How to sell a used car fast
By Laurence MacNaughton
Selling your car looks harder than it really is. True, you’ll have to clean it, top off the fluids, place ads, take phone calls and make yourself available to show the car to potential buyers. Plus, you’ll probably have to negotiate the final price.
But it’s worth it. Private sellers tend to get more money for their cars. And if you do it right, selling can be easy and even fun. Here’s how.
First, get your car ready to sell
Before you put your car up for sale, take it to a mechanic. For about $100, your mechanic can inspect your car and tell you exactly what should be fixed and how much it would cost.
Knowing that, you can be honest with the buyer, which makes it more likely that he or she will be willing to part with a large sum of money.
And if any repairs are prohibitive (more than half the value of the car), you might consider saving yourself the hassle of selling the car at all. Instead, donate it or trade it in on your next vehicle.
But here’s the real bonus: Many buyers will want to get a mechanic’s inspection anyway. And since you’ve already had one done, that puts you in position to get a better price for your car.
Clean up your car
When it comes to selling, appearances really count. Nobody will pay top dollar for a dirty car. And your car, no matter how well-kept, is dirty.
The easiest solution is to hire a professional detailer. You’ll probably get your investment back in a higher selling price, anyway.
If you’d rather detail it yourself, be thorough. First, wash and wax it. Shine up the wheels and the tires. But don’t stop there.
Remove everything from the car that didn’t come from the factory. Take out every last scrap of junk and clutter. Leave nothing in the glove box but the owner’s manual and your registration and insurance paperwork.
Then vacuum your entire interior (including the seats). Treat any carpet stains. Wipe down all hard surfaces, even the insides of the windows, and leave a nice air freshener under the seat.
When you’re done, snap some photos. Walk around the car in a complete circle, taking photos from the front, sides and back, as well as the corners. Photograph the interior, too.
Gather the paperwork
Gather up all of your maintenance records and have them ready to show the buyer. Although most shoppers won’t even glance at the paperwork, it’ll make a good impression.
Set a price
You can also look online at other ads for your specific year, make and model. How much are those cars selling for? Keep in mind that other sellers might be asking for unrealistically high amounts. The actual selling price could be much lower.
Many buyers will want to negotiate, so consider adding an extra $500 or $1,000 to your price. That way, a buyer can make a lower offer and feel good about getting a deal – and you can still get the money you deserve.
Place a used car ad
Choose your best photos and write a short description. Avoid hype (like “creampuff” or “gorgeous”) and just concentrate on the facts. Is your vehicle reliable? Roomy? Low-mileage? Clean? If it’s been inspected by a mechanic, or you have maintenance records, mention it.
Think of other ways you can get the word out, too. Tell your friends and coworkers. Use social media. Send everyone you know a link to your online ad.
Finally, put a “For Sale” sign in the car window. It’s old fashioned, but it works.
Selling your car
Most buyers are perfectly nice people. But if you get someone who’s pushy, rude or just unsavory, trust your instincts and just tell them no.
If you’re not comfortable having strangers come to your house, arrange to meet them in a parking lot or a nearby shopping center. And before anyone takes your car for a test drive, copy down their driver’s license number.
When you finally get a buyer, write down the date and odometer reading on the title when you sign it over. Accept only cash or cashier’s check; never take a personal check. Keep your license plates (if your state allows it) and cancel your insurance.
Remember, selling your car yourself is worth the money. And if you do it right, it can be simple and fun, too.
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