10 Tips on How to Sell Your Car

Fran Majidi
June 19, 2019

Most people simply trade in their cars when they are ready to buy a new one. They try to make car buying and car selling seamless. It is a bit of an inconvenience to sell your car first and then buy a new one, but only if you don’t spend any time preplanning. Selling your car to Carmax usually brings in a little more money than a trade-in but the best way to sell your car is if you sell your car for cash or a cashier’s check. According to Kelley Blue Book, you get 15-25% more if you sell your car yourself. It may take some pre-planning to do it right but you’ll likely get hundreds, even thousands more if you sell privately. Here are some tips on what you should do to prepare your car and yourself to get a great price.

  1. Get a Report

    A buyer is going to get a CarFax or similar report if they are serious about buying your car. It’s best if you get your hands on a report so you can correct any errors that may be on there before you list the car for sale. Just like you do with the credit bureau, you will report discrepancies and most errors should be fixed within a few business days.

  2. Fix it Up

    Consider why most people buy used cars from dealers and Carmax. They get a warranty and sometimes they even buy an extended warranty. You are at a disadvantage here but you can at least make sure that your car is in good condition before giving test drives. While it’s not unheard of to sell a car with mechanical problems when the owner discloses that information, it won’t be the ideal deal the buyer was probably looking for. If any warning lights are on in your car, tend to these problems. Consider getting the car inspected and get a tune up. The car’s tires should be in good shape, not bald, and full on air. The lights should all be working and brakes should be in good condition. Make sure all fluids are topped off. If there is something mechanically wrong with your car, get a proper estimate for how much it will cost to fix. If there’s no way for you to fix it yourself, be upfront and honest about the problem with prospective buyers and let them know how much they should expect to spend in fixing it. Cosmetic fixes can be expensive but even though they matter less than what condition is in mechanically, they do deter buyers from paying top dollar for a car so weigh the cost effectiveness of a new paint job or dent repair. Dent removal, however, can be pretty affordable if you find an honest dent removal expert. This person may be able to fix several dings for a hundred or two.

  3. Clean It

    You’ll want to keep your car interior clean, especially while it is on the market. Getting your car detailed is or detailing yourself is a great idea too. All the nooks and crevices of the car’s interior should be cleaned, including cupholders, filters and the dashboard. The carpet in the car should be steam cleaned and the interior should smell fresh. If you are a smoker or were one during any period of time that you owned the car, it’s not a bad idea to have the detail use an ozone machine to get rid of the smell of smoke and even pets.

  4. Know Your Car

    After a thorough inspection, you should become very familiar with your vehicle and will have a better idea of how to price it. You’ll also be armed with answers if the buyer asks about the car. There’s nothing in the inspection that the buyer will not likely find out about so this is a good idea to come up with reasons why the buyer should seriously consider your car. Also, because you recently had an inspection you will put the buyer’s mind more at ease. After an inspection and some introspection, look at the market and see how much private sellers and dealerships are asking for a car like yours. Only then will you be able to set a fair price on your car.

  5. Gather

    Get all the paperwork together sooner versus later. Gather your car’s title, all service records and the original paperwork from when you bought the car. This paperwork is helpful because not only does it get more specific when it comes to the car’s make, model and year. It also will list all the options on the car, which raise your base price. If you kept your service records, documentation of all your oil changes helps to show you took good care of the car and that it will likely have a long lifespan. If you don’t have this paperwork and got service at one location, they will be able to print a summary of your visits. This is very valuable in helping you get the most for your car.

  6. Brag

    If you have new tires, battery or new brakes, make sure to talk these features up. No one wants to buy a used car that they have to fix right away. They also like to think they are getting the most for their money. New tires (or the equivalent) do increase a car’s value so it may be a wise investment to make.

  7. Price It

    You’ll want to check Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to see what others are paying for your car. Also check out AutoTrader, Cars.com, Carvana, Craigslist and any other sites that are popular. Buyers will expect that you offer a lower price than a dealership so expect that right off the bat. This is why it’s good to get an idea of both sets of prices before deciding where your car falls price-wise, according to the condition you’ve kept it in. You higher you set the price, the fewer offers you’ll get.

  8. Photograph It

    Take lots of photographs, at least 30 to 40 and from all angles. Include interior shots as well. Give a really good glimpse at its overall condition. If you have features like sunroof or back-up cameras or if you have dents or nicks get those in too. The light is best for photographs in the late afternoon.

  9. Write a Good Add

    Describe the year, model, make, mileage, condition and features. Also be honest if you’re selling the car with necessary repairs. Your honesty will be appreciated. Lying will break the deal so avoid building up a lemon. It’s just bad business and this person will probably find a way to get his/her money back if you’re being deceptive.

  10. Respond to Queries

    When prospective buyers contact you and you call them back, remind them which car you own because they are probably shopping around and will be confused. Tell them they must pay in full with a money order or cashier’s check. You’ll be surprised how many people think you may offer payments in installments! Be prepared to sell right away if a prospective buyer comes to see the car. Have all your documents, including the title, ready. You’ll also need warranty information, a bill of sale, an “as is” statement about the condition of the car and a release of liability form from the DMV.

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