You’re ready for a new car, a new-to-you car, or joining the ranks of the carless, but you’re not sure how to sell your car yourself. We can help. The below tips are relatively easy, but it will likely take a few days before you’re ready to post your vehicle for sale. The alternative is selling your vehicle through a third-party like a dealership or an online site, like Beepi, Carvana or Vroom, but the below piece assumes you’re going it alone. Good luck!
1) Get Your Paperwork in Order
Title: this proves you own your vehicle, and have the right to sell it. If you’re not well organized, you’ll need to hunt for it. If you can’t locate it, contact your local registry of motor vehicles, which will issue you a duplicate copy.
Have a Loan with a balance on it? You’ll need to pay off your car before the lender releases the title.
2) Go to the Car Wash
Wash exterior and vacuum inside. You’re prepping it for photos, so this is the time to spring for the wheel-cleaner package, and to consider using some proper interior cleaner, if not a full detail.
3) Take (the right) Photos
Drive your car someplace with a clean background, like an open field, trees, or even a big building. You don’t want your driveway, house, or other cars detracting from your vehicle as the center of attention. Bright sunlight may result in photos with too strong a glare, so ideally do this on a cloudy day; clouds act as a big light diffuser in the sky, resulting in evenly lit photos. The more polished your photos, the more appealing your vehicle will be to potential buyers.
- Exterior vehicle shots to take: front, rear, wheels, and any blemishes. If scale isn’t clearly noted for photos of the blemishes, you may want to place a ruler or a pencil next to each one for perspective.
- Interior vehicle shots to take: odometer, upholstery/leather, center console (to give a sense of the vehicle’s technology or lack thereof), any stains or tears, or anything that’s particularly immaculate.
- Additional photos: if you’ve made any modifications, or have extra parts or accessories, capture photos of those, even if you don’t include them in the initial post. Consider snapping photos of winter floor mats you have as spares, a roof rack, tow hook, or anything else that might be an additional selling point.If you have a window sticker, also known as a monroney label, photograph that, as it’ll help to remind you of all your vehicle features as you post it for sale.For your own reference (not to post online), snap a photo of your VIN if you don’t have the number available elsewhere.
4) Check Your Vehicle’s Value
Head to Kelley Blue Book online at KBB.com, the authority for pricing your car. Now that you’ve thoroughly inspected your vehicle by taking photos, you should have a good sense of its condition. The site will request basic information such as year make, model and mileage (you’d taken a photo of that, remember?), as well as any accessories on your vehicle, like sunroof, engine size, or a premium package.
You’ll then be asked for your vehicle’s condition, and be honest. Even though this may be your baby, you’ll see that fewer than 5% of cars fall into “excellent” condition category. Set your price based on KBB’s valuation, and consider adding a bit of padding, in case your buyer wants to negotiate, so you wind up settling on a price that makes you comfortable.
KBB will then ask whether you intend to sell via private party, meaning you’ll sell directly to the next owner, or to a dealership or online vehicle seller. Pick one, and if you change your mind, the site will show both prices. Private-party sales will earn you more money, because you’re taking care of all the legwork, which can be time-consuming, but a worthy trade-off. Selling through a third-party makes things much easier, but may not be worth the financial loss if you’re on a budget.
5) Consider Condition & History Reports
Book a used-vehicle inspection with a local mechanic, who can assess your vehicle health. Request written confirmation of items inspected, recently completed repairs, and note any issues that may need future attention.
Run a vehicle-history report. You know your vehicle hasn’t been involved in an accident, and that it’s not a lemon, but potential buyers don’t know that. Beat them to the punch and run a vehicle-history report, like CarFax, to prove that the information you’ve presented about your vehicle is true.
6) Draft a Compelling Description
First, list the basic attributes of your vehicle —
- Engine size
- Note whether it’s front/rear/all-wheel drive
- Note whether it’s manual or automatic transmission
Next, write a description. Some examples of what to include, if any of this applies to your vehicle:
- Single owner (or note if it’s stayed within your family)
- Great in snow
- Good/excellent condition
- Maintained on schedule with manufacturer’s recommendation
- Service records maintained
- Still under warranty
- New parts recently installed, such as tires, timing belt
- Parked in garage
- Highway miles
- Affordable insurance
- Spotless interior
- Owned by a non-smoking driver
If you wish you could keep your car, but there’s a reason you’re selling it (relocating for work, downsizing, need a family car), that helps potential buyers to visualize your motivation for getting rid of it.
7) Post the “Vehicle for Sale” Offer Online
CraigsList is a great site to post your vehicle for sale online for free, but there are lots of other options available, as outlined by Popular Mechanics.
Be sure not to post your vehicle for sale before you have a busy few days ahead, or a vacation booked. You’ll need to make yourself available for test drives and meeting potential buyers.
8) Make it Official
Request a bank transfer, use an app like Venmo, or request a certified bank check, rather than a personal check, to cover the funds. If you’re remotely nervous that the deal seems fishy, request cash, or call the bank to verify that there are funds in the account to cover the check. Selling the car on a weekday or Saturday will allow you to cash a check immediately with most banks.
You’ll need to sign the title over to the new owner, and write up a “bill of sale,” which is a written confirmation of how much you’re selling the vehicle to the owner for, and which should include the following:
- Your information: Name, Address, Phone, Email
- Your vehicle’s information: Year, make model, VIN#, Current mileage, Purchase price, Date of sale
- Buyer’s information: Name, Address, Phone, Email
- Write a sentence or two, confirming that you have sold your vehicle to the buyer for the amount indicated, and sign.
Before the new buyer drives off with your old car, don’t forget to remove your license plates and call your insurance company to cancel the policy. Congratulations, you’re officially free of your old car!