If you have an old car you no longer use or you’re looking to upgrade your current one, selling it is a great idea to make some extra cash.
However, before you jump into selling your car, it’s essential to prepare. You should begin with learning and understanding all of the steps in the process, such as paperwork and value.
And by preparing ahead of time, you’re able to avoid most of the stress associated with selling a car – while aiming to get a decent buck from it at the same time.
How To Sell A Car
Let’s get started with the process.
1. Collect Your Paperwork
Before even thinking about announcing your car “For Sale,” you need to have your paperwork in order.
After all, paperwork is what ensures you’re able to sell the car in the first place.
First, you need your car's title. The car title is the legal form that establishes you’re the rightful owner of the vehicle. If you don't have one, you can't legally sell the car or transfer ownership to anybody.
The Secretary of State of wherever the car was purchased typically administers vehicle titles. You automatically receive the title once you pay off the car loan (if you have one).
If you had/have a car title and it’s lost or destroyed, you must obtain a duplicate. If you need a copy, you can get one by filling out an application online, through the mail, or in person.
You might have to get the document notarized (usually around $20, though some banks do it for their members at no cost). Once the process is complete, you will receive the car title within 7-10 days.
If you still owe any money, you will likely need to pay it off before transfering the title. Contact your lender to find out more information.
It’s not required to provide a vehicle history report. However, if your car doesn’t have a past of many problems, it could serve as a bit of incentive for the buyer.
If you don’t provide a report, it would still be beneficial to include the vehicle identification number (VIN) in any ad you create. This way, a potential customer could research the car's history on their own.
Either way, it’s crucial you have a detailed knowledge of everything that has occurred in the past of your vehicle, whether you’re its first owner or not.
A vehicle history report and your knowledge should include:
- Accident history
- Damages not from accidents, such as fire, flood, hail, etc.
- Title history
- Locations of reselling
- Amount of past owners
- Service/Maintenance history
- Past inspections/registrations
In some locations, it’s sufficient to provide the mileage information on the car title. However, it’s sometimes necessary to acquire a secondary form for any buyers.
To find out whether this is required, you should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state.
If you have any form of warranty you can transfer to the buyer, it’s imperative you let them know.
Having a warranty can not only be an incentive for a buyer to purchase the car, but it can also allow you to sell your vehicle at a higher price, as it comes with a warranty.
You should also include the information for your warranty provider. This way, once the car is in the buyer's possession, they can quickly put the warranty under their name.
An owner's manual is not required, but it’s still great to have one for the buyer. By giving them one, if they have any problems, troubleshooting will be easier.
Bill of Sale
Drafting a Bill of Sale is not always required. However, it’s still a good idea, as it details any terms or conditions of the car sale in the form of a document.
The Bill of Sale will state the vehicle description, odometer information, price, date of delivery, and signatures.
The signatures are the most critical part. In the future, if the purchaser has any issues with the car, the document will prevent you from being liable in any way.
Check with your DMV
Your area might require more or less forms. For this reason, you should check with your DMV to see what documentation is required, and what is suggested.
Also, your DMV will likely be able to provide you with any forms you might be missing or need to obtain.
2. Set A Competitive Asking Price
Next, you need to decide what your “asking price” will be.
Before attempting to put a price tag on your vehicle, you need to understand what it's worth. To do this, use online resources, such as Edmunds, to discover the value of your car.
A good idea is to set your amount slightly above the market price, but still within the proximity of it being a good deal.
So, if your car is worth about $6,200, you may want to set your asking price for $6,900.
Don’t overprice your car. This will be off-putting for many buyers, as others will probably have better deals. However, you also shouldn't put the price of your vehicle too far below the market price.
Not only will this prevent you from getting a good profit if someone purchases, but it might also make the car seem cheap, or as though something is wrong with it.
Avoiding ending the price of your car in an even thousand. For example, choose “$4,995,” as opposed to $5,000. This might not seem like a big deal, but there is psychology involved in the purchase of a car.
So, although the pricing is only $5 off, the fact the price is in the range of four thousand, rather than five thousand, makes all the difference.
3. Give Your Car Curb Appeal
The first factor that affects whether your car will be purchased is the curb appeal.
Making sure your car has an excellent “curb appeal” means your vehicle looks attractive to potential consumers.
Wash Your Car
An obvious step to improving the appeal of your car is to wash it. For the sake of efficiency, you can go to an automated car wash, rather than taking the time to clean it yourself.
Just be sure the exterior looks spotless. If it doesn't, do a little extra cleaning or pay someone to do it for you.
Make sure your car is completely dry after the cleaning, especially the windshields. If your car air dries, the windows and car may end up with water spots. If it does, be sure to remove them.
You can also use a shine protector to help your car look extra shiny and sleek.
Vacuum and Wipe Down the Interior
Making sure the interior looks flawless will do nothing but good for the prospects of a sale occurring.
If you have a vacuum suitable for your car, you can do it yourself. It’s vital you vacuum the car thoroughly, including the seats, any crevices, trunk cupholders, etc. Even if the buyer only looks for a few seconds, it will leave an excellent impression.
To finish off the internal cleansing process, you should use a rag wet with either water or a cleaning product for a thorough cleanse.
Make Sure Your Car Smells Good
If you ever bring food home, have gone home sweaty, had an animal, etc. in your car, there might be a lingering odor. You might not even notice it, as you can quickly get accustomed to smells if you drive your vehicle often.
Luckily, there is a simple solution for this potential issue. When cleaning the inside of your car, you can use a product that smells good. You can also place an air freshener in your vehicle.
Just be sure not to go overboard with the scents. Smells can quickly become overwhelming and can prevent somebody from wanting to purchase your car.
Empty the Trunk
While this might seem trivial, a trunk full of junk might leave a bad taste in a buyer's mouth. They would much rather see a clean backside, allowing them to picture the car as their own.
Clean and Check the Engine
Engine cleaning is a step many car sellers let slip their mind.
The engines in the majority of cars come equipped with a plastic cover. This cover can accumulate dirt, making them look unappealing. For this reason, you should clean your engine with a cleaner before selling it.
At the same time, you should check the fluids to make sure your engine is in top shape.
Blacken the Tires
While you might not pay attention to this aspect, blackening your tires is a fantastic way to make your car look newer and fresher.
Your tires can become coated with brake dust as you use them, so cleaning them will give your wheels a new look.
All you need to do is purchase tire black or tire shine. Before doing the tires, you should also use a rag to wash the rims.
Touch up Scratches
You likely wouldn't want to bring a car full of scratches into your possession. So, a buyer probably won't either. This is why you need to touch up any scratches before advertising your vehicle.
A lot of the time, scratches are just in the clearcoat. In cases like these, you can just use a clearcoat pen. Even if the scratches don't disappear, they can become a lot less blatant.
4. Advertise Your Car Online Or Near Me
Once your car is in top shape, you’re ready to advertise it. And there are various methods you can use to get the word out.
When you begin advertising, be sure to answer any communication you receive, such as emails, calls, and texts. Speedy responses leave a good impression.
Online resources are a great way to advertise, as you have greater reach this way.
Some good websites are:
eBay and Craigslist are better options, as placing ads on their sites are free, as opposed to the other web resources.
Social Media and Message Boards
Online forums also contain message boards, on which you can advertise your car in a classified section.
The Car Itself
Write “For Sale” on the car and leave your number, so people driving past the parked vehicle will know where to contact you. Just be sure to place the vehicle in a place with high traffic.
5. Set Up A Showing & Test Drive
You might feel uncomfortable meeting with a buyer. However, this is a necessary step in selling the car.
You should not restrict communication to only online and/or over the phone. Meeting the buyer in person is a great way to evaluate them properly – and for them to evaluate you.
If you don't want the buyer to know your address, meet them in a public location, such as a park.
And although you may be eager to sell the car, you shouldn't meet with people who seem even mildly suspicious.
Once the buyer is there, they might request a test drive. Ride along with them to ensure the car will be returned and so you can answer questions while they drive.
You might deal with a customer who is insistent on paying a price lower than what you're asking.
When negotiating, it works out best if the price you placed on the car to begin with is higher than what you need.
However, even if you have room for negotiating, don’t seem too ready to reduce the asking price of the car – no matter how badly you want to sell it.
And if somebody offers a price that's way too low, don't be afraid to say no. They might be bluffing if they say that price is their “final offer”, and return the next day. Or, you will find a more reasonable buyer.
7. Close The Deal
When you’re ready to finalize the sale, give them all the documentation and information necessary (mentioned prior). Provide even the documents that are not required, as they will often prevent you from having any liability in the case of something happening.
If you owe money on the car and don't own the title, you must complete the sale at whatever bank your loan is through. Call early and make sure they have the title ready.
When the sale is done, give the remaining loan money to the bank and provide the buyer with the title.
Lastly, have your insurance agency cancel the policy or shift it to your new vehicle.
What Is The Best Way To Sell Your Car?
The best way to sell your car is to create an online listing on an advertising website. Then, set up a meeting with the buyer and negotiate a reasonable price.
What Paperwork Do I Need To Sell My Car?
Some of the necessary paperwork includes:
- Vehicle Title
- Odometer Disclosure
- Vehicle Report
- Owner’s Manual
- Bill of Sale
All of these documents might not be required, and there may be more depending on your state. Check with your nearest DMV.
How Can I Sell My Car Safely?
To sell your car safely, avoid meeting in private or receiving checks from anyone who seems even remotely suspicious.
It’s also better to always meet consumers in-person, as online communication is not the most efficient way to evaluate them.
How Can I Sell My Car Fast?
Don’t go too far above the market price. Avoid even numbered asking prices (like $5000 even). Advertise in as many places as possible – online and offline. And, finally, know when to negotiate and when to give in.
Selling your car can be stressful. For this reason, it’s essential to prepare for the process in advance.
And before you even think about selling your car, make sure you have the proper documentation, the car looks appealing, and leaves a good impression in the buyer’s mind. Luckily, this article is designed to walk you through each step in-depth.
Good luck selling that clunk of metal!