BUYER’S GUIDE: Tips for Selling Your Used Car

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Buying a new car often means getting rid of your old car as well. The quickest and easiest way is to trade it at the dealership.

That’s one way to go, but you’ll likely get a better price if you sell it on your own. It’s not as difficult as you might think to spiff up the old car and get it ready to sell.

These tips will help you sell your old car and have cash ready for a down payment before you walk into a dealership to buy something shiny and new.

Wash It

This sounds obvious, but we’ve all seen filthy cars sitting in driveways with “For Sale” signs stuck to their grimy windshields. It’s not the kind of thing that makes you stop to take a closer look.

Dirty cars turn away buyers. If you can’t be bothered to clean your car before you sell it, then maybe you couldn’t bother with oil changes and scheduled maintenance, either. You want to give the impression that your car was taken care of and not ignored. First impressions matter so make sure your old car makes a good one.

Your car should be cleaned inside and out before you even think of putting it up for sale. You don’t have to pay for an expensive detailing service. Instead, invest a little time and elbow grease and make your old ride look as good as possible before you stick that sign on the dashboard.

Get out the vacuum and clean the floors and upholstery. Clean all the windows and mirrors. If you have leather surfaces, then they should be polished, too. A clean car is a car that people will want to buy.

Get It Inspected

You think your car is in good shape but are you sure? There’s a reason state’s require annual inspections. Even if you think everything is fine there may be problems that you simply can’t see.

Buyers may request an inspection by a mechanic they trust, but you should have your car inspected by a mechanic you trust, too. If there’s anything wrong, then you’ll know before you put it up for sale and can make the decision to repair your car or sell it as is.

Either way, you avoid a nasty surpirse when your perfect car turns out to be flawed. Be prepared to make repairs or sell it for less if there are issues you don’t want to fix.

This also lets you be up front with buyers and answer questions. With a mechanic’s inspection in hand, you can assure them that your car really is ready for the road and not about to fall to bits the second they pull out of your driveway.

Collect All That Paperwork

There’s no way for a prospective buyer to know you’ve taken car of your car unless you have paperwork to back up that claim. Dig out those old maintenance records from the glovebox or under the seat or the shoebox in your closet. Now is the time to get them organized and prove you’ve taken care of your car properly.

This includes scheduled maintenance records and receipts for repairs you’ve done to your car over the years. If the tires or brakes are brand new, then having a receipt handy as proof is a good idea. Receipts for major repairs are the only way that you can prove a system is new and not original to the car and possibly ready to wear out.

A maintenance paper trail especially shows you took good care of your car and will help make you look like an honest seller. It’s a nerve-wracking prospect to buy a car from some guy you don’t even know. Put the buyer’s mind at ease and you’ve got a better chance at making the sale happen.

Know What It’s Worth

No matter how much your car means to you it all comes down to its official value. Do research ahead of time to figure out how much your car will reasonably fetch.

Once you find the value of your year, make, and model, take a good look at your car’s condition. Are there lots of minor issues like scratches, dents, or worn seats? That’s going to knock down your car’s value so price it accordingly.

You may want to sell if for big bucks, but be realistic. If you slap too high a price on your car, savvy buyers aren’t going to be interested. Make sure your asking price makes sense.

Be Ready to Haggle

When you walk into a car dealership to buy a new car, you have no intention of paying the sticker price that is listed on the window. You’re going to work to bring that number down and get a better deal. Buyer’s looking at your old car will be doing exactly the same thing.

The price you ask for isn’t the price you’re going to get, so don’t start too low. Leave some room to bring the price down when the buyer offers you less.

How much less you’re willing to take depends on how badly you want to sell that old car. The more time and patience you have, the more you’ll get for your car. Just be ready to have a potential buyer walk away if you’re not willing to work with them on a better price.

Advertise Online

Once upon a time you had two choices when you wanted to sell your car. You could stick a sign on the windshield and park it at the end of the driveway or you could place an ad in the local paper. These days you can also put an ad online and increase your audience of potential buyers.

Your online ad should include all the relevant details and it should include pictures. People need to see your car and the better you can make it look, the more likely they’ll want to see it in person.

Take pictures inside and outside after you’ve had it thoroughly cleaned. Pick a nice location, not some ratty parking lot, and be aware of what’s in the background. You’re trying to sell a product, so paint it in the best possible light for buyers.

Selling a car takes time and work, but it’s not difficult. The more effort you put into making your car look good, having records of any work you’ve had done, and explaining to the buyer exactly what they’re getting, the easier it is to sell your car. The benefit is more money in your pocket when you’re ready to be the buyer and get a new car.

Check out to search values on cars similar to yours – and good luck!