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When it comes time to buy a new car, what do you do with your old car?
Do you try to sell it yourself? Do you trade it in?
There are pros and cons to both options.
But in my opinion, selling your car in a private sale is your best option.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the best ways to sell your car and the tricks I use to get a higher price.
Keep reading to find out how you can sell your car and get more money for it!
Table of Contents
How To Sell Your Car For The Most Money
Find Out The Value Of Your Car
The very first step you have to do when selling your car is to find out how much it is worth.
If you try to save time by skipping this step, you are going to cost yourself a lot of money.
This is because you will sell for what you think it’s worth and not what someone is willing to pay for your car.
So how do you figure out the value of your car?
There are a couple of service guides out there, including Kelley Blue Book, NADA, and Edmunds.
I pick two of these and enter in the details of my car and use an average of the private party price of what they say.
The biggest stumbling block you will find when trying to assess the value of your vehicle is the car’s condition.
In most cases you will pick average or good, unless there is major rust or the car is falling apart.
Once you have the two estimates, average them out to get a final number.
Then I go online to AutoTrader, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace and search for my car.
I make sure to enter in my zip code and only look at cars within a 50 mile radius to compare.
I compare the active listings selling price in my area with the estimate I got from the service guides.
This ensures I list my car for a competitive price.
It also gives me backup if any buyer doesn’t agree with the car’s value.
Finally, when you use the service guides, take note of the trade in price as well.
Just in case you end up trading your car in, you want to know this value.
Now that you have the price to charge, it is time to look at the best ways to sell your car.
#1. Private Party
Hands down the best way to sell a car is private party.
This is when you list it for sale yourself and deal with potential buyers.
The benefit here is you get the most money for your car.
The drawback is it takes time.
You have to reply to phone calls, texts, and emails.
And you have to be around for test drives too.
It can be a hassle, but seeing as you can get a few thousand dollars more selling this way, to me it is worth the effort.
#2. Sell To A Service
Years ago, your only options for selling a car were to sell it yourself or trade it in.
Nowadays there is another option.
CarMax, CarShop (formerly CarSense), Carvana, and others let you sell your car fast.
The way it works is you schedule an appointment or walk in to a local store.
They will inspect your car and get some basic information from you about the vehicle.
Then in 30 minutes you will have an instant cash offer.
Most times their offer is good for 7 days, so there is no pressure to make a decision on the spot.
The benefit with this option is you bypass the work of selling it yourself.
The drawback is you get less money for your car.
How much you get varies.
When I tried out a car marketplace, the price they offered me was roughly the same is the trade in price I was offered by a car dealer, $10,000.
I ended up selling my car privately because I knew I could get more for it and sold it for $14,000.
To me, getting an additional $4,000 was worth the work.
Had the company I used offered me $12,500 for my car, I probably would have taken it.
#3. Trade It In
This option is going to get you the least amount of money for your car.
The car dealership will give it a quick inspection and then give you an offer.
The advantage here is there is no work on your part.
You can sell your car and buy your new car all at once.
The downside is you are potentially leaving a lot of money on the table.
This is because the dealer is going to offer you the lowest price on your car.
Now you can negotiate the offer the dealer gives you.
But you aren’t going to get as much as you would if you sold it yourself.
And here is one more trick.
If you plan on trading your car in, don’t tell the car salesman this.
Negotiate the price of your new car first.
Once you agree on a price, then them you want to trade in your old vehicle.
The reason you do this is because many times the salesperson use the trade in to make it look like you are getting a good deal.
For example, you might negotiate the final price of your new car to be $28,650 with your trade in.
But you could have gotten to this number without the trade in.
Now with the trade in, the final price of your new car is $25,650.
7 Tips To Get The Most Money When Selling Your Car
Now that you know the best ways to sell your car, here are my tricks to getting the most money for it.
I’ve used these tricks to sell 4 cars privately and every time I sell the car for more than the service guide estimated price.
In fact, most times I am getting $2,000 more on the sale!
If you do plan on trading your car in and you have zero interest of selling privately, you can skip most of these steps.
I’ll tell you exactly what to do in this case below.
#1. Get Your Professionally Cleaned And Detailed
Having a clean car will go a long way towards adding value to the car.
If the car looks as good as new, chances are the buyer will be willing to pay a bit more for it.
Make sure all the carpet and upholstery is shampooed and vacuumed, getting rid of as many stains as possible.
If your floor mats look like garbage, go to Walmart or Amazon and buy a cheap replacement set.
Have the exterior waxed and sealed, and have any major scratches covered.
Large dents should be fixed up too. Small dents can be ignored.
And here is an easy way I get more money for my cars.
I clean under the hood.
I simply get some old rags and some spray cleaner and wipe everything down.
Why do I do this?
It gives the impression that you took great care of the vehicle.
And that impression leads to higher sales prices.
Every car I’ve sold, I had interested buyers mention how clean the engine compartment was.
Again, I took 20 minutes to wipe this area down and to me it is 100% worth it.
#2. Repair Any Obvious Flaws
Make sure that the car is serviced prior to being listed and have the servicemen do a full check of all parts.
Ensure that fluids like oil, coolant and water have been replaced or refilled and double check that the tires are not overly worn and are filled with air, including the spare.
If the spare has been used or is otherwise missing, consider replacing it. It will add value to the car.
#3. Order A Carfax Report
It’s a smart move to get a vehicle history report of your car.
Even if you were the only owner, it is smart to know what this report says.
This is because smart prospective buyers will order one of these reports.
If the report says something you don’t know, it will make you look bad.
So order your report and try to fix and mistakes that it might show.
And as an added bonus, for the car buyers that don’t order the report, it’s a good idea to show them your copy, so they can be more confident in making you an offer.
#4. Gather Service Records
If you have your service records, like oil changes, scheduled maintenance, inspections, etc. gather them together and put them in a folder.
If you don’t have them, go to the service center you use and ask them to print out copies for you.
In the event you used multiple service centers, don’t waste your time collecting all the records.
Just gather the most recent ones, as having something is better than nothing.
The reason here is the same as before.
It gives off the impression you took care of the car.
And the more confidence the buyer has, the more willing they will to pay top dollar.
Finally, if there was a major repair, make sure you have the papers for this.
It is just another was to show the buyer they should have confidence in the person they are buying from.
#5. Take Amazing Photos
Now that your vehicle is clean, you need to take pictures.
You can do this yourself, or if you know someone who takes good photographs, ask for their help.
You want to take as many pictures as possible.
At the very least, you want images of the following:
- Front exterior of the car
- Back exterior of the car
- Both exterior sides of the car
- Interior frontseat of the car
- Interior backseat of the car
- Close up of the odometer
- Dash and center console
- Engine compartment
You can take images of tires and the trunk as well.
Make sure the images are bright and really show off your car, as this will be the thing that gets people interested to come see your car.
#6. Price Your Car Right
You got an estimate of the value of your car from an online guide and compared it to actual cars for sale in your area.
Take the average of these numbers and assuming your vehicle is in good condition, add $1,000 to $2,000 to the total.
For example, if the average is $10,000 put your asking price as $11,500.
This will give you a good starting place and allow for negotiating room.
And it will assure you get a fair price when you do accept an offer.
#7. List Your Car Multiple Places
When it comes to listing your car, make sure you list it in multiple spots.
As the old saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I create online ads on the following online sites.
- Facebook Marketplace
In the body of the ad, I list out the important details of the car.
This includes basics about the car and things like how new the tires are, if it is currently inspected, and if the air conditioner works.
The more information you provide, the fewer questions you will have.
In addition to this, I also put my car in a popular place where people will see it.
In other words, I don’t keep it in my driveway on the dead end street with a for sale sign on it.
I find a location like a mall parking lot or another public place on a main road that has a lot of traffic.
Usually I ask the owner of the lot if I can park my car there and pay them a small fee.
The only other place I pay to list my car is AutoTrader.
I use the basic option for $50 to list my car.
In a few hours to a few days of listing my vehicle, people begin to contact me.
A cautionary word about listing your car online.
There are scam artists out there and they are good at what they do.
If you get any messages from outside your local area, this is a red flag.
Most times this is a scam, but sometimes it can be a real person.
If the buyer is offering you more than the car price and wants to buy without seeing it, it is a scam.
Don’t bother replying, just delete the message.
If the person texts you and says they don’t want to scammed and says you will get a text with a 6 digit code, this is a scam.
The scam here is they are trying to use your phone number as their own.
The 6 digit code is their way of getting around two-factor authentication.
Finally, I tend not to list my cars in the local paper classified ads or on eBay motors.
There are two reasons for this.
First, most people don’t read the newspaper so to me, paying for an ad is a waste of money.
Second, I haven’t had any luck selling on eBay motors and tend to get a lot of scam requests so I stay away from it.
What To Do When Trading In Your Car
When you are trading in your car, all you need to do is clean your out.
Getting both the interior and the exterior detailed is worth the cost.
Again, it will give the impression that the car is taken care of.
There are not only the best ways to sell your car, but the top tips for getting the most money for your car.
If you follow my tips, I am confident you will get offers for more than what many of the service guides say your vehicle is worth.
As I mentioned before, I’ve sold 4 cars so far using the method I share with you and have gotten at least $2,000 more on each car.
Finally, no matter if you trade your vehicle in or sell it privately, be calm and be willing to negotiate the price.
You don’t have to accept the first offer.
Accept the offer that makes the most sense to you.
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I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.
3 thoughts on “How To Sell Your Car For The Most Money”
If you want to sell your car quickly, look up the Blue Book value, print it out and post it on your car next to the For Sale sign showing the price. Then price your car $50 below Blue Book. When prospective buyers come by, point out how you are already pricing it below the Blue Book value.
Another good strategy for finding out what your car is worth (and get the most $ for it) is to take it to Carmax for a free appraisal. They will tell you what they will buy it for. That, coupled with the Kelly Blue Book information gives you a really good idea of true value. Remember, it is only worth what someone will pay for it. Once you have the Carmax quote you can likely take on 10% or so and sell it on the street. I have had good luck following this strategy. Finally, perhaps the WORST thing you can do is trade it in at the dealer while purchasing another vehicle. They take complete advantage in those situations most of the time.
Some time the simplest ideas work – I followed these rules to the letter recently, and it worked superbley well. Not only did I have people fighting to buy my car, I realised at least a couple of grand more that similar cars being advertised.
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