Angie's LIST Guide to
Selling A Car

Unless you or a family member works as an auto dealer, selling a car can often prove a tougher challenge than people realize. Whether you’re advertising your vehicle with a “for sale” sign in your front yard, trading it in for a newer model at a dealership or listing it on a classifieds listing or auction website, keep these factors in mind to help get the best asking price at the lowest inconvenience.
 

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If thinking of getting rid of your car, consider whether trading it in or selling it will get you the best value. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
If thinking of getting rid of your car, consider whether trading it in or selling it will get you the best value. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
 
 

How to sell a car?

Buying or selling a car is a major financial transactions. Besides purchasing a house, a car purchase is one of biggest one-time financial endeavors most Americans will take. So when you're selling a vehicle, it's essential you take the right steps to get the most money and least amount of hassle.

1. Trade it in or sell?

The first question you’ll encounter when you decide to sell your vehicle is how you’ll sell it. For most drivers, that comes down to two options: trading in your old vehicle at the dealership or selling it yourself. Both have their own advantages. If you decide to trade it, you’ll get much less money than on the open market, but you won’t inconvenienced by the process of selling your car. Selling your vehicle yourself gives you the benefit of getting top dollar for your car, but you’ll have to investment some time and effort.

MORE: For More Information on Buying a Car and Auto Financing, Click Here

2. Price your car

What’s your car worth? Obtaining a reasonable idea of what price your car will demand is the next necessity. Several websites such as Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.org and Edmund’s edmunds.com offer pricing tools to help determine how much you can expect to obtain when selling your vehicle at private sale or when trading it in with a dealership. These pricing tools factor in vehicle characteristics such as vehicle type, age, mileage, options and condition to give you an idea what a buyer will pay for your car.

As the used-car market can vary drastically by region – it’s much easier to sell a full-size truck in Texas than New York City, for example – you may want to research pricing for vehicles similar to yours on classifieds or auction listing websites such as craigslist.org or eBay.com.

3.  Make it appealing

Like any major purchase or investment, your car’s first impression on a buyer can make or break the deal. Get your car as showroom ready as possible. Get body work damage or minor imperfections repaired, remove all your personal items that are unnecessary if you’re still driving the car and get the car cleaned, waxed and detailed.

4. Shoot it

If you’re selling your car, listing it online is critical to spreading a wide of net possible to potential buyers. A picture tells 1,000 words and online buyers will trust accurate photos much more than a text-only description. Grab a digital camera and capture your car from multiple angles. Make sure to document not only the exterior but the interior, the engine bay and any other notable features.

Don’t ignore the bad. Small imperfections like slight scratches or minor chips don’t warrant their own close-ups, but any major problem a buyer will see during an in-person inspection should be documented. It will ensure you spend less time showing your vehicle to buyers who may be disappointed by a big surprise and back out on the sale.

5. List it

Beyond slapping a for-sale sign in the window, an accurate and honest description of your vehicle in an online listing, including its virtues and shortcomings, again means you’ll spend less time with disappointed buyers. Savvy used-car buyers are looking for a number of must-have details in your listing:

- Year, make and model (be sure to note if it’s a special or limited edition)

- Mileage

- Transmission type

- Any past damage, major repairs or upgrades

- Photos

Classifieds websites offer free postings, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may also want to get the word out by listing your car on online auction websites (many of which charge fees), posting it to car- or manufacturer-specific enthusiast forum websites, adding it workplace bulletin boards or bulletin board emails, and telling friends, family or neighbors you want to sell your car.

6. Don’t forget the paperwork

If and when you get an interested buyer and negotiate a sales price, don’t forget paperwork is essential to closing the deal. You can find many websites that offer bill-of-sale templates that allow you and the seller to fill in important blanks like a description of the vehicle, its VIN, the sales price, date of sale and both buyer and seller’s signatures. Don’t forget you’ll also want to fill out the title.

Tips to make your car more valuable

Even if you keep your car clean with frequent car washes and mechanically sound with frequent oil changes and auto service, there are a few steps you can take to increase its value and make it more saleable before putting it on the market.

1. Make it original

If you’ve added any custom options or decorations to your car, returning it to stock condition or as close to stock condition as possible is one way to make your car more appealing to a wider audience. If you’ve added a moderate amount of custom options like aftermarket rims or a powerful stereo system, that means a narrower audience of buyers will be interested in your car when it comes to sale time. Removing mild customizations and others like bumper stickers, decorations or decals can mean your car will more quickly and at a possibly higher price.

2. Keep those records

Keeping a detailed packet of records and receipts for services like oil changes, engine tune-ups and any major repairs will help convince a potential buyer you’ve taken good care for your car. If you haven’t kept these records but use the same shop or dealership for auto service on a consistent basis, ask them for a print-out of your service records if available. Finally, organize the receipts and records into a binder or packet to be given to the new owner.

3. Get needed services and recall work performed

It’s easy to forget your car is over the recommended mileage for an oil change or other preventive maintenance item. If you plan on selling your car soon, make sure it’s up to date on all manufacturer recommended services base on the vehicle’s mileage, oil changes and major tune-ups being the most important. If you drive a late-model vehicle, check the manufacturer’s website or the dealership to see if there’s any needed recall work.

4. Take care of unsightly blemishes or minor damage

If it’s cost effective to do so, fixing minor blemishes like cracked wheel covers or faded plastic exterior trim can help make your car more appealing at a higher asking price. Chips, dings or scratches in the paint should also be remedied; body shops or detailing outfits can help improve these minor imperfections.

Sell your car fast

The old saying goes that it takes money to make money and it holds true when selling your vehicle for the highest possible asking price. A modest investment in upgrading or repairing your vehicle and its appearance can pay dividends in a quicker sale at a higher price.

1. Professional interior, exterior and engine bay detailing

Even when you’re buying a used car, you still want it to be new to you. When selling a vehicle, consider investing in a thorough exterior, interior or engine bay detailing. A detailing shop can get paint shining like new, that interior carpet fresh and clean and your car’s engine bay looking like it just rolled off the factory floor. In most cases, each service may cost only a few hundred dollars, which can be easily made up in the final sale price.

2. Auto body work

Nothing can ruin the sales appeal of your vehicle more quickly than dents or dings in the metal or cracked plastic body panels. Evaluate the cost of the repairs against the possible increase in sale price first, but a professionally repaired vehicle will always sell faster than a damaged one.

3. New tires

Would you purchase a car with bald or worn tires? If you’re selling, consider slapping a new set of tires on your car – again only after evaluating if it will have a worthy impact on the bottom line.

4. Appraisals or cost evaluations

If you own a classic, luxury or collectable car, spending a few hundred dollars in a pre-sale appraisal can help make your sale price nearly bulletproof when it comes to negotiating with the buyer. For late-model or more run-of-the-mill vehicles, consider having your car evaluated for its trade-in value at independent used car or dealership. Although these auto outlets typically purchase vehicles at wholesale prices, in some cases, they may be able to provide an idea of a retail price.

5. Mechanical inspections and evaluations

Have your regular auto service professional, whether an independent mechanic or a dealership, perform an inspection of your vehicle and evaluate its condition. This route is much cheaper than an appraisal and may help sway an indecisive buyer.

6. Pre-order a vehicle history report

A savvy buyer will want to do his research, including purchasing a vehicle history report from a provider such as Carfax or Autocheck. Beat them to the punch and spend the less than $50 it takes to order the report yourself and save them the trouble.

Avoid car selling scams

Although most people are typically concerned with getting ripped off when purchasing a car, there are plenty of scams and schemers that try to take advantage of car owners selling their vehicles, too.

1. When listing your car for sale

Avoid using your personal contact information in the ad. You can sign up for a free e-mail almost anywhere these days. It’s also a good idea to request that interested buyers follow specific instructions in the listing such as “respond with your phone number and the best time to call.” This will help you avoid dealing with buyers who aren’t serious, as those who don't follow the instructions probably aren't actually interested in the car.

2. When meeting potential buyer

Don’t invite a perfect stranger to your home just because they responded to your ad. When arranging a showing or test drive, meet in a public location with a good amount of traffic such as a grocery store or big-box hardware retailer.  Take a friend or family member with you and avoid allowing the interested parties solo test drive, they may be trying to steal your car.

3. When making payment arrangements

Use common sense and never accept a proposed payment installment plan. Also be wary of overpayment schemes where scammers ask you cash a check for more than the sales price in exchange for the vehicle, the check is most likely fraudulent.

It’s also a good idea to avoid personal checks that may not actually cover the agreed-upon sales price. Use trusted funding sources like cash, a cashier’s check you can verify or wire transfers. Wait for any payment to clear before handing over the vehicle title.

4. When completing the purchase and transferring the title

Several websites offer blank bill of sale forms that you can fill in with the vehicle’s VIN, description and the agreed-upon cost. A signed bill of purchase gives you many more options for recourse if the buyer attempts to back out or change the terms of the deal.

Although it’s tempting to help out the new car owner, always fill out the title accurately, including truthfully reporting the mileage and purchase price.

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