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How to Sell a Car: 11 Tips to Get Your Car Sold, Fast and Legally

Over 10 million used vehicles were sold in Q3 2018, up five percent from last year. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who has been trying to buy a car lately. The average new car price has risen, now up to $36,000.

Buying used is now easier than ever before. People are looking for used cars without the questionable back alley deals. Apps and online marketplaces take out the guesswork on how to sell a car.

That isn’t to say anyone can just toss their car up online and have it sell easily. You have to do your homework, prep your car, and know how to sell it. This guide will get you started on the path to a smooth transaction.

How to Sell a Car Better

You don’t need to be a car salesman to get your car noticed. Besides putting out a “for sale sign” and throwing it on Craigslist, you need to plan your approach. How do you stand out from the rest of the crowd?

1. Research Your Market

Is your car a common sedan or is it a niche collector’s item? Is it in high demand right now? What about where you live?

Markets can vary from one side of the city to the other. Oftentimes from one side of the county to another. This foundational research is important for determining your price and where to advertise.

If you’re dealing with a crossover SUV, for example, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a market that doesn’t want one. If you’re trying to sell a sports car, namely convertibles, you might need to look at demographics.

Finally, trucks and vans always fetch a decent price, as long as you’ve kept yours in good condition. There are a lot of contractors and tradespeople out there that keep demand high.

2. Prepare the Interior

Before you start taking pictures and putting your car up for sale, take time to make it presentable. Don’t be that guy with pictures of his seats looking dusty, floorboards dirty, and fingerprints everywhere. By showing that the interior of your car is well-worn, buyers aren’t going to be confident in what’s under the hood.

Even with low-mileage, your dirty car is sending the message of low maintenance. Invest in some quick detailer products, a good microfiber cloth, and a shop vac. If you can’t be bothered to do all that, professional detailing always going to grab attention. 

If your interior is the only area that is a little rough, with tears, stains, or scrapes, look at some DIY auto repair guides. Most interior surfaces can be repaired without evidence.

3. Wax On, Wax Off

You may be thinking “why should I bother with detailing the car’s body if I’m selling used?” Well, as we hinted at in our introduction, the used car market is exploding. There’s going to be a ton of used cars out there that look brand new.

Your investment in a paint job and/or wax will pay for itself by selling quicker. Go ahead and run your car through a touchless car wash, then pick yourself up some wax. If you have no idea how to wax, watch some tutorials and read up on it.

A brand new paint job isn’t recommended unless your car became weathered on the outside, yet barely driven. A nice layer of wax will breathe new life into most cars.

4. Keep Up Maintenance

Auto maintenance is a key seller for moderate to heavy used cars. Buyers want to hear that they’re buying a car that doesn’t need another oil change or tune-up for a long time. They want to jump into that car knowing everything has been looked at and they won’t need to spend extra on maintenance.

If you have a laundry list of problems with your car and are hoping to pass the buck onto someone else, good luck. You’re probably better off trading in your car for cash or towards another purchase.

5. Price Compare

You’re going to research your market for pricing for your own listing. Do the same for the customer. Pull up comparable prices for vehicles similar or of your car model. You can choose to include this in your listing or hold onto it for closing the sale.

Start with your basic Blue Book Value of the vehicle. Supplement this data with recent purchase prices of your car or cars in the same class. Finally, emphasize the length of time between appearances of your car in listings. 

The “fear of missing out” is a real and effective psychological ploy to get buyers to commit. There’s nothing malicious in this trick, you’re providing honest reasons to buy your car.

6. Quantity and Quality of Photos

Show clear, well-lit pictures of every angle outside. Take up close pictures of any disclosed damage. Interior shots should be a mixture of wide-angle and close shots of material condition. 

Don’t worry about taking too many pictures of the same areas, the transparency is going to stand out from other ads. 

7. Negotiate with Every Buyer

Whether you get a lot of offers or not, treat each buyer with a critical eye. Allow them to take a look at it, test drive it, then ask them what they think. If they like the car, but hesitate, move in with a response feeling them out.

Ask them how much their car budget is. Tell them about the amount of work you’ve put into it and any new parts. The deal is much harder to turn down after demonstrating it’s reliability and good mileage.

8. Pre-Purchase Inspection

It costs around $100 to get a mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection. You may see this advertised by used car deals as a multi-point inspection. This is separate from regular maintenance checks.

A PPI is going to look at your car’s brakes, tires, air filter, shocks, spark plugs, and more. The inspection will also be done on the road, looking for balance and timing issues. If you’re planning on selling your car privately, this is a great way to demonstrate professionalism.

9. Take it to Dealers

Used car dealers, like Viking Motors, can help sell your car faster. If you’ve got a car that is in great condition, they can help expedite your sale. Technically, you can skip most of these steps and save time by going to a dealer first.

They’ll know the fair market value, perform their own inspection and make you a fair offer. Even if you aren’t satisfied with their offer, at least you’ve gained some valuable insight.

10. Where to Advertise

Thankfully, there’s a lot of options to choose from when listing your car. You don’t need to take out any traditional ads in papers or magazines. Online classifieds, apps, and e-commerce marketplaces reign supreme.

Start locally with Craigslist, Facebook Groups, and eBay classifieds. Reach out to car enthusiasts on message boards if your car isn’t the family sedan. Consider using major websites like Auto Trader, Carvana, or CarFax. 

This can help boost your reach beyond your own city or state. There are always buyers out there willing to travel to find a good deal. Don’t limit yourself to local deals only, but state clear instructions for anyone out of town.

Our last tip will go into the importance of these instructions in more detail.

11. Legalize the Sale

Get on DMV’s website and look up the rules and fees of the private sale of vehicles. What you need to do for registration, transfer of title, fees involved, and documenting the sale for tax purposes should be understood.

You can’t make any assumptions, otherwise, people can take advantage of this and leave you on the hook. Don’t let the buyer drive off until the money has cleared and all documentation is accounted for. Sign a release of liability to avoid any freak accidents where the driver wrecks the car right after driving off.

Seal the Deal

These 11 tips on how to sell a car should put you above 80-90% of what gets listed out there. It’s amazing how many lemons get passed off through sheer charisma and misplace of trust. When you demonstrate that you have your ducks in order, buyers will not be a tough sell.

It’s all a matter of knowing what your car is worth. If you’re on a tight budget, consider making tune-ups on your own. Make sure you follow your vehicle’s official service repair manual. 

You can find thousands of free service repair manuals on this site. Motor Era covers a wide range of make and models, both foreign and domestic.