9 Tips for Selling a Used Car

In a September 8, 2004 , 61% of internet users used the internet to research their car purchase.* That was in 2004!

What does this mean for you? Not only has the internet made buying cars easier, it has even made selling a used car easier. You can reach millions of used car buyers via the internet. eBay! is an excellent example of how you can sell a used vehicle online. This is just one example of the websites that advertise used, excuse us, pre-owned cars for sale via the internet. Here are a few other options for selling a used car:

For sale by owner

Sell to a dealer


Donate it to a charity

Give it to your teenager

A quick visit to Edmunds.com and you'll have a rough idea of car’s trade in value. These sites provide estimates for both private party values and trade in values. However, don’t get too excited about these numbers. They don’t mean anything until someone says that they will actually pay you for your car. After pulling the used vehicle selling prices, you will see rather quickly that selling to a private-party will net you more money than trading it in at the dealership for your new car.

Our recommendation: Sell to a private-party or to another dealer before selling your car for the trade in value. This requires a little more work from you. However, you will likely walk away with more money in your pocket – Bottom Line.

We’ve outlined a nine used car selling tips to walk you through the process of unloading your used car.

#1 Selling Tip: Evaluate

Once you have pulled the used vehicle selling prices, visit a couple of websites that sell used cars and see what the list prices are for other vehicles like yours. Look for similar pre-owned cars that are listed by dealers and by individuals. This will give you an idea of what your car is actually selling for in the real market. While viewing cars on these sites, keep in mind that dealers have to mark-up their used cars to leave room for negotiation and profit. Used car dealers typically mark-up cars 20-30% to leave room for a 10-15% profit.

#2 Selling Tip: Prepare

Once you are ready to sell your car, you will need to do a few things. For starters, clean the car inside and out; remove all bumper stickers/window stickers; and repair minor problems. Make selling your used car to be as easy as possible. You want buyers to see your car in the best possible condition. Then, make copies of all the service records that you have on the car (to give to the buyer). You can also order a Vehicle History Report on your car to show potential buyers and help sell your car.

#3 Selling Tip: Selling to a Private Party

As mentioned earlier, there are numerous ways to sell your vehicle and selling to a private party can potentially increase the sales price. Selling to a private party will require a little marketing and allowing potential buyers to test drive your car.

#4 Selling Tip: Marketing

Just as dealers sell cars on website such as eBay, so can you. You can sell it online, advertise directly on the car (signs or removable window stickers), newspapers, bulletin boards (work & colleges), or simply by word of mouth. Listing a car on a website like eBay has minimal cost and can potentially reach millions of visitors. This is cheap advertising!

If you are going the hard route and don't list your car online, the key to marketing is to know your target market. If you are selling a mini-van, it may be a family and the car will be in demand year-round. (After all, babies are born every day of the year.) If you are selling a convertible, the spring and summer months will be the prime seasons to sell this vehicle. Consider this when you are writing your advertising. For example, mention how many people the mini-van seats or mention the upcoming warmer months for driving with the top down.

#5 Selling Tip: Test Drive

Potential buyers will want to test drive your vehicle and may be unfamiliar with your area. If you feel comfortable, ride along with them and point out the features of the car throughout the test drive. This also gives buyers the chance to ask you questions about the car as the questions arise. If you do not feel comfortable riding in the car with a stranger, we suggest that you confirm that they have a driver’s license and request that they leave something of value behind in lieu of you giving them the keys to your car (drivers license, credit card, etc.). It’s not a bad idea to take down their license information as well. Follow your intuition.

#6 Selling Tip: Selling to a Dealership

Rule of Thumb 1: If your vehicle has 80,000+ miles or it is more than 5 years old, your car isn’t exactly what new-car dealers hope to receive as a trade-in. Dealers have a difficult time finding vehicles that are late models with low mileage to sell as pre-owned cars on their lot. The older, high-mileage cars that they do receive are typically auctioned off or sold to an independent used-car dealer. If this is the case for you, it is possible that you will save money by taking your car to an independent used-car dealer yourself. Otherwise, the new-car dealer is making a small profit on something you could do yourself. (i.e. sell it to an independent used-car dealer yourself)

Rule of Thumb 2: Most people don’t think of visiting a dealer just to sell a car and not buy one in exchange. However, if your car is a late-model with low mileage and you are not comfortable having strangers test drive your car, your best bet is to visit a dealer that sells that particular make of car. You will likely receive more money by selling your Ford Explorer to a Ford used-car dealer rather than trading it in at the BMW new-car dealership.

For a moment, consider how dealers sell cars and how many people purchase cars. If a customer visits a Ford dealer looking for a new Ford Explorer and can’t afford the new model, what is the salesperson’s solution? “No problem, we have a 2005 Ford Explorer on our pre-owned lot for less money and it even has leather interior.” Sound familiar? If the vehicle is a natural fit to the new-car selection, you will receive more money and the dealer is likely to sell it faster than if it was a different vehicle make.

#7 Selling Tip: Trading-In a Used Car

In terms of receiving money for your car, the car trade in value is going to net you the least amount of money. Dealers want to benefit from the transaction, especially if your current vehicle is going to take up space on their pre-owned lot. In order for a dealer to benefit, the dealer will offer you approximately 10-15% less than the used car selling price. Then, they turn around and sell your pre-owned car for an even larger profit than what they make on some new cars.
Bottom Line: Use this option only if you have exhausted all other options OR you have a tax benefit for trading-in (covered in How to Calculate Sales Tax ).

#8 Selling Tip: Donate

Another way to unload your current vehicle is to donate it to a charity. A simple internet search for “donate a car” and you will have a long list of charities to select from. Recent tax laws (as of 2005) have altered the way that car donations are handled. The complete IRS article is available at www.irs.gov . Consider the details of the IRS article, your tax advisors advice, and the value of your vehicle before making this decision.

#9 Selling Tip: Give it to Your Teenager

According to statistics posted on CarFax.com in June 2007, 1 in 5 male and 1 in 10 female 16-year-old drivers will have a vehicle accident during their first year of licensed driving. We aren’t trying to scare you. However, despite statistics that document the likelihood of crashing a brand new car within one year, some parents are tempted to purchase a brand new (sometimes even fast and sporty) car for their newly licensed teen driver. Depending on your current vehicle, giving your used car to your teen driver may save you money on the car purchase and on the car insurance for your teen driver.

*source: www.itfacts.biz

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