Selling a car can be difficult. Without the proper knowledge, you could end up making a bad deal or selling a car for less than it’s worth. If you're selling your car and want to get the best deal possible, keep these best-kept car secrets in mind.
1. Know Your Customer
Every buyer is different, and that means that each potential customer has different wants and needs for their car. These needs might include their family, budget and gas mileage. By knowing your buyer's needs, you can more easily make a sale, according to car sales advice website CarSalesProfessional.com.
2. Offer Your Potential Buyers a Test Drive
Your customers will likely want to take the car for a test drive prior to buying it. For security reasons, you should accompany the test driver and take them on a well-traversed road, recommended Kelley Blue Book, a car valuation guide. In addition, you should make sure your insurance company covers other drivers — just in case.
3. Make an Effective Online Ad
It’s easy to create an online car ad, but it's hard to create a good online car ad. Include the car's important details, such as the make, model, year, mileage and, of course, price. But don't forget to also highlight your car's more attractive features on your ad — for example, if it has low miles or is fuel-efficient, suggested Kelley Blue Book. Finally, be sure to list it on a website where it will be seen by the most people who are looking for the type of car you're selling.
4. Get a Professional Evaluation
No matter how smoothly your car has run in the past, you never know what trouble could be lurking under the hood. Getting a professional to inspect the car to ensure there are no major mechanical or other problems can also put a buyer at ease — and facilitate the sale. It can also make you come across as a more honest seller, according to Kelley Blue Book.
5. Get the Vehicle History Report
A vehicle history report includes important information, such as the titleholder's name, whether the car has ever been reported stolen, salvaged, damaged or has been in an accident, according to Kelley Blue Book. Obtaining this report can put the buyer at ease, and it’s worth it for you, too.
The buyer will likely want to see the vehicle history before making an offer. This can help you seem like a more credible seller to the potential buyers, and it might increase the number of offers you get.
6. Detail the Car
Although it might not actually affect the car's value, a clean car will definitely lead to a better presentation than a dirty car, according to Edmunds.com. Inflate your tires. Vacuum the interior. Wash the exterior. A good first impression can be vital to a car sale.
7. Post Several Photos of the Car
You might think that a few photos of the car as a whole are sufficient to give buyers a good idea of what the car looks like. But in reality, buyers always want to see more.
8. Post the Right Kind of Photos of the Car
Avoid taking photos at night or in harsh daylight, since neither will produce effective photos. Instead, Edmunds recommended you photograph your car in the earlier morning hours or before dusk, when the light is softer. Then, be sure to get eye-level shots from every side of the exterior, close-ups of the wheels plus tire tread and a shot of the engine. Also, be sure to show the interior, including close-ups to show any wear and tear — or lack of it, suggested Edmunds.
9. Know Your Car’s Value
No matter how clean it is, your 20-year-old car with 150,000 miles on it probably won’t be worth $10,000. This is why you have to be honest with yourself about what you think you can get for it. If you post an ad with too high of a price, people won’t call. Similarly, if you offer too little for your car, you'll get the bad end of the deal. The Kelley Blue Book can give you a good idea of your car's resale value based on its condition.
10. Know How Much Comparable Cars Sell for
Once you know what your Blue Book value is, you can further pinpoint your car's price by comparing it to others you see for sale locally. A car of a similar make, model and mileage as yours should be about the same price as yours. Your car might also be in higher demand where you live, so you might adjust your selling price accordingly.
11. Look Professional
Before meeting with buyers, make sure you’re clean and well dressed, recommended CarSalesProfessional. This will give you the appearance of being respectable, which can put buyers at ease.
12. Don’t Be Desperate to Sell
If you come across as too eager to sell your car, it might raise a major red flag to the buyer — such as whether there's something wrong with the car that you don’t want the buyer to discover. Even if the buyer decides to take the risk and buy the car, your desperation can give them the upper hand in negotiations, according to CarSalesProfessional.
13. Show Your Personality
If people are looking to buy a car from a private seller, one possible reason is that they want to avoid a smooth-talking car salesman. By coming across as a person as much as a seller, you can make your buyers more at ease with you, suggested CarSalesProfessional. It’s a business transaction, but that doesn’t mean you have to be strictly business. If a buyer sees you as a person as much as a seller, they might like you more — and possibly give you a better offer.
14. Make Minor Repairs
Many professional car salesmen will have minor service done on a car before selling it. A quick oil change and engine cleaning can do wonders for a car's presentation. By spending $100 — or just doing it yourself — you might be able to quickly up your car's value, thus making a cheap fix a good idea in many situations. Cars.com recommended looking at your car's Kelley Blue Book value, and determining whether the money and work you put into it will upgrade the value enough so that you make the money back.
15. Gather Your Documentation
When a buyer comes to look at your car, they want to see all the documentation there already — including the registration, title and servicing paperwork. Before showing your car, you should have this all gathered and available. If you have everything available beforehand, you’ll be seen as a straightforward seller.
16. Screen Potential Buyers
While it’s not likely that you’ll become a victim of fraud from selling your car, there is a risk. Before you meet with the buyer, get their full name, and make sure they know which methods of payment are acceptable. This can help prevent any scammers from trying to avoid payment, or defraud you, reported Kelley Blue Book.
17. Only Accept One-Payment Offers
It’s generally a bad idea to allow your buyer to pay in installments as opposed to putting the money all down at once. Unless you draw up a legal contract, they might still fail to pay you the rest, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Either way, it’s a risk that you shouldn’t take.
18. Negotiate the Price
In your ad, specify how concrete your price is — whether it’s up for negotiation, and if so, how much. Even if you say it’s not open for negotiation, it’s possible the buyer will try to negotiate anyway. You should be prepared for this and be ready to counter their offers with your own, advises Edmunds.
19. Be Open About Everything
It’s best to be open with the buyer about past or potential problems with the car. The consumer can find out just about anything about the car whether or not you tell them, so it’s typically to your advantage to be upfront with them. This includes why you’re selling the car, as well as how often you drive it and any other important information.
20. Time Your Sale With the Market
You should be familiar with what will happen to your car's value in a volatile market. This might affect when you want to sell it. There's a potential for certain segments of the automotive market to outperform others on resale values, said Steve Szakaly, chief economist of the National Automotive Dealers Association. For example, Szakaly said demand for light trucks and SUVs remain strong, which will contribute to high resale values on those vehicles.
21. Meet in a Public Place
You shouldn’t meet with a potential buyer at your house. Instead, it might be best to meet in a public place — a parking lot or some other neutral location. This way, your home address remains unknown, thus eliminating the possibility of car theft while you’re out, according to Kelley Blue Book.
22. Bring a Friend
This is as much a safety precaution as anything else. If you have somebody who can go with you to meet with the car buyer, you should absolutely bring him or her for security reasons.
23. Beware of Identity Theft
Black out any personal information on any documentation or service records you hand over. Your name, address, phone number and other sensitive information might be on your papers. In the wrong hands, this is a recipe for identity theft.
24. Display Your Car Where People Will See It
It could be to your advantage to show your car with a "for sale" sign along a busy road. You can easily expand your initial pool of interested potential buyers like this, reported Edmunds. Also, on a busy street, the odds of something bad, like vandalism, happening are less likely.
25. Oversell the Positive
One of the very most important things you can do to sway buyers is to focus on the good, while minimizing the bad, according to AutoTrader.com. Be transparent and acknowledge your car's shortcomings, but at the same time focus on the good things about your car. For example, if your car has high miles but a sound engine, then you should talk up the engine to the buyer. Transparency with an emphasis on the positive is what you should strive for.
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