When you’re ready to purchase a new set of wheels, you have the option of trading in your old vehicle or selling it privately. Autotrader points out that a dealer makes a trade-in deal simply by handling all the paperwork, but sellers could actually make hundreds or even thousands of dollars more if they sold their vehicle privately.
Click through and to find out how to get the best deal when selling your car on your own.
Last updated: Aug. 13, 2019
1. Prepare Your Car
A picture is worth a thousand words, so you’ll need to take the time to clean and vacuum the car’s interior, as well as wash and wax the exterior. The more attractive the car appears in the photos, the more interest you’ll generate, which might mean a quicker sale. The DMV suggests taking pictures from different angles and including images of the engine, wheels, trunk and dashboard.
2. Gather the Paperwork
In addition to having the title ready to transfer to a new owner, you’ll want to talk to your mechanic and get a detailed service report. If you’d like to take it a step further to prove the vehicle wasn’t involved in any major accidents, didn’t incur any structural damage and wasn’t damaged by harsh weather like a flood — pay the $39.99 to get a Carfax report.
3. Calculate Your Car’s Value
Use the trusted Kelley Blue Book, or KBB, to enter your vehicle’s make, model, mileage, condition and special features to determine what your car is actually worth. This is the best way to sell a car, as most prospective buyers will consult KBB before making an offer. You can also gather information about your vehicle’s current market value from sites like Autotrader.
4. Strategize Your Sale Price
Once you know what your car is worth, you’ll need to take a look at the demand for that type of vehicle in your county and select a price that is competitive. Car website Edmunds suggests asking a little more for the car than you are willing to accept so that you have some wiggle room and having the price end in “95.”
For example, a vehicle listed at $9,995 will sell faster than one listed for $10,000. It might not increase the actual value of your car, but it’ll certainly make it sell for more on the open market.
5. Create a Listing
Whether you want to sell a car online or within your local community, you’ll need to create a listing that appeals to potential buyers. The listing should include the following essential information: a firm or best offer asking price, mileage, the age of the vehicle, condition, modifications, repairs, number of previous owners, if known, and your contact information.
6. Place Ads
Use your listing to place an advertisement in a local newspaper, or on a reputable online site, like eBay Motors, Cars.com, Craigslist, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. Some of these methods are free, but others cost money, so you might want to stick with the free websites first and move on to the fee-based sites only if you don’t receive any bites.
7. Use Social Media
You’re not the only person asking “Can I sell my car online?” It is certainly possible to use social media as another way to sell your car online, but like any online transaction, be cautious.
Facebook has Swip Swap Auto groups and the option to place an advertisement if you don’t mind paying a few bucks. You can also make a public post on your profile page so friends and family can share the listing with others.
8. Screen Buyers
Take the time to talk with any interested parties over the phone or through email correspondence. Answer questions and get a feel for whether the buyer is serious.
Trustable buyers are likely to give you their full name and contact information, as well as pay you in cash or consent to waiting for any checks or money orders to clear before taking possession of the vehicle.
9. Schedule Showings
If the buyer appears serious, set up a showing so the individual can look at the car and take it for a test drive. Always meet them in a public place during the day and ask to see the buyer’s driver’s license to verify that it is current and insist on riding along for the test drive to prevent theft and to answer any additional questions the person might have.
If you can, bring a friend with you so you’re not alone.
10. Negotiate the Deal
It is possible for a potential buyer to make a full-price offer, but it is more common to receive an offer that is lower than the asking price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate by reminding the buyer about any of the car’s positive features and then coming back with a price that is lower than your asking price, but higher than the offer given. Repeat the cycle until you have an acceptable deal for both parties.
11. Decide What To Do With Your License Plates
Before you turn the car over to the buyer, you need to figure out what to do with your license plates. Depending on the state in which you live, you either sell the car with the license plates or you have two other options after removing the license plates from the old vehicle: You can transfer the tags to a new car or turn them in to their local DMV. If you have a sweet vanity plate, however, you might want to hold on to it if it’s allowed in your state of residence.
12. Determine If You Need a Smog Test
As the seller, you might be responsible for smogging your vehicle depending on which state you live in. For example, the state of California requires that if the vehicle is over four years old, it is the responsibility of the seller to provide proof that they submitted a smog certification within the past 90 days.
Depending on where you live, there might be caveats that get you out of this responsibility — and the expense. In California, for another example, proof of smog certification is not required if the car is being transferred to a family member.
13. Finalize the Sale
After the buyer’s payment has cleared, remove your license plates from the car, sign over the title and make sure to add the odometer reading in the correct location.
Create a receipt for proof of the sale. Give this and the car keys to the buyer to finalize the sale.
14. File the Right Forms
Each state is different in their requirements once a car has been sold. Florida requires residents to fill out Form HSMV 82050, while other states ask for a Release of Liability Form.
These forms should be completed as soon as possible, as they are designed to protect sellers from any liability if anything were to happen to the car after it left their possession. If you’re not sure what to do, contact your local DMV for more information.
15. Remove the Insurance Policy
Call your insurance company immediately following the sale to have the car removed from the policy. If you’ve paid ahead and you still have time left on your auto insurance policy, the insurance company should issue you a refund for every day that wasn’t used.
If your vehicle isn’t running, or it has a lot of damage, you might find it hard to locate a private buyer. If this happens, look into Cash for Cars, which pays for cars in any condition.
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