Selling your used car to a private buyer does take more time and effort than trading it in at a dealership, but it also usually nets you more money for your vehicle. While a dealership is interested in selling your trade-in for a nice profit, a private buyer is typically hoping to purchase a well-maintained used car at a fair price.
1. Gather your documents.
Collect the important paperwork up front to be sure you have everything you need to close the sale. These may include:
- Complete car maintenance records stored neatly in a binder. This tells potential buyers you took good care of your vehicle.
- Your car's title. Contact your auto lender if you still owe money on your car to determine what's needed to transfer ownership. If it's paid off, ensure your title is easy to retrieve from a secure location, such as a safe deposit box or home safe.
- Department of motor vehicles (DMV) documents. Does your state require a bill of sale and/or an odometer disclosure statement for the transfer of ownership?
2. Set your selling price.
Research your car's value on such websites as Consumer Reports, Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book to come up with your pricing strategy. Also, check out what private sellers in your area are asking for comparable vehicles on sites such as Craigslist and Cars.com. You might want to set your asking price a bit higher than market value to leave room for negotiating.
3. Help your car make a great first impression.
A clean car looks like a well-cared-for car, and that's just the message you want to send. Ideally, you can spring for professional detailing. If the budget doesn't allow, give the interior and exterior a thorough cleaning and wax job yourself. Remove your personal belongings, vacuum, wipe down the upholstery and clean all the glass. Replacing old, dirty floor mats with a new pair can make a big visual difference.
4. Prepare your marketing materials.
Take an assortment of clear, well-lit photos of your car's interior and exterior from all angles. Don't forget to capture the odometer and engine. If there are scratches and dents, photograph those, too.
Compose an informative, accurate listing that describes your car's year, make, model, mileage and condition. Be honest about any mechanical or cosmetic issues and include the vehicle identification number (VIN) so buyers can get a vehicle history report. State your asking price and indicate if you're willing to negotiate.
5. Launch your campaign.
Get your car in front of as many shoppers as possible for free by posting the listing on all your social media accounts. Explore free websites such as CarGurus and Craigslist. Other websites that may be worth the nominal fee for maximum exposure include:
- eBay Motors
6. Reply to inquiries promptly.
Many car buyers are looking at multiple cars at the same time, so be sure to return calls or emails as soon as possible. Use this time to screen your prospects by asking for a full name, reviewing your preferred method of payment and confirming the asking price.
7. Schedule test-drives.
Arrange to meet your potential buyers during daylight hours in a safe, public place. A shopping mall or bank parking lot that's equipped with security cameras is a good choice. Take a friend or family member with you as an extra safety precaution. Always go along for the ride and be prepared to answer any questions your buyer may have.
8. Cooperate with an inspection request.
Many car shoppers will want their own mechanic to perform an inspection on your vehicle. This is common and acceptable, provided the buyer pays the bill and it's done at a licensed repair shop. You can have a certified mobile mechanic come to the car's location, or you can take it to the garage yourself. Ask for a copy of the inspection report, which you can share with other potential buyers if the first sale doesn't close.
9. Finalize the paperwork.
Once you're presented with an acceptable offer, collect your money, and sign over the title to the buyer. Depending on the state in which you live, you may need to sign other documents for the buyer to register the title in their name at the DMV.
10. Update your car insurance policy.
Remember to inform your insurance agent of the vehicle sale once it's complete so the car can be removed from your auto insurance policy.