When you’re ready to replace your old car with a newer or different vehicle, typically you have two options: trade it in at a dealership or sell your car on your own.
While the former may certainly be the quickest of the two options, it typically may not be the best way to maximize the money you’ll get for your vehicle. In most cases, selling your car privately is the path toward top dollar — but it’s never guaranteed. Keep in mind that a change in car ownership also means you’ll need to consider insurance coverage for the next vehicle you own, but make sure that your current vehicle maintains the appropriate coverage. Contact your insurance agent for guidance and to ensure you’ll be appropriately covered.
Some Tips on How to Effectively Sell a Used Car Privately
Selling your car privately takes time, effort, and a little bit of sales savvy. Are you willing to put in the work to make it happen? Want to make sure your car sells fast and for the best price? These 10 tips can help:
1. Make any repairs and get a tune-up.
If your car needs repairs, you’ll generally want to have them done before listing the vehicle for sale. While you’re at it, consider having the car tuned up, and be sure to save your service receipt to show potential buyers. Ask your auto mechanic to top off the oil and fluids, to make sure the lights are working, and to test the pressure on all the tires. You could even request a full inspection to ensure there are no other issues before you sell the car.
2. Consider the market.
Take some time to analyze the current vehicle market before listing your vehicle. What time of year are you selling your vehicle? What type of buyers are on the market and what sort of cars might they be looking for and at what price?
For example, if you’re in a suburban area, sedans, minivans, and SUVs may sell more readily based on the demand. Collector cars or convertibles? Those might be harder sells if you’re not in a beachside town or selling in the heat of the summer. Understanding the market you’re selling in can help you both time and price your listing better.
3. Price it right.
In addition to knowing your market, you also need to gauge the value of your vehicle. You can look to online reference books or car dealer websites that list the prices of used cars for guidance. For a more accurate depiction of what people are paying for similar cars, head to an online marketplace for car buyers and sellers. These resources can give you a glimpse at what you could reasonably ask for the vehicle.
4. Know your car.
Some potential buyers are going to pull your vehicle’s report before they’re willing to make an offer on it. Want to make sure those reports don’t derail your sale? Pull them yourself before listing your vehicle. There are web-based services that provide vehicle history reports that can help you learn about your car’s history and other details.
5. Get it detailed.
If you want to maximize your selling price, consider taking it in for a full detail job — vacuuming, upholstery cleaning, waxing, the whole works — before you list the vehicle. If you’re short on cash, you can do many of these tasks yourself (they’ll just take a little bit of time). Just make sure you do it before you have photos taken. You want the car looking its best in your listing photos.
6. Take great photos.
Aside from the price and the mileage, the photos may be the most important part of a listing. In taking photos of your vehicle, make sure you capture it from various angles and vantage points. You’ll also want to snap pictures of any details on the car — maybe the grill, wheels, sunroof or the navigation system.
7. Cross-list the car.
To reach the most potential buyers, you may want to list your car extensively. There are several online auto websites to list your used car for sale, so do your research to decide which one suits your needs. You can also advertise your car for sale in the Classified ads section in the local newspaper. If you’ve got a collector car, you can search online car forums and message boards for potential bidders.
8. Be responsive.
Don’t advertise your car if you’re not ready to start fielding offers. Once it’s listed, you’ll need to be prepared for phone calls, texts, and emails about the vehicle, and you won’t have any say in the time of day these queries may come. While you don’t need to respond to these messages immediately, consider setting aside a block of time each day to return calls and answer questions.
9. Don’t compromise.
If you’ve done your research and know what your car is worth, don’t feel like you need to accept any low-ball offers. Sometimes, you might not reach an acceptable number with a buyer, and that’s okay. If you’ve priced your car properly, it may be worth waiting for a better offer.
10. Have all the records.
Put together a folder of all your car’s service records and receipts. This shows potential buyers that you cared for and maintained the vehicle properly — a big vote of confidence when it comes to used cars. On top of this, it also gives them an idea of the car’s condition and what its maintenance requirements might be down the line.
After You Sell Your Car
Whether you’re selling your car privately or trading it in at a dealership, you’ll need to alert your insurance carrier and lien holder, if you have one, of the change of ownership. Contact your agent and let them know that you’ve sold the vehicle, and make sure to add your replacement car to your policy. Depending on your new car and how you plan to use it, you may also need to adjust your coverages.