So, you’re in the market for a new car and plan to trade in your old one. My advice? Put the brakes on that idea. By selling a car on your own, you can easily double your money. Here’s how to do it.
How to sell your car for much more than you’d get in trade
Before you get started, make sure you have your paperwork in order — specifically, your title. Do a title search to find out first if there are any outstanding liens and make sure you factor that into the equation. Once you make a sale, you want the transaction to run as smoothly as possible!
Do your research
Check Kelly Blue Book first. You can find valuable information, based on your car’s condition, on its trade-in value and suggested selling price. Then, check a place like CarMax to get a baseline offer. Once you have this information, you can set a starting price.
Get it ready to sell
Start by detailing the car. You can hire someone if you have a fancier ride or to save some money, do it yourself. Vacuum every inch of the car, including the trunk. Then clean the interior with something like Armor All to make surfaces shine. Wash and wax the outside of the car, removing bumper stickers or anything else that personalizes the car, as these may not appeal to everyone. Finally, use a nice air freshener inside to get the vehicle as close as possible to that irresistible “new car smell.”
List to sell
Begin by listing with Craigslist. Be descriptive. Be honest. Be visual. Share as many details as you can about the car, including any possible “flaws” so there are no surprises to the buyer. A well-written and thorough description, including maintenance that you have performed on the vehicle, goes a long way toward inspiring a potential buyer’s confidence.
Great photos will also increase your chances of selling, so take several photos of the vehicle from different angles (from the back, front, both sides, trunk, interior, especially the dash and any special features like heated seats or sunroof — also take a picture of the mileage) and pick the best ones to include. You are marketing your vehicle, so you want it to look it’s best. List your car on your local Facebook group, as well. There are many buy/sell groups where members look for used vehicles. Look for one in your city and ask to join. Once you list your car, share it on your personal Facebook page and ask your friends and family to share it, as well. Also, you can try Facebook’s Marketplace to list your car and reach beyond your family and friends lists.
Price to sell
Pick a reasonable starting price. Make sure you price high enough to have some room for negotiation, as buyers will want to offer you less than your listing price. My son recently sold his vehicle and started the price at $9,000. He didn’t get any hits on it, so he lowered the price to $8,000. He ended up selling it for $7,200. That’s more than DOUBLE what CarMax offered at $3,300.
When meeting potential buyers, put safety first. Never meet someone alone and always choose to meet in a public place. Many local law enforcement agencies provide a “safe place” for such meetings. We always let the buyer test drive the car, but require them to leave their driver’s license and keys to their current vehicle with us to ensure they bring our car back.
Finalize the transaction
To wrap up and close the deal, you first need to prepare a bill of sale. It needs to include the VIN number, the make, model and year of the vehicle, the selling price and a note that the vehicle is being sold “as is.” Also include a place for the buyer and seller to each sign it. We recommend meeting at the buyer’s bank. Not only is this a safe, public location, but the banker also can insure the transaction is handled correctly, and that the proper signatures and paperwork are in order. There is typically a notary on site if that is needed. For payment, only accept a cashier’s check. Period.
In short: With a little research, some elbow grease, and a dose of smart marketing, you could double your money by selling your own car, instead of trading it in at a dealership. Good luck, and happy selling!