Considering selling your car, but don’t want to deal with a private sale? Worried that car dealers are going to underprice your car? There’s another option out there: selling your car through an online party like Shift. In this guest post, author Brett T. shares his experience selling his 2012 Prius C through Shift, plus the other offers he received from competitors.
After reading an interesting article from NPR on the increased demand for used cars, I decided it might be a good time to part ways from our 2012 Prius C. I had concerns over the 10 year warranty on the hybrid battery nearing expiration, and a $4.5K estimated replacement cost based on our research.
I decided to look into a variety of options for selling our car, and here’s what my experience was like.
Our 2012 Prius C
The car was a 2012 Prius C trim three, mechanically sound with a good interior and fairly worn exterior. Several bumps and bruises from my DoorDashing, front bumper clips broken off from bumps on inclined driveways, but with only 82K miles and plenty of life left. No reportable accidents and I was the original owner.
The photos below all came from Shift after my car was listed:
I’m not a used car salesman, and value my time over the awkward connections with Craigslist flakes, especially in these trying COVID times – so I was looking for an easy transaction with the best return.
Car Sale Comparison of Options
I hit both the street and web to explore the options. Bottom line: the online-only dealerships initially offered up to a 37% premium to in-person dealerships, and just barely under private party KBB value, but with some caveats and lessons learned that I’ll walkthrough in this article.
My final outcome was a 29% premium compared to dealership offers and 10% less than a private party, but without the headache.
My first stop was to two separate dealerships, at places I was looking to purchase from. The offers were initially pathetic (mid $3K ranges), but negotiated up to right around $5.1K.
Still, this felt like a low ball offer cutting into my replacement purchase budget, and I briefly considered driving the car into the ground rather than getting a new car. Instead, I hit the net to see what KBB might say.
KBB Instant Offer
This offer was even lower than the dealerships in person. I believe this is because they’re making the offer sight unseen. But at just $4.4K I was getting discouraged. KBB also provided an assessment of $5.1K midpoint for trade-in and $7.1K private seller midpoint.
Despite my reservations for privacy intrusion, my search browser clearly saw I was trying to sell my car. The online options began to flash each time I was on the net: Vroom, Carvana and Shift.
Each promised an at-home transaction, quick payment, and painless handling of the DMV paperwork. Just like working with a dealership! I ended up going through each one’s initial estimate to see how they’d compare..
Vroom had arguably the most thorough questionnaire about my vehicle. I answered each question honestly, and had an offer of $6.2K. Better!
Carvana had a fairly in-depth condition questionnaire, and came out with $6.9K. Unfortunately, a week later, and after my sale to Shift detailed below, they did increase to $7.1K. Too late!
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Shift asked very little about the shape of vehicle and had an estimate of $6.9K. Plus, they offered a $300 bonus if you completed the sale at the first evaluation and had a title, plus two sets of keys. I optimistically booked the evaluation, as this seemed like the best bet so far.
Selling Your Car on Shift: The Evaluation
I was able to book an evaluation the same night. Now that I had a theoretical budget in hand, I went back to the dealership to purchase my replacement vehicle. I then went home and quickly cleaned my car for Shift’s evaluation.
The rep came right in the middle of the 2-hour window and went to work. It was night, which I had hoped might help the condition of my car for appraisal, but he had a mega flashlight to find all my nicks.
In retro, a daytime eval might have actually been easier. As I soon found out, the estimated value was the “peak” and then they deduct for anything they find wrong with the car.
With Shift, if your car is not pristine and more than a couple years old, I wouldn’t expect the full estimated value upon in-person evaluation. The rule of thumb was anything exceeding a 2.5” circular disc for any scratch or dent resulted in a deduction. I had not detailed my car, so it was a bit difficult to determine scratch vs dirt.
The evaluation took 1 hour and consisted of inside/outside inspection, operation of vehicle features, and a very short test drive. After the full evaluation, he found $900 in deductions, so my revised offer was $6K, plus a $300 bonus for the first time sale.
My best final offer yet, but I did ask him to walk me through the various deductions. A couple seemed very minor, so I grabbed my wax and quickly tried to rub out a couple of them. We went back through the ones that improved, and he took the deductions out! Another $200 added, phew.
One deduction I still disagree with was -$65 for scratches to my “wheel,” when this was really a cheap plastic hubcap, and full replacement value is likely less. Oh well…
At this time, I debated going to Carvana, and maybe getting the vehicle detailed. I suspect Carvana has deductions only for imperfections beyond what you described in online submission, given they asked more condition-related questions. But, I did not want to risk losing the $300 bonus on agreeing to sell, thus adjusting Shift to $6.2K with an unspecified amount from Carvana. So I moved forward on the price agreement and we began the paperwork.
Paperwork for Selling Your Vehicle to Shift
In my opinion, the paperwork was a crazy trust exercise. The title and DMV paperwork were signed and dated without the final price agreement filled in. I never found out why! However, I did sign, and we were provided a copy of a sales agreement with the final price documented. This was enough for me – though maybe not for others. The paperwork took about another hour.
The Catch – Sale not Final?
While I thought the deal was final once the rep drove off with my car, I saw in the contract there was a 2 business day “mechanical evaluation” period where the deal could be canceled.
Our car was mechanically sound, but we did have some things the rep may or may not have seen. A couple of front bumper clips were broken and zip-tied to hold under the hood, and there were dents/dings found later or underneath the car that the rep didn’t find. Would these adjust my price down further?
The rep reassured us that the evaluation was just mechanical, not cosmetic, so we continued moving forward. He gave cancellation examples such as a huge oil leak, or frame damage.
That night after the deal, I browsed some online forums and did find some instances of cars being returned for dents and such that were deemed “structural,” and began to doubt the final result. Then what would happen with the title paperwork that was all three-quarters signed – would I need a duplicate? Other reviewers that had sales negated were also quoted upwards of 5 business days to get their car back. My Carvana offer would have expired by then!
The next day, I got an email to enter my banking info for payment. I still wasn’t sure if that meant my car passed the final evaluation, but I entered my info and was paid 2 business days later. Payment was as agreed during the evaluation – no deductions for the mechanical issues. It was a huge sigh of relief!
Referral Bonuses with Shift
After my sale, when reading forums about the mechanical eval, I also ran into a referral bonus link. Shift has a $100 Amazon Gift Card two way referral bonus, which I didn’t find in my initial sweep for “coupon codes”.
I emailed Shift asking if I could enter a referral, and they said just email them the name / email address of the referral. I DM’d a forum poster for the info, got it, and a day later my Amazon Gift Card arrived! If you want this same deal from Shift, you can use my referral code here.
Lessons Learned Selling My Car Through Shift
- Be prepared to have deductions from the initial estimate if your car isn’t perfect. 100% with Shift, maybe less so with the others given condition questionnaires.
- Detail your car and try to rub out any paint imperfections over 2.5” diameter
- During the evaluation process, the evaluator doesn’t remove your bumper stickers.
- Ask for a walk through of deductions, and see if any can be removed.
- Paperwork is a little weird and requires trust as not all details are filled in at time of transaction
- Try to find a referral code!
- Don’t be rushed to take an offer before expiration – Carvana actually went up!
Do you have questions about selling your car on Shift or another online platform? Let us know in the comments below!
-Brett @ RSG