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How to Sell a Car

No one likes selling a car and feeling like you got taken. Consider these details to be sure that you're in the driver's seat.


  • Step 1: Know the market Know what the market will bear for your car when you put it up for sale by owner, privately handling the deal to make the most money. Do your research online, making comparisons to set your expectations.
  • Step 2: Clean the car Clean the inside of the car, power wash the engine, and detail the body, including a good wax job. Have it in complete working order so no questions or doubts stall the negotiation.
  • TIP: You can pay a good detail shop to do the whole thing.
  • Step 3: Price the car Price the car so it sells. Ask for more than you'll accept and maintain enough room to make a decent profit without chasing people away with an unrealistic number. But be ready to let a few possible buyers walk away.
  • Step 4: Get the paperwork together Gather the car's title, recent emissions certifications, registration, and receipts from work you've had done, and then identify whatever release of title information you need from your state's motor vehicle department.
  • Step 5: Advertise it Advertise in the car classifieds online or in your local paper, leave flyers on store bulletin boards, and put a sign in the car's window when it's parked. Refer to the price as the "asking price," or close the issue to limit haggles by using the word "firm."
  • Step 6: Screen callers Screen callers to determine the serious parties, even if you're just going on intuition. If you're nervous and want to keep it all business, meet them away from your home, perhaps in a parking lot.
  • TIP: Remember that the buyer's trust in you is important. Be yourself, and don't rush them or appear sneaky or desperate. Be willing to answer questions.
  • Step 7: Let them drive it Let the prospective buyers drive the car if they show you their driver's license. In most cases you can ride along with them, but if you demonstrate trust and let them go on their own, it might make the deal more attractive to them.
  • Step 8: Negotiate a price Negotiate a price by explaining the quality they're getting and the fairness of your offer. Make them work for their price and prove why it should be less. If other buyers have been looking at the car, say so and keep the pressure on.
  • Step 9: Sign over the title Sign over the title either at the bank or the motor vehicles office, which you'll have to do if the buyer needs a temporary operating permit based on the bill of sale. Confirm in writing on the bill of sale that this is the full and final deal. Then take the money and run -- or buy another car.
  • FACT: In 2008, more than 36 million used cars were sold -- almost 3 times new car sales.

You Will Need

  • Internet access
  • Power washer
  • Vacuum
  • Car wax
  • Paperwork
  • Advertising options
  • Discernment
  • Trust
  • Negotiation skills
  • Title
  • Detail shop (optional)

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