value of a lease tends to be undercalculated. We're living in one of those times now. Used car values are at a record high, and there's a good chance your vehicle might be worth more than its official end-of-lease value.

In this situation, you can use the Edmunds offer to get an offer on your leased vehicle. If it appraises for more than the lease buyout price, you might be able to pocket the difference, provided the lease company allows you to sell it. This article provides more depth if you're interested in this method.

Other Considerations

If you owe more money on the loan than the car is worth, you may be "upside down." In this case, you would be responsible for covering the difference. If you're not prepared for that, we recommend sticking with a traditional dealership for the transaction. Read this article for more information.

There also are some qualifications to note when considering an Edmunds instant offer. Vehicles must be 2018 or older (newer vehicles do not qualify for an offer), the vehicle must have a value of less than $30,000, and there must be a CarMax location within 100 miles of your ZIP code. Finally, high-end or exotic vehicles do not qualify (e.g., Bentley or Ferrari).

Edmunds Says

When it comes to selling or trading in your car, many people tend to focus on one concern — the selling price. But there's more to selling a car than the check you're handed at the end. What's your time worth? What about your health and safety? Do you feel comfortable handling the paperwork yourself? These are all things that must factor into where and how you sell your car, and the Edmunds instant offer can help optimize your outcome.

See Edmunds pricing data

Has Your Car's Value Changed?

Used car values are constantly changing. Edmunds lets you track your vehicle's value over time so you can decide when to sell or trade in.

Price history graph example