Don’t “trade-in” your car at a car dealership when you purchase your next vehicle! Instead, save a bunch of money and sell your current car yourself. Follow these tips below to help maximize the selling price of your old car and keep more money in your pocket!
Make That Baby Shine!
When you go to buy your next car, whether it is new or used, you’re going to expect it to be clean right? Well, the same will be true for the person who comes to look at your car. The cleaner you get your car, the more money you’re likely to get. If you’re unable to properly clean your car (for whatever reason), it might be worth it to spend $100-150 to have your car professionally detailed by a local auto body shop (especially for cars worth over $8k). Check your local yellow pages for special coupons and discounts for these services. A properly conditioned car can sell for hundreds even thousands more than a dirty one.
Fix Any Minor Problems
Does your car have some vanity lights burned out? Do the headlight, brake, and signal lights all work? Does it have a cracked windshield or a wiper that is hanging on by a thread? Get these items fixed BEFORE you start showing your car. Most of these minor problems can be corrected for a few dollars at your local Walmart, or Autozone store.
Make a decision on Major Problems
If your car needs a new transmission, doesn’t run, or has major cosmetic damage, you need to make an honest estimate what the car would be worth after you’ve fixed it, and what it would be worth as is. If you’ve got a broken car that would be worth $3500 in good condition but is only worth $1000 as is, you’re better off not fixing it if the repairs will cost $2500 or more, especially when you consider the hassle involved. Just sell it!
Price Your Vehicle
There are many great sources on the Internet to establish a fair price for your vehicle. Kelly Blue Book, and NADA both offer well respected used car pricing information. I always check the free online classified website Craigslist to get an estimate of what similar cars are selling for in my area. The longer you have to sell your car, the higher you can start your asking price. Get a feel for the market value of you car based on the above references and then set your price accordingly.
One of the most effective methods of selling a used car yourself is to park it in a highly visible area with the “for sale” sign on it. If you live on a busy street you’re in luck. If you don’t, try one of these tactics:
Park the car in a busy shopping center along the front of the parking lot near the main entrance and keep the for sale signs in it.
Ask a friend in a higher traffic location if he’ll let you advertise your car in his driveway.
See my How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist article for a step by step guide to posting your vehicle for sale. It’s easy, and best of all it’s free. You can also place an ad in your local newspaper or other classified newspaper/magazines in your area. The trick is to give an accurate description of the vehicle. Be as honest as possible so people won’t be disappointed when they come to look at it and end up wasting their time and yours. (Tip: Do not respond to out of state buyers who promise to give you more than your car is worth, or that they can sell your car for more than you are asking, it’s a scam)
Another good advertisement is to print up flyer’s and hang them on community bulletin boards around town. Many supermarkets, post offices, and department stores have community bulletin boards that allow you to place ads.
Seal the Deal
It’s a good idea to meet prospective buyers in a public space. Not only is it safer, but it is generally easier to give directions to public places people are more familiar with.
Bill of Sale
You will need to create a “bill of sale” that meets the requirements of your state. This document is signed by both parties and typically includes the name of the buyer, the name of the seller, a description of the vehicle, the mileage of the vehicle, and the VIN#. Many states off free “bill of sale” forms on their websites. You can also download an inexpensive state specific “bill of sale” from US Legal Forms.
Never take a personal check when selling your car unless you accompany the buyer to the bank where the check is drawn and verify the funds are available. Be extremely cautious of Cashier’s Checks. I got lucky when I accepted a check for my motorcycle from an individual that lived out of state. The check could very well of been counterfeit. See more about cashier’s check scams and how to avoid them here. I personally won’t accept anything other than cash, or a personal or certified check that is drawn on a local bank where I can personally verify the funds.