• Successfully Sell Your Car

    For whatever reason, you've decided to sell your car. Assuming your goal is getting the most money and experiencing the fewest hassles, the following will help you achieve car-selling success.

    Get Your Car in Shape

    Wash and wax your car, dust and vacuum the interior, clean out the trunk and glove box, and spot-clean the upholstery. Oddly, a sparkling clean engine could raise suspicions, so don't go overboard in this area. Just wipe the dirtiest spots with a degreaser and sponge off battery deposits with baking soda and water. Remember to top off all your fluids.

    Have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic and ask the technician to provide an estimate of what it would cost to make the recommended repairs. Then it's up to you to do one of the following:

    • Make the repairs yourself and possibly raise the price of your car accordingly.
    • Make no repairs but be prepared to have the cost of them negotiated off your asking price.

    Price to Sell

    Prospective buyers will view the vehicle with a critical eye. Even though you may have an emotional attachment to Ol' Betsy, prospective buyers will view the vehicle with a critical eye, noticing every ding and imperfection. Save yourself (and others) time and trouble by doing your best to come up with a reasonable and fair value for your car. (The Kelley Blue Book is particularly helpful for sellers because it provides a value based on the unique options and overall condition of the car.) To improve your chances of coming out of the deal with what you believe is fair, leave room for haggling. Take your rock-bottom price and ask for at least 5 percent to 10 percent more.

    Market Your Car Effectively

    There are many ways to market your car and there's no reason to restrict yourself to using just one of them.

    Online listings: The Web offers excellent exposure at reasonable prices and should definitely be one of your marketing strategies.

    Bulletin boards: Who would be most likely to buy the car you have? A college student? Tack up a notice at the local college campus. A family? Post your ad on a grocery store bulletin board.

    Mobile billboard: Stick a "For Sale" sign in the left rear window of your car (where it won't impede your view). If you want to limit the number of phone calls you get, include the price on the sign.

    Display lot: For a fixed fee or a percentage of the sales price, get space in a used car display lot. Some of these lots are temporary, while others are permanent. Check your phone book and local paper for opportunities.

    Newspapers and specialty publications: Still an inexpensive and effective marketing method, newspapers are often the first place people look when they're shopping for a used car. List the basics and emphasize selling points, such as low mileage, reliability, and fuel efficiency. Don't say you'll accept "best offer" unless you're ready for a barrage of calls with offers that are far too low.

    Tips for Showing Your Auto

    How do you proceed when you start receiving phone calls from prospective buyers?

    1. Schedule appointments close together. Seeing "competition" for your car will stimulate interest.
    2. Meet in a public place. There's no need for a bunch of strangers to come to your home. Tell family and friends where you'll be.
    3. Show potential buyers the inspection from your mechanic. They may still want to have an inspection performed by their own professional, however. Have maintenance records available.
    4. Permit test drives. Ask to see a driver's license and take down the key information. Many sellers go along on the test drive, but be aware that it can be risky. (Be sure that your insurance allows someone to test drive your car.)
    5. Think twice before "holding" a car for someone. If someone wants to make a deposit to hold the car, ask for an amount greater than the cost of advertising for another weekend to cover time and expenses.

    Making the Sale

    Cashier's checks or certified checks are best. Don't accept a personal check unless you know the buyer well. Do not agree to an installment plan.

    Don't accept a personal check unless you know the buyer well. A bill of sale serves as the buyer's receipt and a record of the transaction. You can use a pre-printed bill of sale or create your own. Make copies for both of you and include the following information:

    • Names, addresses and phone numbers of the buyer and seller
    • Vehicle make, model, year
    • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
    • Mileage
    • Sale price and form of payment
    • Statement that car is being sold "as is" without any guarantee or warranty, unless you've arranged otherwise
    • Buyer's and seller's signatures and date

    Finishing the Paperwork

    Follow this checklist:

    • Pay all outstanding traffic tickets.  
    • Provide clear title. Pay off your existing loan and get the "pink slip" from your lender.
    • Ensure title transfer. Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with the buyer to make sure the transfer actually takes place. If the buyer has an accident, you could be held responsible if DMV records still show you as the owner.
    • Comply with any state requirements. The DMV can tell you about state specific requirements such as smog and Lemon Law certificates and whether you or the new owner keeps the plates and registration tags.

    Now you're ready to turn the keys over to the new owner and wave good-bye to Ol' Betsy.

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