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Helminc.com eNewsletter Archive > 2004-2005 eNewsletters > Featured Articles > Selling Your Vehicle

Should You Sell Your Car on Your Own?

You have a vehicle to sell. Great! You have options.

1. You can trade in the car at a car dealership when purchasing a replacement vehicle.
2. You can sell it to a used car dealer or broker.
3. You can sell it to another individual yourself.

If you sell it yourself, you have an opportunity to make more money on the sale because there is no middleman making a profit on the transaction. The tradeoff, of course, is the time and effort required, and the ultimate sale price will depend highly upon the information and sales skills you have at your disposal.

You will need to understand what your car is worth on the market, prepare the car for sale, advertise the car, field sales calls and facilitate test drives, and finally close the sale with the paperwork suitable in your state. Read on for tips and resources to help you along the way.

Gather Information About Your Car

Determine a fair price for your car by visiting Kelley Blue Book or NADA to determine market value, and research the prices being asked for similar vehicles in your area in newspaper or online classifieds.

Set a competitive price with some cushion to come down when it comes time for negotiations. Set an absolute minimum price at which you'll walk away from a deal. Set this in advance so when it comes time for negotiation you are able to deal with confidence and won't get caught up in the moment, and agree to a low price you'll later regret.

Purchase a Carfax® report on your vehicle to show to prospective buyers. This will prove that your car has not been salvaged, had significant damage, been a subject of odometer fraud, and various other common concerns for a vehicle buyer. This will put you ahead of your competition that does not offer up a vehicle history report on their vehicles for sale.

Prepare Your Car

Clean and detail your car. An unkempt car will not sell at its best possible price. The time and money spent on making your car look fresh and new will bring the best returns on the sale price and speed at which the vehicle sells.

Gather your maintenance records including the mechanic's or dealership's invoices, receipts, and the maintenance log in your owner manual, if available. Proof that the vehicle was well-maintained will help build confidence with the buyer and support your asking price.

Prepare to Advertise

Establish an advertising budget. For the best response, plan to advertise via online classifieds as well as local newspaper and print publications. Include a photo if at all possible. Ads with photos get a much higher response rate.

Include details to which buyers will respond such as optional or upgraded features, and list of recently replaced parts such as brakes, battery, or tires.

Put a tagline on your ad, which will resonate with the personality or lifestyle of your target buyer. Use common abbreviations to keep the ad copy short.

Photograph your vehicle against a flattering background in daylight. Minimize reflections and glare. If you will be posting multiple photos, include an exterior shot as well as some interior shots, or close-ups on special features that you feel are selling points.

Place a For Sale sign in the window of your vehicle while parked in public places – ensure it does not obstruct view while driving or remove the sign while in transit. Park in visible areas so people can see the sign, even if it means walking farther to the door.

Prepare for the Sales Calls

Ensure everyone in the household is aware that the vehicle is being sold, and place a list of pertinent information near the phone to help other family members answer questions from prospective buyers.

Before embarking on a test drive, request to see the prospective buyer’s driver’s license and proof of insurance. Make a copy or write down pertinent details, in case they are needed.

Always bring a friend with you on test drives for safety. Keep test drives to small distances, and establish the route in advance. Allow the prospective buyer to drive, but you should navigate the established route.

Prepare for the Purchase

Be wary of offers to purchase contingent upon the performance of repairs. The buyer's request may be subjective, and can lead to a disagreement after the repair is made. It is better to either perform the repair in advance (independent of any individual offer to purchase) and sell the vehicle "as is" or to agree to reduce the price based upon written estimates from reputable repair facilities.

Also, avoid complex purchase offers. Keep it simple with cash, or other cash-equivalent such as a certified check. Be wary of offers to purchase for a higher price with a "rebate" to the buyer. Such deals often involve fraud in some form. Don't sign over ownership of the title without having verifiable and non-revocable payment in hand. (i.e. do not accept checks because they can bounce or be canceled.)

Always check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles, Secretary of State, or other agency in charge of registration of vehicles to get the proper paperwork to correctly document the transfer of ownership. This will often involve a bill of sale. Contact the appropriate department in your state to get the right paperwork to close the deal.

More Information

Many more helpful selling tips can be found at the various auto classified sites around the web. They are all highly motivated to help you with your car sale, so take the opportunity to see what resources they have to offer while you are there considering whether to advertise with them.

Selling your car yourself can be a rewarding and profitable experience, provided you have the proper knowledge and a little time and effort to dedicate to the sale.


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