It’s time for an upgrade! Or, maybe you need to get rid of that nice car with a payment and go buy you a cash car junker while you work to get out of debt.
Whatever the reason, you need to sell your car you currently own in order to purchase the next one. When it comes to selling a vehicle you obviously want to make as much money as you can and you want to sell it quickly.
Here are some helpful tips to help you decide the best way to sell your car:
Trading Your Car to a Dealer:
The fastest way to get rid of your old car is to trade it in to a dealership. It’s also super simple. Find a dealer that has the car you want to purchase and get a trade in value from them to use toward the purchase of your next car.
In some states you even get tax credits for trading in a vehicle. So instead of paying sales tax for the entire purchase price of the next car, you only pay sales tax on the trade difference (the price of the new car – the trade in value). The dealer will also take care of all of the paperwork and title transfer. It’s easy.
While trading in a car to the dealership is the fastest way to sell your car, it’s also the most costly to you. Dealers are in the business of selling cars for a profit. It’s to their advantage to give you a trade in value for your car because you can’t buy their car until you’ve found a way to get rid of your old car. But they also don’t want to be stuck with your old car sitting on the lot.
So in their trade in assessment they assume they will need to put new tires and brakes on the car (even if they have 50% life left in them). They assume the price of a full detail and oil change. They assume the cost of paint touch up, interior touch up, and cosmetic repairs. They assume radiator flush and transmission flush. Even if you’ve maintained your car immaculately, they’ll always assume a reconditioning cost of $1,000-$2,000. This is the money they have to invest in order to resale the car.
Then of course they want to allow for profit. Contrary to popular belief, in most cases used car profit is only in the $1,500 range. And they also want to allow for some margin of error if the car takes to long to sell and the market adjusts, or if they bid too high.
They use sophisticated tools, lots of data, and their own personal experience to establish the wholesale market value of your car. Then they back out the cost of reconditioning and a margin of error to come up with the trade in value.
It’s easy. But they’re going to want to make profit for the convenience they provide for you.
Selling Your Car to a Dealer:
This process is very similar to the trade in process, except in this case you’re asking the dealer to buy your car from you and you’re not going to buy a car from them.
Dealers aren’t in the business of buying cars. They’re there to sell cars. So they aren’t going to buy your junker used car. However if you have a newer body style, high volume vehicle like a Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Dodge Charger, etc and it is in good condition, they will entertain the idea of buying the car from you.
But the bid will be lower than a trade in value. If they’re going to buy a car with no guarantee of a sale, they want to guarantee they won’t lose money. So you get a lowball bid.
Selling Your Car For A Ton of Money:
The best route to go for almost all vehicles when it’s time to sell your car is to sell it yourself. The process takes a little longer and you have to do most of the work, but it will result in thousands of dollars more for you.
But just putting a for sale sign on the car and waiting for a call isn’t going to make the process quick and you won’t make much more money. In order to make the most money when you sell your car, you’ll need to follow these steps.
Step 1 – Professionally detail your car.
If you want to do it yourself, that’s fine. But do a dang good job. Don’t just get it clean. There needs to be no dust, dirt, or grime anywhere on the inside of the car. That includes the glove boxes, the center console, the areas between the seats where french fries go to die. You need to wax the car and polish the wheels. Under the hood needs to be cleaned out of leaves and debris. Take everything out of the car. It needs to be 100%, showroom ready.
Step 2 – Gather all of the maintenance records.
Get a folder, binder, or bradded folder together with documentation of every oil change, every tire rotation, every maintenance service, and every repair bill. When you provide this to a potential buyer you provide full disclosure of the vehicle and suggest that it was well maintained.
Step 3 – Take care of your car.
This is really step one. Getting top dollar for a car you’re trying to sell actually starts the day you first own it. Take really good care of your car. Do the basic maintenance suggested by the manufacturer. Buy new tires when it’s time. Replace the brakes when it’s time. Put a new battery in your car. Clean the headlights.
Step 4 – Take a lot of pictures.
The people that are looking for a car like yours are looking on the internet. Don’t just take one picture of the drivers side of the car with your cell phone and post it online. Take 25 or 30 detailed pictures. Start at the drivers side exterior and work your way around the outside. Be sure to include all 4 sides of the car. And if there is some body damage, it’s okay to take pictures of that too. Full disclosure is more important than trying to trick someone when they show up to actually see the car. Take a lot of pictures inside as well. Show the odometer and the other gauges, with no check engine lights on the dashboard.
Step 5 – Write an interesting description of the car that tells a story.
When people buy a used car they want to know the history behind the car. Tell them how you bought it, how you bought it from, where you bought it from, who drove the car, how long you’ve owned it, how many miles you’ve driven it. Tell them if there are any unique quirks or circumstances. If you hit a pole in a parking lot and the bumper is dented, tell them. Include of course the year/make/model of the car and the mileage as well as any additional equipment or packages you know of on the car.
Be honest. Be interesting. Be descriptive.
Step 6 – Research the market.
You need to know about every other car like yours that is currently for sale within 100 miles of your location. You need to know what equipment those other cars have, the mileage, the condition, and the price. You need to suddenly become an expert on the value of that car.
Use websites like cars.com, craigslist, local buy/sell/trade Facebook groups, AutoTrader, and local dealer websites to do your research. In addition to finding cars that are actually for sale, use tools like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and NADA to see what they say the wholesale, retail, and private party values are of your car.
It may even be a good idea to get a trade in or buy bid from a local dealer. Then you can judge that bid with the rest of your knowledge of the market.
Step 7 – Advertise.
Put the car online everywhere car buyers are looking. I’d start with the free places like Craigslist and Facebook buy/sell/trade groups plus your personal social media accounts. Maybe email your friends and family with a link to the Craigslist description and ask if they know anyone looking for a good car. If you don’t see response from that in a few days try other paid websites like cars.com and autotrader. Put a for sale sign in your window and park your car at a visible street corner a few hours a day.
Step 8 – Sell the car.
Don’t just show up and let someone look through your car while you twiddle your thumbs. Walk them around the car pointing out different features. Show them the maintenance records and the new battery and the tread left on the tires. Tell them of the repairs you’ve had done. Let them test drive the car with you.
When you’re done, ask them to buy it from you. Say this, “So, are you ready to buy this car?”
Step 9 – Don’t leave room for negotiation.
You know the market value of your car better than anyone else. You know what it’s worth. You know what other cars they have as an option to go look at. You priced your car competitively. You’ve taken great care of your car. You’ve got all the maintenance records and a fresh detail. Hold firm on your price.
If they make you an offer, explain why you think it’s worth what it is, restate your price and ask them again to buy it. At the end of the day, don’t lose a buyer for your car over $100, but hold firm to your price as long as you can.
Step 10 – Transfer ownership.
Check the laws in your state for the transfer of vehicle ownership. In Texas you just sign off on the back of the title and as the seller you can go online and tell the state that you sold the car. It’s the buyers responsibility to take the vehicle to the tax office and register the vehicle. I recommend you also provide a bill of sale and keep a signed copy for you and give one to the buyer.
Your state may be different. Research the process with your state before meeting with a potential buyer.
It may seem like a lot more work to sell your car on your own, but it’s really quite a simple process if you follow these steps. Take care of your vehicles while you own them and take a little extra time when you’re ready to sell and you will make thousands more when you sell your car.