How Do You Sell Your Old Cars?

Hello humans and welcome to the latest round of Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein you send me letters and I scoff at them while tilting back a nice jug of brandy.


If you’d like to participate in Letters to Doug, you can! Just send me a message on my Facebook page or e-mail me at, and I will be happy to read your letter very thoroughly, and then scoff at it while tilting back a nice jug of brandy.

Anyway: this letter comes via Facebook from a reader I’ve named Geoff, which is an incorrect spelling of “Jeff.” Geoff writes:

Doug! Long time reader, first time caller. Any who, I’m selling a 2003 Corvette ZO6 that’s low miles and has lots of go fast juice. I am currently trying to figure out the best way to sell it. As someone that has a revolving door of cars, I know you would be the perfect person to ask what the best ways to sell a car privately would be. Please enlighten those of us that do not sell cars regularly smile emoticon Thanks, Geoff

Well, Geoff, you ask an excellent question, because I have owned – at last count – 22 automobiles in my life, and I have sold 20 of them. The remaining two are currently in my possession, and by “my possession,” what I really mean is the Land Rover dealer has one of them, and the Aston Martin dealer has the other one, and I am currently riding around in the back of Ubers that smell like face cream.

So how have I sold my cars? Well, the first car I ever sold was in the newspaper. Yes, I’m old enough to have sold cars in the newspaper. It was a 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo, and I sold it in September 2006 to a couple of unlucky people in Fort Collins, Colorado. I say they’re unlucky because that automobile was the least reliable automobile in automobile history, including automobiles created in redneck backyards that involve welding two automobiles together.

The next car I sold was a 2001 Audi A4, which I owned in college. I sold this because the transmission had failed, and I had been driving it around for about six months with only first and fourth, which is a pretty neat trick considering it was an automatic. So I sold that to a mechanic at Jim Ellis Audi in Atlanta, Georgia, and he put a new transmission in it, and the last time I pulled the Carfax it was still on the road in the Houston area.

Then began the Autotrader era. FULL DISCLOSURE: I write stuff for Autotrader, and also I sell my cars on there. I do not get a discount for selling my cars on Autotrader. I have asked them several times for a discount, and they’ve said: no, we can’t give you a discount, because you sell cars so often that you’d bankrupt us. So I take all the little pictures, and I write all the ad copy, and then I pretend to be a potential buyer and I look for my ad. I’d buy this car, I think! Great job, Doug! And then I tilt back a nice jug of brandy.


Among the remaining 18 cars I’ve sold, 12 have gone on Autotrader: a 2007 Volkswagen GTI, a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport, a 1998 BMW M3 sedan, a 2001 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, a 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500E, a 2004 Cadillac CTS-V, a 2007 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon, a 1995 Range Rover, a 2009 Nissan Cube, and then a few of the cars you know: my 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, my 2004 Ferrari 360 Modena, and my 1995 Hummer.

So that leaves six remaining. One was my Skyline, which I sold through Bring a Trailer. I do not recommend this for your Z06, however, because Bring a Trailer primarily sells weird, rare enthusiast cars, and while the Z06 is cool, it is certainly not weird or particularly rare. Current Bring a Trailer listings include a Datsun pickup truck and a Honda that looks like an original Mini, with the engine from a sportbike and a 12,000 rpm redline.


Of the remaining five, two went to CarMax: a 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser with 237,000 miles, and a 2002 Mercedes-Benz G500 with so much rust that the undercarriage looked like a souvenir Robert Ballard would’ve brought back from the Titanic. To me, selling vehicles to CarMax is a last resort, because they will absolutely give you the wholesale value, or probably less than the wholesale value, but it’s perfect for dumping vehicles that you do not want to inflict on society yourself.

I sold two more cars through forums: a 2006 Lotus Elise and a 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo. In fact, Geoff, this is where I suggest you sell your Z06. While Autotrader is great for fairly normal, reasonable cars, weird enthusiast stuff should probably go where weird enthusiasts are, and that’s the forums. Some cars, like 1990s Land Cruisers and the “E30” BMW 3 Series, are almost exclusively sold through forums, to the point where Autotrader and Craigslist are largely devoid of listings for those vehicles. With that said, forums can be brutal to people who ask the moon for their car or are selling it with major problems, so don’t do something stupid.


For instance: I often check the Land Rover Defender forum classifieds, and about half the people on there are just mad. Mad at asking prices, mad at sellers for not posting photos, mad that people flip vehicles, mad that sellers aren’t descriptive enough, etc. Presumably, the underlying reason these people are mad is that they own a Defender themselves, and it has been operational for exactly 12 total days this year.

The last vehicle I sold was a 2001 Toyota Prius I sold with heavy body damage to the rear end and a trunk that wasn’t watertight. When you hear “heavy body damage” and “leaks water,” you know there’s only one place I could’ve sold this thing: Craigslist. I was living in Atlanta when I sold it, and it went to a kid in Nashville, Tennessee, who drove down with his buddy in a Maxima. They were two hours late because they had a flat tire along the way, which cost $100 to fix – so I gave him $100 off the price of the car. I did this for two reasons: number one, because I felt bad for him. And number two, because I figured he’d be less likely to call me screaming when the first rain hit, and everything in his trunk looked like it had gone swimming.


@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars, which his mother says is “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.



I’ve sold three cars in my life but my best experience was with my Air Force bases “lemon lot”. Every city should have a goddamn lemon lot in my opinion. A brief explainer:

A lemon lot is a parking lot where soon to be deploying or re-locating soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines can stick their cars, boats, or RV’s with a price in the window and contact information. Everyone knows where it is, including the base MP’s/SF’s so it gets lots and lots of attention from prospective buyers and absolutely no crime or thievery is allowed. Going to the lemon lot on the weekend is a tradition for military gear heads and whether it’s to spectate or out of necessity it’s a blast! No annoying car salesman to bug you, no extraneous dealer fees, nearly instant access to the sellers cell phone and generally prices are set at below market value with the unsaid agreement that no haggling is necessary. If it’s too expensive, move on because there will be a whole menagerie of fresh used cars there within a day or two! It’s kind of like having a 7 day a week, 365 day a year car sales fair. Granted it would require more security to prevent crime and theft in the general population of the civilian universe but my day to day browsing at the lemon lot is one of the biggest things I miss about being a service member.