Selling a Car? What to Consider Beyond the Price Tag

When Erin Adams decided to leave the Portland, Ore., area and consider cheaper locations, she prepared to sell her secondhand 2005 Toyota Scion xB for something a bit more capable of hauling her belongings.

Ms. Adams, 41 years old, who works as a technical writer for an automotive safety agency, had seen reports of the red-hot car market. Earlier this month, she posted an ad to Craigslist—“Manual transmission, 81k miles, Shiny!”—and received eight offers in her inbox within 24 hours.

After the eventual buyer found out the car needed a new clutch, Ms. Adams ended up reducing her asking price from $4,000 to $2,800. “If it hadn’t been for the clutch, I would have sold it for what I bought it for 3½ years ago,” says Ms. Adams.

Ms. Adams joins a rush of consumers vying to make a profit by selling their vehicles as prices for used cars and trucks have skyrocketed. Over the past 12 months, the index for used cars and trucks rose 41.7%, according to the consumer-price index. Prices for new vehicles rose 6.4%, the largest jump since the period ending January 1982.

According to J.D. Power, that amounts to an average used-vehicle price increase of $5,000, creating a rare opportunity for consumers to sell their used vehicles, a notoriously depreciating asset, for perhaps as much as they originally purchased them or more.

Katherine E. Ackerman

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