Cars Tips

Ready for new wheels? Here’s how to sell a car quickly (and at a good price!)

How To Sell A Car

All great things come to an end, and that includes the ownership of your current automobile. If you’re worried about the difficulty of trying to sell your car, fret no more. It’s not at all a difficult process and by following our quick how-to, you’ll be able to sell your ride in no time.

The most important thing to remember when selling your automobile is putting yourself in your potential buyer’s shoes. That way, you can use your own judgment to determine what you think is a good or a bad car ad. Then, you can base the quality of your own ad off this perception.

Conveying transparency and honesty as a seller is key in order to win the trust of potential buyers. It also increases the chance of you getting the most dollar for your car. Being familiar with your automobile’s make and model, its current value based on its condition and mileage, and its service and ownership history are all important things to know, both in your ad and in conversations with potential buyers.

Getting started

Step 1: Verify your make and model as well as the year. The easiest way to do this is to find your vehicle identification number (VIN), which is generally located where the dashboard meets the windshield on the driver’s side (if it is not there, open the driver’s door and inspect the area where the door latches when closed). After you’ve found the number, use one of the many free VIN decoders on the internet.

How to sell a car VIN number windshield

VIN number

Step 2: Scope out your market. Find other cars similar to yours and in equal condition. Cross-check the book value and any other market research you find on your vehicle’s pricing, and thanks to various sources such as Kelly Blue Book and National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), car values are easy to look up. Hop on any of those sites, choose your vehicle, choose its condition based on their descriptions, report the car’s current mileage, check any special options the car might have, and let the guides do their work.

Where it gets tricky is if you have an older, rarer, or more specialized vehicle, such as a collector. For instance, several years ago, Kelly Blue Book valued a clean collector’s BMW 850CSI, a very rare high-performance luxury GT coupe from the 1990s, at $15,000-$20,000 in good condition. However, the 850CSI doesn’t quite follow book value because of its collectible status and rarity. With only 225 being imported into North America, none were to be found for less than $50,000.

This is why gauging your market is so important. Look at similar vehicles in your areas listed at near-equal condition, cross-check that with the book value, and you have your ballpark asking price.

Step 3: Gather any documents or knowledge that you can of your ownership history. That way you can chronicle any service you conducted on the vehicle. These details include whether or not you changed the oil on time according to the car’s factory service manual, whether the vehicle was in an accident, or if you had a particular part replaced.

Step 4: Take lots of pictures. Got some road rash on the hood from driving 15,000 miles per year for the last three years? Photograph it! Got a rip in the driver’s seat? Photograph it. Take care of your car so much that it looks like new? Photograph it! You want to entice buyers to your car, so don’t forget to wash and detail your vehicle before you take pictures of it. No potential buyer wants to see a dirty car for sale. Even if its a beater, try and clean it up as best as you can. Exceptions are if it really is a pile and is being sold “as-is.”

Step 5: Consider what outlets you would like to sell your vehicle on. In today’s internet age, it’s easy to open a listing on Autotrader,, eBay Motors, or Craigslist. Here are our picks for the best used car sites on the web. Again, depending on your vehicle, you want to focus your sale on the market that has the most potential. Have a classic Porsche 928? You will want to poke around the hugely active online Porsche communities to see if you can score any bites first because you’re most likely to get more attention if you concentrate on the same crowd that enthuses about your car in the first place.

Crafting your ad

Step 6: Start concocting your car ad. You can browse your local Craigslist to find good examples, but the basic rule is to be as thorough and specific as you can. Did you travel away on sabbatical for a year and it sat at your parents’ house for that time, hardly seeing use? Say that! Have a perfect service history? Include that, and if you can, take a picture of all the receipts sprawled out on your dinner table. Shoddy and sloppy car ads feature few words in the description, little indication of the car’s history, and bad photos. Aim for the opposite and you will be in better shape than most.

There is also nothing wrong with listing your vehicle on multiple sites (and using copy-and-paste for your ad) to increase your exposure.

Step 7: Meet with potential buyers. It’s obviously best to do this in a safe, public place such as the local Starbucks, but any busy and popular locale will do.

Is the vehicle you are selling not road legal? No problem. Potential buyers will have to come to your personal residence to see the vehicle, so make sure you have a friend or two present for support just in case.

During the sale

Step 8: Complete the sale. Found a buyer who will give you what you’re asking for? Great! Ideally, you want to strive to sell your car for cash. That is the easiest and most confident way that you can get money for your vehicle. There are other methods such as PayPal, United States Postal Service-sanctioned money orders, or even a banker’s check. It’s all down to how you would like to handle the cash flow. To avoid any chance of being ripped off, always try and ask for straight cash. If the asking amount is too much to handle physical dollar bills, your second course of action would be a certified banker’s check, which the buyer can request at their local bank.

how to sell a car

After the sale

Step 9: Double-check all of your legal documents. In most states, if the vehicle is owned outright, legal transfer of ownership and the ability to register your vehicle for public road use is dependent on a clear and physical title, the government document that makes the ownership of a car official. If the vehicle is financed or leased, you will have to consult either your dealership or the lien holder (bank who is loaning you the money to own that vehicle) as to the transfer of ownership.

If everything checks out and you’ve followed these tips, you will come out the other side several bills richer. Good luck and happy selling.


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