Tips for selling your car to a private party

How to get the best price and garner interest from buyers.

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Selling your car can be a lengthy process. But pricing it right, getting it ready to sell and taking attractive photos can help move things along more quickly.

4 steps to take before selling a car privately

Here’s what to do before you even list your car to be sold:

  • Get your paperwork together. Make sure you have your ownership along with any receipts or records of services you’ve had carried out. Depending on the province you are selling in, you may be required to provide the buyer with the car’s history report.
  • Give it a good clean. Get rid of any garbage or personal items, vacuum the interior and wash your car. Most buyers are very particular about the car they’re looking at, so you’ll want to make sure even hidden areas are cleaned, like your door sills, trunk and underneath the hood. Let your car air out on a nice day to get rid of any smells, and if you’re a smoker, stop smoking in your car a few weeks before the sale.
  • Consider having it detailed. A great way to ensure your car is sparkling come test-drive time is to take it to a professional detailer. You’ll spend roughly $100 to $300 on average, but your car will be in showroom condition — which can lead to a higher sale price.
  • Check the fluid levels and tire pressure. Flat tires and low fluid levels show potential buyers you don’t properly maintain your car and can be a deterrent for those looking to buy it.

How to set the price

Ideally, you want to choose a price that isn’t too low or too high. When a car is too cheap, buyers might look for faults that could be the reason for the discount. And when it’s too high, you’ll scare the majority of buyers away.

You can turn to local dealerships and online resources to help you determine a reasonable price. Start by looking at:

  • Car valuation databases. Search for your car on websites like Canadian Black Book and Auto Trader Canada. You can also get the exact selling value for your car for the area you live in after entering details like the make and mode, kilometers, and condition of your vehicle.
  • Existing advertisements. Search on sites like Kijiji and eBay for similar listings. Try to find cars with your make, model and year with similar mileage and in similar condition, then use that to help you price the car at a similar amount.

Once you’ve done your research, decide on a price and then add a few hundred dollars on top of it so you have more wiggle room to negotiate — everyone likes to bargain.

Dos and don’ts of a good car advertisement

The golden rule of a good car advertisement is to be clear, transparent and concise. Your overall aim is to present an accurate advertisement of the car so that prospective buyers know exactly what they’re getting into.

Withholding information, such as a car’s mileage or mechanical problems, will just make them click off your advertisement or prevent them from trusting you as a seller.

Do …

  • Talk about the most important things buyers want to know: how many kilometres your car has on it; its make, model and year; and any maintenance it’s had done, like new tires, brakes or a recent oil change.
  • Include any information about you that buyers might find beneficial, such as your reason for selling, whether you regularly garage the car and if you’re a nonsmoker. If you have a great service record, mention it.
  • Highlight if the car has low mileage for its age or any extra features (upgrades and features) buyers might enjoy.
  • Be up front about any repairs you’ve needed to carry out on the car, or those that need to still be carried out.
  • Include plenty of pictures of your car.

Don’t …

  • Write an overly long or wordy advertisement.
  • Use too much technical jargon or exclamation points.
  • Use photos you found online or ones that are misleading or edited.

3 tips for taking photos of your car

The most important photos you need to take of your car are the three-quarters shots: One of the front three-quarters of your car and one of the back three-quarters. In addition, buyers will also want to see pictures of the interior front and rear seats, engine bay and both the front and back of the car.

Follow these tips to get the best shots:

  • Get as much of your car in the frame as you can. Make sure the car is within the frame of the photo and centred for full shots of the exterior.
  • Make sure you can clearly see the car in each photo. Pixelated photos or those from far away won’t give potential buyers a clear picture of what to expect.
  • Check the lighting. Avoid taking photos at night unless it’s a photo which you feel showcases the car in a great way. Early mornings and late afternoons can be great times to take photographs and you can easily use your phone’s camera editing tools to touch-up the image.

How to handle a test-drive

Once you have an interested buyer, they’ll want to test-drive the car to see how it handles. Some might even ask to drive it to a mechanic and get it inspected during this time. What do you do?

Get a copy of their driver’s license and other contact details before agreeing to the test-drive. You can also ask to hold on to their vehicle’s keys in return for taking yours. And consider going on the test drive with them to ensure they don’t drive away with the car.

Most insurance companies will cover your car while someone else is driving it, but you still might want to contact your insurer just in case to find out exactly how you’re covered.

Closing the deal

Once you’ve got an interested buyer, you’ve both agreed on the price and the sale is complete, sign over the title and contact your local provincial service centre to let them know you sold the vehicle. This prevents you from being responsible for anything related to the car that occurs after the sale.

Be on the lookout for scams from buyers who seem too good to be true, such as those offering more than the asking price or those contacting you via email telling you they wish to buy the car from overseas.

Bottom line

Doing your research ahead of time can help you sell your car as efficiently as possible and for the best price. And once its sold, you can compare your car loan options to get behind the wheel of your next vehicle.

Frequently asked questions about selling a car privately

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