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What’s the best way to sell my car?

What’s the best way to sell your car, you ask? Well, that’s a tough one because the best way to sell a car will vary depending on your circumstances, desired outcome, and even your temperament. (Do you like talking to strangers, for example?) It also needs to be worth selling — the amount of time and effort you put in should pay off. So, we’re here to help you think it through.

If you want to make the most money you can, consider a private sale. If you’re looking for convenience, a dealer trade-in can help. If you’re researching the best way to sell your car, getting an instant cash quote can help you determine how to move forward.

Where can I sell my car?

There are some basic ways you can sell a car, and what you decide on will be based on your preferences.

Private Sale

Selling a car means doing a lot of preparation, and it’s up to you to make sure the car is ready to be sold. Be prepared for negotiating with buyers and making sure the paperwork is in order. A “private sale” to another person requires some effort, but you may get the best offer this way. It also means dealing with a lot with people you don’t know, which is great if you’re an extrovert. But not so great for an introvert.

At a dealership

If you’re planning to sell your car to help buy a new one, a dealer trade-in is a good option. A dealer trade-in is when you sell your car to the dealer you are buying from. Instead of financing the full cost for your new car, you finance the difference between your new car and what you sold the old one for. It’s a streamlined transaction, but it may not set you up for the best deal.

If you’re not looking to buy a new car but you are just looking to get rid of a current one without too much hassle, consider selling it to a dealership. Like a trade-in, your transaction may not be as lucrative as a private sale, but it will get your car off your hands and leave you with something to show for it.

With car selling websites

An instant cash offer is a way to get an immediate quote from a dealership, specialized car selling website or other buyers online. You provide a detailed description of your vehicle, including your license plate number and registration, and the website will make an offer. Although this offer may not be the highest, it’s a quick way to sell or know it’s potential worth.

Seven steps to selling a car

Once you’ve taken the leap and decided to sell your car, there are seven important next steps to take before saying goodbye to your vehicle:

  1. Prepare to sell your car

    Preparing to sell your car means getting it into the best shape possible before it hits the market. Start by removing any personal items, disconnecting all Bluetooth devices (if applicable) and giving it a thorough wipe down, wax and vacuum. If any car parts need fixing, this is an ideal time to evaluate what is and isn’t worth repairing, based on the tradeoffs of time and cost. If you’re selling an old model, investing a lot of effort and money may not be worth it.

  2. Set your price

    Now that your car is cleaned up, you can establish an asking price. A price too high will push potential buyers away, but too low you may be missing out on some money. You can research the market to find out how much your car can sell for, based on make, model, year, mileage and features. There are also legitimate websites that can give you an estimated car quote. Combining market research with professional car quotes can help you decide on a competitive price that’s good for both you and the buyer, whether for a private sale or with a dealer.

  3. Prepare all necessary paperwork

    The two most critical documents will likely be your title and vehicle history report. To legally sell your car, you’ll need the title to prove it’s yours so you can officially transfer ownership once sold. Then, dealerships and private buyers will often request a vehicle history report, so they know of previous repairs, damages and more. It’s best to have this handy so you come off knowledgeable and prepared.

  4. Get the word out

    Whether it’s through a car selling website, social media or a dealership — start promoting your vehicle. The more eyes and ears the more likely it is to sell. You’d be surprised how many cars sell just by word of mouth!

  5. Prepare for test drives and inspections

    Once a buyer is seriously interested, they will request a test drive, inspection or both. A private buyer will likely request a test drive to make sure they enjoy the feel of the vehicle and check how the car performs. If you decide to work with a dealership, they’ll perform an inspection to evaluate what repairs need to be addressed and how they’ll price the car before reselling it.

  6. Negotiate with buyers

    If you priced your vehicle competitively, that means you’re prepared for negotiations. The offers will likely be below the asking price. If you’re dealing with a website or dealership instead of a private buyer, you may find it harder to negotiate. But come prepared with reasons why you think your car is worth a certain price and be prepared to state them.

  7. Strike a deal, collect your cash and transfer the title

    Eventually, you will arrive at a sales price. Congratulations — you've sold your car! Once you’ve received payment (usually in the form of cash, a certified check, or electronic transfer), it’s time to sign over the title. Follow your state’s specific protocols to make sure you’ve done this correctly.

What to avoid when selling a car for the first time

The three main things to avoid when selling a car for the first time are:

  • Investing too much money in repairs
  • Misrepresenting the condition of your vehicle
  • Accepting your first offer

As we mentioned earlier, if you have a car that’s in relatively good shape, fixing a few things up may help you sell the car quicker and make more money in the process. But if your car is very old, banged up and has a lot of mileage, doing anything other than a standard cleaning and car wash may not be worthwhile.

Misrepresenting the condition of your vehicle, whether to a dealership or a private buyer won’t get you very far. Both selling options usually involve an inspection, a test drive or an in-person visit at the very least. The buyer will find out the truth about the car and will either walk away or negotiate the price down, often further than if you had been upfront.

Finally, when you sell your car, don’t go with the first offer — especially if you’re in it to make as much money as possible. If someone offers you above the asking price, that’s a different story, but going with your first option isn’t always best. Take time to search for competitive offers.

We wish you luck with your future sale!

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