9 awesome steps for selling your used car for cash

If you are looking to sell your car, you’re spoiled for choice these days with the internet at your disposal. One thing you will need to decide is whether you are more focused on convenience or value – because there is a tradeoff between the two.

Daniel Bailey

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For convenience, you can’t beat a trade-in at a dealership where you buy your new car. For the best value, selling your car to a private buyer is the way to go. But then you’ll have to deal with price setting, advertising, test drives, and of course negotiating. Whichever way you decide to go, here are some tips for a hassle-free experience.

1. Collect your Paperwork and Information

No matter how you sell, you will need your title (pink slip) in order to sell your vehicle. Visit your DMV’s website to find out the procedures for transferring the registration and what to do with your license plates.

Several forms like the bill of sale may be downloaded from the DMV. If you’re still making payments on the car, you will need to contact your bank for the exact pay-off amount and any procedures you need to follow to sell the car. Finally, you want to have details at hand about the make, model, options package, mileage and maintenance history of your vehicle.

2. Set a Target Price

The first thing you need is a good estimate of the value of the vehicle. The trade-in value is going to be a lot lower than the private sale value. Luckily, there are sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds True Market Value that will give you an estimated range for both.

This will give you an idea what to expect for your car, but for a more accurate picture you need to get local. You can check classified listings for your area on sites like AutoTrader, Cars.com, and CarGurus. Find a handful of vehicles that closely match yours.

If you are going for a private sale, set your asking price slightly above the current market rate, but not so much that it scares away potential buyers. Around 10% above market leaves some room for negotiation.

3. Trade it in for a New Car

A trade-in is the fastest and easiest way to dispose of your used car. If you trade in the vehicle, then the dealer is going to handle the complete transaction from the beginning to the end. But this is also going to be the lowest value you get for your used car – that’s the trade-off.

4. Sell Used Car to a Dealership

Selling to a dealership is a lot like doing a trade-in, except you don’t have to buy a new car from the dealer. It lets you separate the used car selling process from any buying process. But as with a trade-in, you are not going to get great value. Here it’s good to know the “retail dealership” value of your car (which you can get from the Edmunds site).

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Several online dealers like Carbrain.com are willing to buy your old vehicle even if you don’t purchase from them. CarMax is another option if there is one in your area. Both CarBrain and CarMax will buy cars in almost any condition.

5. Sell it in a Private Party

This is the way to maximize value, but it also takes the most effort and planning. You will need to advertise your vehicle, screen candidates, show the car and do test drives, and of course negotiate. The process takes time and can get frustrating if you are not well-prepared.

6. Make best Ads that sell

You want to advertise in as many ways as you can, especially ways that are free. Look for opportunities to advertise locally in your community. There are also several websites where you can advertise your car to reach a large market. These include Craigslist, eBay Motors, Autotrader or Kelley Blue Book.

The right photos and content in your ad will build confidence in the mind of the buyer, and help your car stand out from any potential competition. Take a photograph of the car parked with a beautiful background like sunrise or sunset to achieve the best lighting. Include photos of both interior and exterior focusing on things buyers care about, such as backseat space, trunk size, and tire condition. Throw in a shot of the odometer.

When you create ads on these sites you will enter details about the vehicle, so don’t just repeat that information in your description. Talk about things like the vehicle history or title status – things they won’t know unless you tell them. If you are lucky enough to get a lot of interest, you will want to screen the inquiries carefully and invest your time in the best leads.

Try to separate those who are genuinely interested in buying your car from those who are just looking or who only want to “flip” the car as a business transaction. (Hint: be wary of callers who start negotiating on price before they’ve seen the car.)

7. Schedule a Test Drive

Arrange a location to meet with the potential buyer and show them the vehicle. It may be a local mall or shop, and you may take a friend just to be safe. From there, the potential buyer can test drive the car with you accompanying them, especially since they may be unfamiliar with the area and need directions.

Don’t overdo the salesmanship during the test drive. Instead, answer any of their questions as honestly as possible. Should they want to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle, the potential buyer should cover the cost of the inspection.

8. Mouth Marketing

Finding a buyer for your used car among friends, family and colleagues is still one of the best ways you can sell your vehicle because it is relatively hassle-free. These types of buyers are likely to trust you and you them.

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Note that to get the most from this, you’ll need to have a sign in the car window, a notice on the board at work, and your friends and family helping spread the word. And you’ll need to keep the car in good shape because you never know when someone is going to want to look at it. Also keep in mind that a “friend price” is going to be expected!

9. Seal the Deal

Following the test drive, hopefully the potential buyer is going to proceed to negotiations for the car. They may try to ask for your bottom line price, but get them to make an offer first (you can tell them the asking price is the price you expect to get). Negotiate slowly and make sure everything is clear.

If you’re still paying on the car, you may need to close the deal at the bank. Make sure the buyer can pay in cash or via a cashier's check to protect against a bad check and legal tangles later on.