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I have a 2009 Rav4 Sport with 181k miles, 2 owners, 1 accident. A couple weeks ago I paid to put new brakes on front and rear and rotors on front, had the 180k service done, and put nice new (expensive Michelin Defender) tires on. Two days later the car stopped running due to "debris that got sucked into the engine air filter", I had it towed to the dealer and I paid to have the oxygen sensor and spark plugs replaced which made it run again, but I stopped short of the extra $900 they wanted to add on for the catalytic converter, which apparently melted, because at this point Toyota had told me my car wasn't worth any sort of real trade in.

We've decided it's time to trade in/sell the car. Toyota is offering me $500-1000 for it which I know is way too low, Kelly Blue Book and comparable sales gives me some idea and I'm thinking I'd like to get $3000 out of it - similar vehicles are selling for $6-8k locally, without the "sporty" appearance, I figure with it needing work $3000 would be fair, but I'm not sure how much more, or if I need to knock off the price for the catalytic converter being bad (it drives fine, it's just got lights on, I had the spark plugs and oxygen sensor replaced). Toyota also tells me I need a new transmission pan gasket, front and rear calipers, front and rear struts (because the strut boots are torn - the struts are fine and the car rides fine). We're in the Seattle area.

I grew up in a rural area where folks did their own work on cars, I know that someone who wants to put the work into this car will love it and make it go another 100k miles, but for someone like me I just can't keep paying $900 for a $200 part every time I need something done. Since it needs work I feel like Kelly Blue Book isn't very reliable for pricing, but I can't count on the dealer to be honest because they want to get the car as cheap as they can. How does one go about pricing in this situation? I freaking love my Rav4 and it's a great car, it's just time for someone who wants to tinker with it to have it because I can't do my own maintenance.
 

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You must be new at this but dealer will often give you next to nothing for older cars. Also some dealers don't want old cars more than 5 years and will sell it to another used car broker. Selling privately takes much longer but in the long run fetch more money. I know it is convenient to trade it because we are too lazy and want the easy way out. The RAV4 is in demand in the used car market so you will not have a hard time selling. Another thing is that the Toyota dealer charge the higher end for car repairs and not to mention parts are super high. I advise you get your car checked by an independent mechanic. Who knows if Toyota is telling the truth about the catalytic converter. As for what the car is worth depends on the condition minus and needed repairs. The Kelly Blue Book is just a rough estimate but the best way to check for prices is compare newspaper ads or check Autotrader if you have that.
 

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A dealer will always drop the floor out of the price when trading in. The only reason to trade in with that kind of price difference is convenience or time.

Having just done the work, some of it is recoverable, some is not. I’d suggest that if you do decide to trade it in, look for a set of wheels and tires on CL in your area, put those on (should be less than $200 for a set of 4) and keep your new tires and wheels to sell separately. The dealer won’t bother giving you any more for it with new tires vs. still-driveable tires, so why give them away?

Besides, you may even get something that takes the same size tires (heck even wheels) and could reuse these on the replacement. At least you’ll make out “less-badly” on a trade-in.

Keep in mind the dealer won’t sell it themselves, they will immediately flip it to the wholesaler. This means you don’t likely have much room to get more value out of it, and they don’t care what happens to it. If they really want the sale, they can absorb some cost (watch they don’t pad the purchase price of the new purchase, or hit you with markup or all their various “business office” services). Alternatively they MIGHT be willing to squeeze the wholesaler a bit. If they are straight up with you, they will pass along the wholesaler’s offer and not mark it up to him. But who knows...

Bottom line, keep your wheels and tires, put cheap crap ones on it, and trade in. Otherwise try to sell privately but be ready for all the usual crap with that. You may get a better price, but the question is, how long will it take?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I think it would sell fast if we go that route, I already had two acquaintances prying me for info wanting to buy it, it looks really nice and sporty - just 2 years ago the dealer was offering me $8k in trade in at 130k miles saying "I can sell that thing fast". We're willing to take a trade in that would basically wash with what we've paid the dealer in the last couple weeks ($2500), anything less than that and we sell independently but trying to price it out is difficult - I want to be fair but I also don't want to leave money on the table if I go to the effort of selling it privately. I also don't want to sell it to someone I know because I know myself, and if they drove it another 2-3 years and the transmission or something big blew I would feel guilty about that, even though it's fine right now and we have no sign of issues.

Unfortunately, the tires aren't the size of the new car we're looking at - trust me, I wanted those suckers :p

A friend of mine recommended another dealer that gave her $2000 more on her trade in last year, similar car except hers was in awful condition and was not "sporty" looking at all. I plan to shop it around to several dealers and see what they're offering for trade-in, but I suspect we'll be selling it ourselves, which I know will be a huge hassle and I worry about the risks involved.
 

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If you sell it yourself, write up a bill of sale indicating the vehicle specifics (year, trim, mileage, engine, etc.) and VIN. You can also include what you've recently changed. Make sure you write down it's an "AS IS" sale, this is important for you in case the buyer comes back with some problem because it will release you of any responsibilities. Print out two copies, one for you and one for buyer, signed and dated at the same time. If you have a service history, print that out as well to give to the buyer. Ask for a cashier's check or money order, don't accept cash or check.

Clean the vehicle, take some nice pictures, I'm sure there are many scenic places in Seattle. There are free online car listing services that you can use without a paid account, you'll just have to manually renew the listing every week or two. Lastly, meet up in a public area away from your residence, bring a friend if you need to. It can be a hassle for multiple viewings, but it's safer. This is what I did to sell my '98 Camry many years ago and the risks were minimized.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've got lots of cool shots of it in cool places, mountains, the beach, scrubland, dried up lake beds. I can totally sell the lifestyle, below are two I happened to have handy.

Thanks for the advice, if we sell independently I'm going to have the service records (I have them all going back to when we bought the car) plus I'll pay an independent shop to do a "buyer's inspection" and include that along with the tire warranty (not sure if it's transferrable, but I've got it). The exchange is what makes me most nervous, I used to work in a bank and fraud is so easy, since the title is in my hands it's not like I can have the bank process it all at the same time for me like I did when I sold a Saturn that had a lien on it.

Within 200 miles of me other Rav4s with similar mileage but not necessarily the same body trim are going for $6-8k, I know ours needs some work (mainly just the catalytic converter, everything else is operational and just old) and I'd be happy if I can get $3k out of it, but I don't know. TRED won't even let me list it that low, so I'd probably have to use another site.

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Since the smog testing requirement for registering cars in the Seattle area reportedly has been ended you might be able to scale down the catalytic converter issue.
 

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You can also remove the roof rack and sell that independently, basically, any non-factory installed equipment. I used Autotrader and cars.com to list them for free, it's fine to set up a higher price, then lower it as needed. I've seen dealers and private parties list on FB as well. Also check if you can get a free Carfax report.

I understand your concern with fraud. When I bought my '06, the seller, my friend, and I actually went to the bank together to get the cashier's check. Then handed it over, signed and dated the bill of sale, and we went on our own ways.
 
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