6 Simple Steps to Sell Your Car

Cars are some of the most valuable assets people own, which means that selling them the right way is critical. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right spot for the answers you need. By studying this car selling guide, you’ll get plenty of tips for selling a car privately, tips for selling your car to a dealership and get introduced to other options like trade-ins. Whether you have your car paid off or you still owe on your loan, these steps and tips will prove extremely valuable.

  • Check any mechanical issues
  • Collect your paperwork
  • Set a price
  • Consider making minor repairs
  • Create appealing ads
  • Close the deal

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In this article

    1. Check any mechanical issues

    Selling a broken car is not going to go over well. You may be able to execute a sale with a dealership or a car-buying company but expect to take a significant hit in the bottom line. Selling your car to a private seller, though, probably won’t fly. Not many people are interested in buying a broken car.

    One of the best tips for selling a car is to take your car to a trusted mechanic and get it checked over for mechanical issues. From there, determine if it’s better to fix the issues yourself or disclose them during the sale and take a lower amount.

    2. Collect your paperwork

    When you sell your car, you need to do more than kick the keys over to the new owner. You’re going to need to transfer the necessary documentation and paperwork to the new owner. You’ll also need your original title, odometer disclosure (in some states), bill of sale and warranty documentation. Additionally, you’ll find that many “sell car tips” lists advice to pulling any maintenance records you have to show that you’ve been taking proper care of the vehicle.

    Having all of this paperwork pulled before you start the selling process accomplishes several things. First, it shows potential buyers that you’ve got your ducks in a row and can build trust regarding the quality of the car. Second, it can help you defend the price you choose to set for your vehicle. A well-maintained vehicle is worth much more than one that’s been neglected. And most importantly, the paperwork is necessary to transfer ownership of the car and complete the sale.

    [Read: The Simple Dollar Guide to Auto Loans

    3. Set a price

    One of the trickiest parts of selling your car is figuring out what price to charge. Charge too low, and you are leaving money on the table. Charge too high, and you may turn away buyers that would have been interested in the car at a fair price.

    One of the best tips for selling your car is to take your time and do your research when setting the price. Look at what other similar cars are being sold for around the country and in your local market. Is there a lot of demand for your type of car? How much would you pay if you were going to buy your car? The closer you can get to a fair price, the better.

    Some sales experts recommend pricing the car slightly higher than what you think is fair to leave room for negotiations. Others, though, recommend setting a resonable price and holding firm. Which expert you choose to follow is entirely up to you.

    You may also want to consider what you still owe on the car loan if you don’t already own it outright. While this won’t matter to the buyer, it should be something you are, at the very least, aware of.

    4. Consider making minor repairs

    Small repairs leave room for buyers to negotiate a lower price. Little dents, scratches, missing pieces or even cleanliness can be turn-offs to buyers or push them to ask for a lower price. You can avoid a lot of these situations by taking the time to make these minor repairs. Don’t spend so much that you end up not recouping recoup the money when you sell, though.

    A popular tip for selling a car is to put yourself in the mind of the buyer and determine what is most important to them. Something as simple as a broken mirror might seem small to you but could be a significant problem and inconvenience to a buyer. Additionally, minor repairs unfixed can be a red flag of a car that has been neglected.

    [Read: Best Auto Loans of 2020

    5. Create appealing ads

    If you’re selling your car on the private market, you will need to create appealing ads. People who are selling their car to a dealership or trading it don’t have to worry about this.

    Start by getting high-quality pictures of your car. While it can be tempting to take misleading pictures, don’t shy away from any damage or shortcomings. You might get more people to come to look at the car, but most of them won’t buy when they see the realities. Trust is imperative in any selling situation.

    From there, start writing an appealing description of your car. One of the top tips for selling your car privately is to look at other ads. What are other people doing that catches your eye? What things are people mentioning in all ads? You don’t have to be a professional writer to create an engaging car ad.

    Some of the places you can post your new ad include:

    6. Close the deal

    The last step of the car selling process is to complete the sale. Make sure that you request the funds in a certified check or a bank wire. Don’t turn over the car title until you have the funds in your bank account, or you have confirmed that you have them in hand. There is a decent amount of fraud out there, but it can generally be avoided by following these simple precautions.

    Check Your Auto Loan Rates

    View our top-rated lenders and find the best rates today. It’s quick and easy.

    Remember, you always have the option of selling your car to a dealership, car-buying service or trading it in if you don’t want to sell privately. You’ll generally get more money through a private sale, but there are more hoops you need to jump through.

    We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Jason Lee

    Contributing Writer

    Jason Lee is a U.S.-based freelance writer with a passion for writing about dating, banking, tech, personal growth, food and personal finance. As a business owner, relationship strategist, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base and skill sets with the rest of the world. Follow Jason on Facebook here

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    • Andrea Perez
      Andrea Perez
      Personal Finance Editor

      Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.