I recently found myself no longer in need of a car. I guess I haven’t ever really needed a car at all, but I only just got around to dumping the financial bulk. With that in mind, I started looking around for ways to sell my 2012 Prius C. The car was well-maintained with minimal wear and tear, and is a great city car to own.
I decided off the bat that I didn’t want to do the Craigslist thing. In addition to the inconvenience of it all, I would also need to clear the lien on the car and didn’t want to move money out of savings to do that (purely out of laziness). That left me with dealerships.
By the end of a week, I had tried out Carmax, Vroom, Beepi and Shift and decided to review each of those experiences here. Before we do that, I’ll start by showing the Kelley Blue Book value of my car as a baseline:
I first took the car in to Carmax for an appraisal. The representative was really nice and professional. I waited in the sitting area for about 20 minutes before being given a written offer of $8,500 on the car valid for 7 days. Not too bad, but I thought I’d keep looking around.
Pros: Easily accessible; straight forward and fast process
Cons: The lowest offer I got; did not provide a shuttle to the nearest train station and the dealership is not exactly in a transit friendly area
Next I tried Vroom. Now Vroom’s business model is a little different. There’s no brick and mortar dealership in my area that I could go to, so instead I filled out an online form with information about the car and sent in a handful of pictures of the interior and exterior. They claim you will get an offer within a half hour, but that didn’t happen with me and I ended up getting my offer the next day (not a big deal). Their offer came in at $8,950 and was valid for 7 days or 250 miles.
Pros: didn’t have to talk to a single person and was able to do everything online; got exact offer as opposed to ballpark range
Cons: none as far as I can tell, but then again I didn’t look too far into this company as their offer was meh
Next, I tried out Beepi. They’re similar to Vroom in that there’s no dealership for you to go to, but their pre-offer inspection is a little more thorough. I inputed some information into their website and scheduled a time for their technician to come by. The guy that came in was just awesome! He was professional, straight forward, and very good at what he did. He talked me through the process really well and even gave me pointers on how I could up the offer once it was formulated (a process he himself was not involved in). We took the car for a test drive, he did his inspection, and we then drove out to a lot so he could get some pictures. They claim the offer comes in 48 hours after the inspection, but since my inspection was early in the morning, I got mine the same day. Their offer came in at $10,892 with a deduction of $1,041 for new tires and fixing up the car for a net to me of $9,866. The offer was valid for 3 days or some ridiculously high number of miles that I have forgotten. With them, once you accept the offer, they list the vehicle (using the pictures the rep took), and they pick up the car when it sells. If in 30 days your car hasn’t sold, they give you the money themselves and take the car off your hands. Either way, you get the full offer in 30 days or less and the car is picked up by their rep, all the while the car stays with you until it’s sold.
Pros: they were cool with me doing any upgrades or modifications in advance to up my offer; their rep was great to work with; their inspection report was just fantastic (comprehensive, detailed, and cut to the chase); their rep was a full time employee and didn’t put any pressure on me to list with them, so I got the impression that he didn’t stand to gain or lose anything either way; you keep the car until it sells; if Beepi sells the car and it is returned, you don’t have to deal with it and you don’t have to pay the money back… Beepi does; they claim they don’t turn a profit on fixing up the cars before sales
Cons: the in-person inspection takes 2 hours; had to schedule inspection several days in advance (come to find out later that this is because they only had one inspector working my entire metro area… and I live in Washington DC)
I came by Shift at the recommendation of several friends who have used it and had great experiences with it. Similar to Beepi, you fill out a form online and they send out a rep to inspect your car. This inspection is much much shorter at only 30 minutes, and I was able to schedule it the same day. The rep came out with a tablet and recorded the car’s details. He didn’t take pictures, but they do offer a $100 bonus if you let them take the car that day. The way it works is that they pick up your car and make it available to their buyers for test drives. For the duration of your contract with them (60 days in my case), they take the car around to people’s homes for test drives until the car sells. At the end of the contract period, you either take the car back (not sure if they recompense you for the miles/wear and tear), re-up the contract, or give you the guaranteed minimum. Their rep was a part time employee and was much more motivated to get me on board than the Beepi or Carmax reps were. He had a tablet that he was using to get the estimate and explained that there were two pricing models they used: one was a flat rate model and the other… wasn’t? Honestly he lost me in the process and by the end of our meeting, I had 3 different offers for 3 different prices sitting in my inbox… and I had forgotten what the distinction was between the prices (the Android to Beepi’s iPhone). He knew he was my last rep and was trying to work with me to get me a price to beat Beepi’s, hence the trial and error, but alas the form the system sends you is not comprehensive like Beepi’s and so I had no idea which email went with which manipulation he had inputed into the algorithm. Ended up with one offer for $9,468, one for $9,818, and another for $10,660. That last one was technically the highest offer all around, but it would have involved me changing the tires on my car, taking the car to a body shop to get some small dents popped, and maybe even fixing a bumper’s paint job? I don’t recall, but I did the math, and I would have ended up with a lot less money if I had done the fixes myself. With all that in mind, let’s say Shift’s offer was the middle one of $9,818.
Pros: short inspection period; I was able to schedule the inspection the same day; you get an offer on the spot and are able to hand the car over then and there if you choose– and they throw in a bonus if you do that
Cons: no idea what the actual final offer of the vehicle was; they take the car to sell it so you don’t have a car in the meantime; if they do sell the car and it is returned by the buyer, it’s my understanding that you have to fork the money back up
Beepi, hands down. Great customer service, huge bonus points with that fantastic inspection report, and the best offer. Plus I get to keep the car while they’re trying to sell it, AND I get the money no questions asked in 30 days (unless I wreck the car in the meantime or somehow violate their terms of agreement). I would post screenshots of the inspection report, but because I had already accepted the offer before writing this post, I no longer have access to the report. All in all, I consider myself lucky that the company I most enjoyed working with also gave me the best offer.
Overall, I think car buying and selling has changed a lot from what many of us expect it to be. What I felt worked for me was understanding my level of comfort with the different options, doing minimal research and instead opting for asking a lot of questions, and taking my time.