Getting rid of a car isn’t as easy as it might seem. Why do you think used car sales people look like they’re a hairsbreadth from jumping off a bridge? Sure, you can take 25% off the Kelley Blue Book quote for your car and eat the loss, but wouldn’t you rather have that extra money to get that next generation Tesla you’ve been pining over from last week’s Auto Trader? Or how about offsetting your tax debt by donating your car to a local charity or high school? This guide will help you figure out the best way to get rid of your car, and give you a head’s up about paperwork like the Title.

There are a lot of different ways to get rid of a car, but how you choose to do it depends on your financial circumstances and the overall condition of the car. If you’re running out of cash and the car needs some repairs you can’t afford, you may be looking for a charitable organization that takes cars, or maybe even a scrap yard if the car is in really bad shape. If, however, you have a little extra time and your car is in relatively good condition, you should consider selling it or trading it in for a new(er) vehicle. Let’s start by assuming you’d like to sell your car to a private party.

Used Car Tips

  • Trading your car in for a new or newer used car is an easy way to offload your old car.
  • Selling your car will get you a better price.
  • Donating your car is a great way to get a tax deduction.
  • Recycling your car is an easy way to get rid of a car in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • Junking your car (or selling it for scrap) is for people who want a quick fix and a little extra dough in their wallet.

Selling a Used Car

Check print and online classifieds to see what other people are asking for vehicles like yours. You’re going to have to balance how much you want to recoup on your investment and the price it will take to undercut your competition. As a rule, think about pricing your vehicle about $500-$750 over the dollar amount you actually want for the vehicle. With a $750 premium over your desired price, people are more likely to talk you down in $250 increments, or simply slash the $750 off the original price. That way they’re happy for talking you down, and you’re happy making what you want on the sale. You’ll also want to check out the most recent Kelley Blue Book.

First impressions are über-important, so make that car presentable.

Washing and waxing your car will improve the luster of the paint and help to remove small scratches. If you have a weekend free, sprinkle baking soda on the upholstery and carpeting when you get home from work, and vacuum it up on Sunday afternoon to freshen its scent. Clean all brake dust from the wheels, wash your windows with Windex, soak the ashtrays (if they’ve been used) in water with baking soda and dish detergent, and finish off the rest of the interior with an unscented all purpose cleaner to get rid of any remaining car smells. And polish up those chrome tailpipes. This cleanliness will help you get rid of your car!

If you really want to improve your chances of selling your used car, get all of the basic maintenance done before advertising it.

Basic maintenance would include an oil change, new transmission fluid, tire rotations and pressure checks, and the topping off of all fluids. Before you do any of this, you may want to get a free inspection done at your dealership to help pinpoint any small things you may be able to fix yourself. After all is said and done, order a Carfax report to have available for potential buyers.

Clear, honest advertising in a variety of places will help you sell your car more quickly.

Carpet the advertising spaces available to you, such as online classifieds (e.g. and, newspaper classifieds, weekly car shopping rags (Car Trader), cork boards in public places, and the windshield of your car. Phrases that catch a prospective buyer’s attention are “OBO” (“or best offer”) and “must sell.” Be sure to include “single owner” in your ad if you’ve been the only owner — buyers like that.

Don’t be a used car salesperson.

The buyers you’re courting are probably looking for private buyers because they’re trying to avoid salespeople. The trick to selling a car at the price you want is to be secure with the price you’re asking. If you’re not sure your car is worth what you’re asking, people will smell it on you — just like dogs smell fear. When you’re bargaining, try to give the buyer some space. If they want $250 off the price, act like you have to ask someone inside the house if that’s okay, and excuse yourself from the conversation for a few minutes. Taking very small breaks allows you and your buyer to think things through before making any decisions. Just as good, though, is knowing which price you absolutely cannot go under. That will help you with any bargaining. You may want to check out this book:
How to Sell your Car on Craigslist on Amazon just to be sure you’re not missing any steps.

Donating Cars

Donating your car to charity is an economically responsible and socially conscious way to get rid of your car, but before you do so, there are some things you should consider:

  • Make sure the charity you’re considering is a qualified 501 (c)(3) organization; otherwise you may not be able to claim a tax deduction for donating your car.
  • Determine the true value of your car by honestly Blue Booking your car and subtracting repair estimates from the total value. Use common sense when determining the value of your car if you wish to avoid a lengthy auditing process.
  • The total deduction cannot exceed 50% of your gross income, which is the total amount of money you’ve made before taxes.
  • The greater the value of a donated car, the more paper work you need to do. A car donation greater than . . .
    • . . . $250 only needs a slip from the charity acknowledging your donation.
    • . . . $500 requires that you fill out Section A of the IRS Tax Form 8283.
    • . . . $5,000 requires Section B of form 8283 to be filled out and accompanied by an official appraisal of your car and a signature from a charity official verifying that you did indeed donate your car.
  • Laws regarding the transfer of a car’s title are different for each state and their respective charities. The charity you’re donating your car to should have the applicable laws on hand to help streamline the donation process.
  • Check out the IRS’s Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donations for more info.

Junk Cars

Recycling your used car

This isn’t the most obvious choice, and it really shouldn’t be considered unless the car has become a problem for you. Recycling car parts is becoming a more economically viable business, creating hundreds if not thousands of jobs. Good jobs, too. Recycling your junk car is also the most environmentally responsible available to you.

Junking your used car

This isn’t the best choice you can make, but it does pay better than recycling — sort of. The deal you’ll have to make is between your wallet and your conscience. You now know that recycling a car is possible and environmentally friendly, but those few hundred dollars you might get for your old car at a junkyard could pay for that new television your family has been asking for.

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