Eight Ways to Sell a Used Car

by Kevin on January 7, 2013

When it’s time to buy a new car, do you get a bit lazy? By lazy, I mean do you just plan to turn your old car over to the dealer as a trade-in then trust that it will all work out for the better?

There’s no doubt, it is easier to trade in your old car than it is to sell it. But you could also be leaving several thousand dollars on the table when you do that. It puts you at the mercy of the dealer in determining not only the trade in value of the car, but also how it fits in the overall purchase of the new car. Dealers are notorious for playing with trade-in values, so you can never be sure how much your trade in actually benefits you.

The best way around this is to sell your old car yourself, then walk into the dealership with a fist full of money for your down payment. That’ll insure that you get a more honest deal on the new car.

What’s the best way to sell your old car?

Price it to sell

Never base the sale price of your car on someone’s opinion or on ads you see in the local newspaper. There are too many variables with each car to base the price on what similar cars are listed for, as well as the fact that advertised prices are just asking prices, not the actual sale prices.

Price the car too low, and you won’t get as much as you should for it; price it too high and it won’t sell. That could send you running back to the dealer fully prepared to throw yourself on his mercy for a trade in.

There are reputable web sites, such as Kelly Blue Book that can give you an accurate estimate on the value of your car, just by entering the right information. This will be your starting point for a sales price.

Give it a good wash and wax

This is where you’ll need to invest some elbow grease. A clean car is a more salable car and one that can fetch hundreds of dollars more.

Bring the car to a good car wash and run it through the machine to get the surface dirt off (make sure you don’t wax it!). Then bring it home and give it a good, old-fashioned scrubbing. Once you have it as clean as possible, wax it by hand—it’s more work than a machine wax but it will look a lot better for the effort.

Do the same thing on the interior, clean any vinyl surfaces, and vacuum and shampoo cloth surfaces. A little bit of Amour All can work wonders in refreshing the dashboard and any other hard surfaces.

Fix what’s broken

This doesn’t mean that you have to overhaul the car, but if there are any obvious body problems or engine issues that can be repaired quickly and easily it will be worth spending some extra money.

If, for example, the car has a cracked or broken head- or tail-light box, replace it with a used part. You can get them for very little money from a website called Car-Part.com. Changing the oil or replacing a worn belt in the engine can make it run more quietly.

The better a car looks, and the quieter it runs, the more you’ll get for it.

Advertise, advertise, advertise…

The key to selling your car in the least amount of time and for the best price is by getting the most exposure on it. That means that you need to advertise everywhere you can, and especially in the places that are free. The less you pay for advertising, the less you’ll get from the sale.

Start in your own circle. You probably know dozens or even hundreds of people, and any one of them might be able to help you sell your car. Spread the word in your social and professional circles. Send weekly emails to your contacts until the car is sold. Post billboard flyers at work and at church. Never overlook the obvious!

Make legible window signs. Make three of the largest window signs you can legally have, and place them in the rear windshield, and on the rear side windows on both sides of the car. Make sure they’re done in very legible (did I already say that?) handwriting, bolded in an easily readable color. It will do you no good to have signs on your car that people can’t read, especially while they’re driving.

Local outlets. Some retail outlets have billboards that allow you to advertise you car. Make up a nice flyer and post it anywhere you can. Laundromats are excellent places to post because people are there killing time waiting for their wash to finish and will read just about anything while they do.

Craigslist. You could advertise in your local newspaper, but it will cost you money to do it. Craigslist has turned into a giant classified ad center where you can list your sale for free. It’s likely that more people are looking for cars on Craigslist than in your local newspaper so don’t overlook this.

Online car sites. Consider advertising your car on national or local websites like Autotrader.com. Increasingly, cars are being sold to out of area and even out of state buyers, so this type of outlet shouldn’t be overlooked.

Have you ever tried to sell your car yourself? How did it work out? Do you have any other advice that would help others?

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