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Dropping off the keys to a car to a new owner

How to Sell a Car

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If you are thinking about selling your car, you have probably considered trading it in on a new vehicle. Most generally anyone can sell their vehicle, but the catch is, are you able to sell it for what you feel it is worth? There are basic steps you can take to make sure you take the effort it requires to sell a car and maximize your returns. Before listing your car for sale, you may want to do some research on what your car is worth.

Determining the worth the car

The best places to determine a car's worth are vehicle pricing guides such as Kelley Blue Book, Vehicle Market Research (VMR), or National Auto Dealers Association (NADA). Looking online at other advertisements for cars the same make, model and mileage as yours will give you  a real world figure of what the market will bear.

Each of the resources can be found online and will walk you through the steps to finding out what your car is worth. Calling your banker too is a good place to start as loan officers often have ways to help give you an estimation on loan values.

Knowing the vehicle market

A good place to start comparing the market value of your car or truck is the local newspaper or online classifieds. The classifieds are an excellent way to find out how comparable cars are valued. You want to make sure you are selling your car for a reasonable, but profitable price.

Another place to look is on used car dealership ads. Dealerships have several cars to choose from, probably a few like your car or truck. See what the dealers are selling their cars for, and it will give you an idea of where to set your asking price.

Setting the purchase price of your car

You may consider using the same psychological scheme as the car dealers. Car dealers never sell a car for a whole number asking price such as $5,000. Instead, they sell it for $4,995. It gives potential buyers the illusion that they are starting off with a deal; which gives them hope of negotiating for an even better price.

A "for sale" sign on top of a car

Another thing to consider when setting the sale price is, quoting a price slightly higher than what your vehicle’s worth. A slightly higher asking price gives you and the potential buyer room to negotiate. Invariably, everybody will want something off.

Gathering the paperwork

Before you start listing your car for sale, make sure all the paperwork is in order. If you are unsure of the state requirements, check with the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to find out what paperwork is needed to sell a car.

Commonly required paperwork, for selling a car

A clear car title. Make sure the title to your car is open for potential buyer purchase. If a car lot, mechanic, or loan Institute has a lien against your vehicle, you must approve the transaction through them, before proceeding with the sale.

A lien against your title does not automatically prevent you from selling a car. Once the car buyer has paid your asking price, you can take the money to the institute and pay off the lien balance. When you get the title back from the Institute, you can proceed with transferring the title to the car buyer.

No outstanding finance on the vehicle

If you have secured a loan with a bank or other financial institution and have used the car as collateral, then that institution effectively owns the vehicle until you have cleared the debt. As with the lien agreement, you must get the lender's permission to sell the car; they will expect to be paid shortly afterwards.

Vehicle maintenance records. A vehicle maintenance record is the history of scheduled services, repairs, and maintenance appointments performed on the car you wish to sell. The maintenance record tells the potential buyer the date of the last oil change when the tires were last replaced, and if the car has ever had a major engine or transmission problems.  The vehicle maintenance record should tell every repair ever performed on the vehicle. If the car is old (10 years +), generally people don’t expect to have a full record that's fully up to date. But if you do, then let the buyer know this and show them the documents as evidence that the car has been cared for.

Warranty papers. If the car has a warranty, it is important to present this to the new buyer. The warranty tells the buyer that certain aspects of the car are covered, and can be fixed, or replaced in the event something was to malfunction.

As-Is, or Release of Liability document. This paper releases the seller from any responsibility if the car gets damaged after the car buyer assumes ownership.

Some people include an As-Is or Release of Liability clause on the bill of sell.  The simplest as is document is to simply put ‘Sold as seen’ on the receipt or bill of sale. This protects you should the engine blow up 5 minutes after the seller pulls off your driveway.

Bill of Sale. A Bill of Sale states the vehicle’s make, model, year, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). It also says the seller, and purchaser’s names, each party’s signature, the agreed purchase price, and the date of the transaction. It should say ‘Bill of sale’ on the document.

The Bill of Sale is a paper that can be used by the car buyer, as proof of sale. Many states require a Bill of Sale when a car buyer goes to the DMV to purchase license plates.

Making your car presentable

The condition of a vehicle, can often tell how well it has been taken care of by the owner. Which means, the appearance of your car or truck can either attract potential buyers or drive them away. Since the only thing, you want to drive away is the car; take these steps to make sure your car is ready to show.

Washing the hood of a car

  • Wash and wax your car
  • Clean the tires and rims and be sure that any tire shine looks good before applying
  • Clean all windows
  • Thoroughly clean vacuum the floor, seats, and trunk
  • Shampoo, or replace the floor mats
  • Clean the ashtrays
  • Clean the door shut areas ( the parts of the car body normally hidden by a closed door — e.g., sills and hinge area)
  • Use an old toothbrush to sweep out the seams and joints of the interior

Now since the car is clean, you can start taking pictures.

Taking pictures of your car

Pictures are an important part of selling a car. You do not want to just advertise your car to people passing by on the street. You want to reach as many potential buyers as possible. To do that, you must take clear, enticing pictures, which show the car’s best qualities. However, you should also take a picture of any body and interior defects.

Exterior pictures. You should walk around taking pictures of every angle, the side views, and the front and back of the car. Make sure to open the hood and take pictures of the engine. Take pictures of the car’s wheels, and tires as well. Show any damage or scuff that is significant; honesty is the best policy.

Take pictures of the interior. Take pictures of front and back seats, the dashboard, and carpets. Then, open the trunk, and take pictures of the spare tire housing.

Pick the clearest pictures out of the ones you have taken. These are the ones you will use to place your ad. The best pictures are taken in daylight, are clearly focused, and frame the car with no bits of the car chopped off.

Creating a vehicle for sale ad  

To create an ad to attract buyers, you must be able to list vital details of the car you want to sell.

The ad heading should be the vehicle make, model, year, and asking price. Right after the price, you should state the price is firm or best offer, and the car it is priced for quick sale.

The ad body. The is where you give a description of the car, how many owners the car has had, and a brief reasoning for sale. The body should also contain the vehicle mileage, list any upgrades, and damage, or accidents. Don’t forget to list engine size, and what kind of transmission the car has. If the check engine light is on, then say so and ideally have a fault code to go with it.

The end of the ad. In the closing of the ad, make sure to list your name and contact information. Do not provide your address, only a rough location of where the vehicle is kept; however, instead, suggest potential buyers contact you to see, or test drive, the vehicle.

Now you have pictures of the vehicle you want to sell and a descriptive ad. The next step is deciding where to place your ad or where to advertise the car for sale.  

Popular vehicle buy/sell/trade sites

Almost everyone has a Facebook, and that is free advertising you should utilize to your favor. So, post your ad on your personal profile, and on as many buys, sell, and trade groups as you can.

However, aside from Facebook, there are several online buy/sell/trade sites geared to the sale of vehicles. Make sure to search for auto sites that advertise in your local, and surrounding area. Many of the auto sites will run your car ad for free. If a site does charge, the price is not usually that high.  

Ebay is well worth considering as their car classified ads are about half that of autotrader and other car specific sites. You will reach a lot of people using this or a similar service.

Now that you have placed your ad, keep the pictures and vehicle information handy. You will need them in case a potential buyer asks questions about the car. It is also important to know the days you will be available to show the car to prospective buyers. So, keep your schedule handy as well.

Selecting potential buyers

While selling, your car is probably the only thing on your mind at the time. Dealing with people online can have its downside. There are tips listed below to assistance you potential screen buyer, before meeting with them face to face. Below are tips to help screen your potential buyer prior to meeting face to face.

Trust your intuition. Always ask potential buyers to call you, never meet them in person right away. Use your instincts when talking to a potential buyer, if you feel something is not right, it probably isn’t.

Things to talk about over the phone. Never offer a test drive if you do not feel completely comfortable in a phone conversation with an inquiring buyer. During the phone call make sure to ask, and write down the prospective buyer’s name, and phone number. Not only does this give you a way to contact them, but it also provides you with contact information if needed.

Ask if the potential buyer has a driver’s license, while you have them on the phone. If they do not have a license, request that they bring a licensed driver to test drive the vehicle. Do not forget to make the driver present their license for your inspection. Pay close attention to the expiration date. Check that the buyer has insurance in place before allowing them to drive your vehicle; do not allow them to test drive the vehicle without insurance.

Meeting the potential buyer. By now you have decided that you are comfortable enough to meet the potential buyer. It is best to meet in a public place. Never agree to meet at you home unless you are completely comfortable doing so.

If you can, take someone with you. Ask someone to follow you will help keep you safe and give you a ride home if your car sells.

Go along on the test drive, but take your friend with you if possible. Make sure the potential buyer understands and agrees on a pre-planned driving route. Once the test drive is over, it is time to negotiate the buying price.

Negotiating the price

By now you will know if the potential buyer is interested in making an offer. However, they may not immediately throw out a cash figure.

A lady holding the keys to a car

They are probably nervous, and excited. The potential buyer will probably say something like “It’s a nice car, but what is your bottom dollar”? This is their way of trying to get the car at a quick buying price. Do not tell them the very bottom dollar yet; they may come up a little on their offer. The best negotiations result in both sides thinking they have won. Unless you have been unrealistic with your advertisement, expectations of the value of the car should be fair. Do not be insulted if what they offer is way below your advertised price. This is simply a tactic. Give a little off and they should come up to meet you.

Finalizing the sale of your car or truck

The requirements for finalizing the purchase of a vehicle may vary from each state. Make sure to consult with your local DMV to find out what you need to do. In most cases, it’s a simple as taking the money from the buyer, handing them a bill of sale and signing the title over.

We hope this article has given you the information you need to sell your car. If you have more questions regarding how to sell a car, ask an Expert.

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