Published June 01, 2012
When it comes to selling your car, taking the do-it-yourself approach will likely mean more money in your pocket. Here is a guide to getting the best price when you put your car up for sale.
Set a realistic price
Use sites like Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds.com and AutoTrader.com to get a sense of how much your car is worth; you can also determine how healthy local and regional markets are.
"If your asking price is less than the KBB value, then be sure and mention this as a selling point," says Joel Ohman, a certified financial planner and the founder of CarInsuranceComparison.com. "If your asking price is higher than the KBB value, then be sure and give an explanation as to why you are asking for more, [like] extra options, custom upgrades [or] newly replaced parts."
Be honest about your car's condition
The value of a car depends heavily on its condition. Alec Gutierrez, KBB's senior market analyst for automotive insights, says that many sellers end up overpricing their cars, which could push away potential buyers and price them out of the market.
"Approximately 3 percent of all vehicles are in excellent condition," Gutierrez says, "and we have found that more than 10 percent of all visitors to KBB.com actually select 'excellent' as their assumed condition."
Make small fixes
"Having one headlight out might not be a serious issue, but it gives the impression that the car has not been well-cared for," says Brian Moody, automotive expert at AutoTrader.com.
Fix the most obvious issues. Make sure no warning lights are on, and that small cracks in the windshield and minor dents have been taken care of. You don't want the customer to demand a discount because of problems you could have fixed.
Spell out the relevant information
Do not leave critical information out of your advertisements. Gutierrez says that commonly omitted items include mileage, major options and equipment, condition and an autocheck summary. Gutierrez says that a seller should at least provide a vehicle identification number (VIN) if they do not want to pay for a carfax or autocheck summary.
Impress with your photos
Gutierrez says that one of the most common mistake people make when they are trying to sell their car involves only including one, low-quality photo in an online advertisement, or even leave the photo out completely.
"The key is to try and stand out from the crowd and provide buyers with a sense of confidence by offering up a multitude of detailed pictures," he says.
Most buyers have short attention spans, Gutierrez says, and they will often overlook ads with sub-par photos, or think that the seller is trying to hide something.
Post detailed pictures of the interior and exterior of the car, and highlight dents, dings and defects. Also remember to get your car washed inside and out before you take the pictures.
If you're serious about selling, have a bill of sale and a liability release already on hand as well as the car's title, too. That way, you can make a quicker sale without any barriers. If a buyer has to come back, they may want you to reduce the price simply because they've been inconvenienced.
CarMD.com advises preparing a bill of sale that includes a statement reiterating that the car was sold "as is." Make sure to keep this on file to protect you from future liability, like potential tickets that the new owner of your car gets issued.
And don't underestimate the power of kindness.
"Treating a prospective buyer kindly might not tell them anything about the car, but it may let them know the kind of person they're dealing with - for some buyers, that may be more important than the car itself," Moody says.