How to Sell Your Car

If you’re thinking about selling your car but don’t want to sacrifice big money by selling it at a dealership, consider handling the sale on your own! With a little time and effort, you can pocket that extra cash — and it’s actually simple to do. Here’s what you need to do.

How to Get Your Car Ready to Sell

Of course, you’ll need to clean the car up and get it looking its best, but that’s just the beginning. The process can take some time depending on the type of vehicle you’re trying to sell and the time of year. But with a little know-how, you can make selling your car a smooth ride.

Do your homework. Get online and find out what your car’s worth. Make sure to do the following:

  • Search for your vehicle’s year, make and model and be sure that the mileage statistic is close to yours as well.
  • Match the interior and style package.
  • Kelly Blue Book, Autotrader and other similar sites are a great starting point.

Inspect the car for issues. Examine the car as if you were a buyer and fix small problems so they don’t become bargaining chips later on.

  • Dings, dents, chips should be repaired, so get estimates and schedule time to take it to a shop.
  • If the car’s got bigger problems, now is the time to get it to the shop.
  • You should also check for outstanding recalls on your car and go to a dealership right away if any exist.

Gathering information is next. You’ll want all of these important documents on hand, so gather them ahead of time and keep them organized in a file folder:

  • The title, which is your proof of vehicle ownership. Or if you have a lien on the car and you’re in a state where the lienholder is responsible for holding it, call the bank to get details on what needs to be done at the time of sale, and get a payoff amount too.
  • The bill of sale from when you purchased the car.
  • Release of liability document from your insurer. This document will help protect you for damages that occur to the vehicle after the car has officially changed hands. The buyer will need to sign this when you close the deal.
  • Warranty and extended warranty documentation.
  • As-is statement/contract. Take a look online for a standard used car sales contract that stipulates the vehicle is sold with no warranties. Have the buyer sign this at closing.
  • Up-to-date emissions document. Be sure that your car is not overdue for an emission test.
  • All maintenance records.
  • Purchase and print out a vehicle history report from an online group like CARFAX or AutoCheck, and feature the report for buyers who stop by to see the car.

Detail the car. If you choose to do this yourself, get ready to clean it like you mean it. Outsource this job if it’s more than you can manage.

  • Get it washed and waxed.
  • Clean the windows, inside and out.
  • Clear out all the accumulated junk.
  • Wipe down the dashboard and interior door areas.
  • Replace worn out floor mats.
  • Vacuum out the entire car, trunk, glove box, storage areas and ash trays too.
  • Wipe down the rims and treat the wheels with a gloss product.

Tips to Sell Your Car Online

Now it’s time to build your ad. Selling your car online will make it available to a local and national audience. Place ads on Craigslist, eBay Motors, Facebook, etc. Remember to be honest in your description of the condition.

Build your description like a pro. Look at how dealerships phrase their descriptions and use that language in your ad.

  • Highlight the great reasons why people need this car.
  • Be persuasive and consistent.
  • Don’t be afraid to mention problems or small tears in the upholstery.

Scout out a location. Find a well-lit spot for a photoshoot that will let the images tell the story of how great your car looks.

  • Borrow a higher-end digital camera for more professional looking photos.
  • Take multiple photos of all angles, and be ready to upload as many as your target selling sites will allow.
  • Get close ups and feature the highs and the lows. Be honest in your visual description and buyers will know what to expect when they stop by.
  • Take photos of the odometer, dashboard, seats, navigation system, stereo and steering wheel.

Show the car and offer a test drive. Interested parties will want to check it out in person.

  • Schedule a meet-up at a local mall parking lot or other public place if you’re not comfortable having the showings at your home.
  • Make a list of issues or concerns and prepare your answers to them in advance.
  • If the buyer would like to test drive the car, call their insurance company and confirm that their insurance will cover test drives and that it’s current.
  • Before handing over the keys for the test drive, take a photograph of their driver’s license front and back. Or you can accompany them.
  • State your payment terms now — be up front and direct to avoid problems at closing.

Negotiate like a pro. If the buyer wants to get the car to a mechanic for an inspection, that’s a great sign. But, if it’s being sold “as-is,” remind them now. Don’t be afraid to counter offer.

Close the deal. After all of the terms are worked out, verify that you’re in compliance with your municipality’s rules that govern auto sales.  

  • If your loan is financed by a local bank, request that the bank host the transaction beforehand. Often, they’ll make a loan officer available to mediate the purchase. Be sure they’ve got the title ready for handoff to the buyer.
  • Request a cashier’s check.
  • Have the buyer sign and date all related documents and contracts.

Congratulations — you did it! But there’s one last step you don’t want to forget. After you’ve sold your car, contact your American Family Insurance agent to cancel the policy and to request a policy transfer if you got a new car. They’ll make sure you’re properly covered.


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Related Topics: Car Buying , Car Insurance , Technology , Car Maintenance