Should You Sell or Donate Your Used Car?

Last year, in this article, I explained why late summer is a good time to buy a new car—the next year’s models start rolling off the assembly lines and into dealership showrooms in October. That means dealers want to move out the previous year’s inventory and are more likely to have deals to share.

While many people trade in an old car when they buy new, what are you supposed to do if you’re not in the market for a new-to-you car but you still want to get rid of an old car? This is a dilemma we recently faced.

Due to a death in the family, we inherited a 2003 SUV in great shape. Since it was from an older relative who didn’t drive much, the car had 75,000 miles on the odometer when we assumed ownership. Given that most cars are driven, on average, 12,000 miles per year, there should have been nearly twice that many miles on the car, given its age.

Soon thereafter our 10-year-old, everyday car, a Ford Freestyle, started having significant problems.

For starters the air conditioning gave out. Next, the all-wheel drive stopped working. Estimates to get both fixed added up to almost as much as the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value for this car. Finally, earlier this summer, the rear windshield shattered–either by a passing lawnmower or the extreme summer heat. We’ll never know.

What I do know is that because this car is older and pretty beat up—both our daughters learned to drive in this car so you can only imagine the dents and scratches it received during parallel parking practice—we didn’t have comprehensive insurance anymore. That meant that if we wanted to replace that windshield, that would be on our own dime. Suddenly, all these needed repairs added up to more than the car was worth.

With this newer car sitting in our driveway, it became obvious that it was probably time to get rid of the Ford Freestyle. Since we weren’t interested in trading it in for a new vehicle, the question became this: should we sell or donate our used car? Here’s what we learned.

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