Skip the Trade-In Offer
First and foremost, you should skip the trade-in offer at your dealership. With some rare exceptions, you will never get a better price than if you were to sell it yourself.
I understand that it’s more convenient, but if you’re trying to maximize your money, you will want to sell privately. If you price your car below market value, you can sell it quickly with minimal fuss and the odds are that you’ll still make more money than trading it in.
This guide will cover all the necessary steps to get it done right and capitalize on your used car. You just a day of your time (if that) and wait for the calls to come in.
Deep Clean It
Thoroughly clean it inside and out. This means washing and waxing the exterior, shining the tires and any faded plastic pieces, and cleaning out all the trash from your car. This can all be done for a couple hours of your time and maybe $30 worth of cleaning supplies if you don’t already have it.
Don’t forget to give the engine bay a quick scrub. But, don’t just go in there and hose it down as it can damage some electronics in there. Check out YouTube for some great tutorials. It surprisingly makes a big difference.
Consider having your interior steam cleaned or vacuumed to remove any unsightly stains in the seats and carpets if it’s excessive.
Make sure there are no weird funky smells in your car either as it will deter buyers. Buy an air freshener and deep clean the interior if you have to.
Ideally, you’ll want to check and repair the essential items, such as all the lights, squeaking breaks, etc. and make sure everything performs as it should. Hopefully the basics are all covered if you’ve properly maintained the vehicle and you can skip this section entirely.
Consider making low-cost repairs yourself. If a buyer notices a lot of small things that need to be repaired, they may think you didn’t take very good care of it and may lowball you.
Determine whether it’s worth the added time and cost to get any repairs or major maintenance done. In most cases, making these repairs will not be made up in the sale of the car. If you decide not to, please have the integrity to explain it to the potential buyer what items should be addressed.
It’s recommended that you replace any major and obvious things that need repair unless you’re willing to take a significant hit on the sale price.
Get it Smogged
Some states require you to get your car smogged before you sell it. California, for example, enforces sellers to get their car smogged within 90 days of selling it. Check with your local DMV to see your State’s requirements.
Research Your Car’s Value
Sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can give you a good base price, but don’t always reflect the true value of your car.
Search other similarly spec’d models of cars in your local area. It’s the best way to see the market for your car. Craigslist is one of the best places to start your search.
Organize Maintenance Records
Hopefully you’ve been keeping records of all the maintenance and repairs on your car since you’ve owned it.
- Pro Tip: If you have had your car serviced at a dealership or local garage, they may be able to access stored files of the work they have performed.
Potential buyers place a high value on maintenance records. If your car has been maintained properly and you have the records to prove it, it will allow you to ask a little more than if you have no records at all.
Advertise it Everywhere
The more eyeballs that see your ad the greater the chances are of you selling it for your asking price and in some rare instances more than your asking price if you can get competing buyers. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, Auto Trader, Cars.com, local forums, etc. are all great and inexpensive places to take out an ad.
Make sure you create a detailed ad with a lot of quality pictures. The more detail you provide, the more serious it makes you look as a buyer. And the saying that “pictures say a thousand words” is true.
Think about it this way, would you trust an ad for a used car that has poor quality photos and very little information about the car? Or would you trust an ad with clear pictures inside and out of the car with detailed information?
You can also drive around with the sign in the window park on the side of a busy street with a for sale sign.
Price it Right
Many people will try to lowball you for your car so start the asking price a little higher than what you’d be comfortable accepting. This way both you and the buyer can settle on a price you can both agree on.
Note that you need to make sure your price is still competitive with what’s on the market. Otherwise, if you price it too high, you may be sitting on it for a while.
This is one of the areas that if you’re diligent, can make you the most money on the sale. If you’re not in a rush to sell your car, don’t be afraid to haggle on the price with interested buyers. You’d be surprised at the results if you make counteroffers and stand firm.
Negotiating is an art in itself. You need to be firm, but not so firm that you are unable to sell the car. Don’t cave in if you’re not happy with an offer that you feel is too low. They might walk away from the car, but there’s a chance they will come back later and accept your offer.
Don’t Get Scammed
Ideally, you’ll want to only accept cash or a cashier’s check that you are able to identify as legitimate with the buyer’s bank. Do not take any other form of payment without being at a bank. Some other quick tips are:
- Only deal with buyers face-to-face.
- Avoid anyone buying a car on someone else’s behalf.
- Bring a friend with you. You never know who you’ll be meeting, so it’s best to be on the safe side and bring a friend with you.
- Trust your gut feeling, if you feel suspicious about the deal, just walk away from the sale.
If you are considering the sale of your car based on being upside down on your car loan, you may want to consider additional options that can aid you in alleviating this financial burden.
By: Jacob at 365 Business Tips
Jacob is a contributing editor for 365 Business Tips. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration and spends most of his time writing about business and personal finance. He is obsessive about cars and loves to talk cars with anyone willing to listen. He even works part-time at his local VW dealership for some extra cash and perks.