How to sell your car privately

How to sell your car privately

If you own and maintain a car and want to sell it, there are several options available. You can trade it in for a new model, sell it directly to a car dealer, or sell it privately to an individual. A private sale may be the most profitable option for you, as you will be selling it directly to the person who will be driving it. Unlike the first two options, what you should get at a private sale will not be significantly reduced, as the dealer will be looking to overprice your car later to make a profit.

Car selling process in 7 steps

That profit is something you can keep, but it can quickly disappear if you don’t prepare your car for sale first. Read on and we’ll look at how to sell your car privately and make the most money in the process.

1. Clean your vehicle. You’ll want to clean your car before you put it up for sale. This means going through the trunk, glove box and other storage compartments and removing anything that won’t be part of the sale. Remove irrelevant documentation, dispose of rubbish and make sure the documentation relating to your vehicle is in place. This documentation includes its registration and owner’s manual. Other documentation, such as your insurance card, must remain with the vehicle until it is sold. Also, find your vehicle title as you will need this form to sell your vehicle. If the form is missing, obtain a copy from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. If you still owe money on your car, pay off the loan to remove the lien. After payment, your DMV will issue a new title in your name.

2. Detail your vehicle. From top to bottom, inside and out, you will inspect the surface and interior of your vehicle to ensure it is clean. First vacuum the interior and shampoo the carpet and seats if necessary. Take an earwax and clean its holes, paying attention to every nook and cranny. Second, wash the exterior of the car, removing dirt, scuff marks, and fixing scratches. You will need to apply wax and possibly touch paint. Remove dents, clean tires and detail wheels, trim and other bright items. The glass inside and out should shine. Your trunk should also be vacuumed. The spare tire must be in good condition and inflated; must have a jack and work. Clean under the hood as well, removing dirt and debris. Make sure all cables and hoses are securely fastened; clean the battery if necessary. Top off all liquids.

3. Resolving mechanical problems. You will sell your car “as is”, but obvious mechanical problems can make it difficult to sell your vehicle. Completing an oil change, engine tune-up, tire rotation, and brake troubleshooting are important maintenance steps. Expect a discount on your vehicle if there are still outstanding maintenance issues that need to be addressed. Be honest with the buyer about known issues, but stand your ground if that person tends to nag while negotiating. Wait for your price or wait for another bidder.

4. Learn the current value of your car. Car appraisal is a science best left to the professionals. Visit Kelley Blue Book to determine what your car might fetch at a sale. Determine how much a dealer can pay for your car and what price your car can sell for privately. Your price should be close to its private sale value and definitely above what a dealer would pay for it. Every dollar above the dealer amount is what you will earn in this deal. Note that the buyer also has this information and will negotiate accordingly.

5. Advertise your sale. Place signs on your car advertising its sale. Include a contact number — use your mobile phone number to ensure no calls are missed, or forward your landline to your mobile phone to hide the latter’s number. Include the vehicle make/model and model year on the plate. It is optional whether you choose to publish its price. Advertise your vehicle on Craigslist. If you’re selling a classic, consider eBay Motors. Write a leaflet detailing your sale and post it in a prominent place, such as a notice board in a supermarket or other well-trafficked place. Get a CarFax history of your vehicle to show to prospective buyers.

6. Arrival at an agreed price. Potential buyers will want to test drive your vehicle. Always ride with them when they drive, first confirming that their driver’s license is valid. By riding with the car buyer, you can answer questions and point out some features they might miss. If the buyer is willing to make an offer, then get one. If the offer is acceptable, close the deal. If it is not, then counter-offer until both parties are satisfied with the offer. Move on to someone else if their offer is too low and they won’t budge. Once the deal is closed, collect the cash or receive a certified check. Go to the bank with that person to verify that their check is good. Take that person to the DMV to transfer ownership and meet your state’s requirements to finalize the sale.

7. Remove labels and documentation. Before leaving your car with its new owner, you will need to remove its license plates or tags, as well as other personal information, including your insurance. Return the license plate(s) to the DMV and contact your auto insurer to cancel your insurance coverage for that vehicle only. Use this time to update your insurance on each of your remaining vehicles.


One of the main reasons some people don’t like to sell their car privately is the hassle of vetting potential buyers. It is clear that not everyone has time to sell their car, so other options should be considered. These include telling your coworkers about your car or people in your church, group, or other organization. Of course, if you feel uncomfortable selling your car to someone you know, then you might just want to sell it to a dealer and let them handle the details.

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