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Tips for selling your car to a private party

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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 you list your car

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

  • 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.
  • Get your paperwork together. Make sure you have your log books, along with any receipts or records of services you’ve had carried out. If you have a history report for your car, it’s also a great time to find it so that prospective buyers can take a look.

How to set the price

Deciding on a price for your car is an important step in the sales process. 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:

  • Existing advertisements. Search for your car on websites like Craigslist and Cars.com and check local dealerships and ads. 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.
  • Car valuation databases. Resources such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) are great for finding out the values of cars, both new and used.

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, will just make them click off your advertisement and go to the next.

Do …

  • Talk about the most important things buyers want to know: How many miles your car has; its make, model and year; and any maintenance it’s had done, like new tires 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.
  • Mention if the car has low mileage for its age and any extra 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 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. Position the camera so the car is within the frame of the photo 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.

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.

Get a copy of their driver’s license and other contact details before agreeing to the test-drive. And consider going on it with them to ensure they can’t drive away with it.

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 DMV or Secretary of State office 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.

Test drive a car near you

Get connected with dealerships in your area that offer upfront pricing.

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

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