check engine light in car

Trying to sell your car, but your check engine light’s been staring you in the face for weeks? Unsure if you should get it checked out before selling it?

What Is Your Check Engine Light?

The Check Engine Light — known as the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) in professional circles — is a signal from your car’s engine computer that something has gone wrong. They come in a few different colors (red, orange, and yellow) depending on the manufacturer.

The color of the light isn't an indication of a severe issue; If the light begins to flash, however, then you have a more serious problem on your hands. Flashing check engine lights should be addressed immediately in order to prevent catastrophic damage to your vehicle’s systems.

Common Reasons For A Check Engine Light To Come On

Your Check Engine Light may come on for a multitude of reasons. The most common issues fall under the umbrella of six categories:

  1. Engine Problems - after all, what would a Check Engine Light be if it didn’t inform you to check your engine?

  2. Transmission Problems - Your car’s transmission works closely with your engine, manipulating its power and transferring it to your car’s wheels. Any issues with the transmission can increase tailpipe emissions and, therefore, trigger the Check Engine Light.

  3. Emissions Equipment Problems - Any failure of the multiple components that track and regulate emissions will trigger a check engine light.

  4. Air/Fuel Delivery Problems - Too much or too little of air and fuel will cause the check engine light to turn on.

  5. Electronic Powertrain Control Problems - The modules and sensors that govern modern powertrains communicate with one another. Issues within this data network and its wiring will trigger a check engine light.

  6. Ignition System Problems - Getting your car’s engine started is crucial. Any issue with that system will turn your Check Engine Light on.

can you sell a car with engine problems

Drilling down further, there are some repairs specifically associated with the Check Engine Light that occur more often than others. In April of 2021, CarMD published a Vehicle Health Index addressing the top 10 most common Check Engine Light-related repairs and their costs in 2020:

  1. Replace catalytic converter(s) with new catalytic converter(s): $1,383.29

  2. Replace faulty oxygen sensor(s): $243.61

  3. Replace ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s): $389.43

  4. Replace mass airflow sensor: $336.37

  5. Inspect for loose fuel cap and tighten or replace: $25.01

  6. Replace ignition coil(s): $214.83

  7. Replace evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve: $142.10

  8. Replace fuel injector(s): $448.41

  9. Replace thermostat: $236.33

  10. Replace evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge solenoid: $148.81

Can You Trade In A Car with The Check Engine Light On?

Trading in a car with a check engine light is possible, but keep in mind that dealerships are always looking for opportunities to reduce your trade-in value. If you want to maximize the amount you get for your vehicle, it may not be a good idea to trade it in with the light on.

Of course, you also have to consider whether you're willing to spend money fixing the car to potentially get a higher trade-in value. Again, it depends on what the problem actually is and how much it would cost to fix it. If it costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair, chances are you will not see a return on your investment if you trade in your vehicle.

Should You Sell Your Car With The Check Engine Light On?

The short answer: no, you should not sell your car while the Check Engine Light is on. By and large, it is an unethical practice and, for dealerships, it is illegal.

The longer answer is that you can sell your vehicle with the Check Engine Light on, but you have to disclose that to the buyer. In all likelihood, it will detract from the selling price of the vehicle because the Check Engine Light means something (that will cost money) needs to be addressed.

Furthermore, while the buyer will be able to register the vehicle, they won’t be able to legally put it on the road until the Check Engine Light is addressed.

Additionally, you want to avoid removing the Check Engine Light just to sell the vehicle. Some vehicles allow you to turn the Check Engine Light off without taking it in for a professional diagnostic, which is fine. However, doing so just to sell a vehicle under the pretense that everything is “fine” with it is fraud and that is a prosecutable offense.

It is in your best interest to get a Check Engine Light addressed by a professional before selling your vehicle. If it requires repairs, then you should proceed in repairing your vehicle before selling it.

However, if those repair costs are too unattractive then has a better looking solution for you!

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Damaged Cars & Your Check Engine Light

DamagedCars specializes in taking less-than-perfect cars off your hands. Whether it’s something severe like body damage from an accident or something less pressing like Check Engine Light-related repairs, DamagedCars will help you sell it fast.

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Once you accept, we connect you with one of our Service Providers within your area. There you can set up a FREE towing within 24-48 hours. You’ll have a check for your entire quoted amount in your hand the moment your vehicle is hauled off. No haggling. No hassles.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will Dealerships Buy My Car If Its Check Engine Light Is On?

Dealerships will leverage the a lit Check Engine Light as a reason to cut into the amount your car is worth. Do your research in order to prevent being taken advantage of by dealership tactics.

How Much Does It Cost To Clear Your Check Engine Light?

The cost to clear the light is the cost of whatever repair or service it may need. These repair costs can range from under $20 to over $1K and it is best to handle them early before small problems evolve into bigger ones.

Is It illegal To Remove Check Engine Light?

In most jurisdictions, intentionally tampering with or removing the check engine light is illegal. This light is a crucial safety feature in modern vehicles that alerts the driver to potential issues with the engine or emissions systems. Disabling or removing the check engine light can hinder the proper functioning of the vehicle and prevent the identification of potential problems that may impact safety, emissions, or performance. Moreover, in some regions, tampering with emissions-related components, including the check engine light, can violate environmental regulations. To avoid any legal issues, it's always advisable to consult the specific laws and regulations of your jurisdiction or seek legal advice before tampering with or removing the check engine light on a vehicle.

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