Selling a car is a slam dunk, right? Once you put your car on the market, the buyers will line up. A few test drives and, perhaps, competition between buyers, and before you know it you’ll close the deal and reap a handsome profit.
On the surface, selling a car privately sound likes a terrific idea. But it often comes with hassles. Some shoppers don’t make an offer; others don’t have the funds to finalize the purchase. Then there’s the matter of your time. No wonder most people prefer to sell to their dealer or make a trade, even when they could make more money through a private sale.
If you prefer selling privately, here’s what you ought to know about selling a car.
1. Get your car ready for show.
Selling your car “as is”? Your offers will reflect its condition. It always pays to spend some time making it market ready.
Wash and detail your car. Be sure to polish and then wax it in separate steps to restore its luster. If you can, remove small scrapes, scratches and dings. The same attention you paid to the exterior should apply to the interior. Clean out the cabin and trunk, vacuuming or wiping down seats, carpets and other surfaces. Replace burnt-out bulbs and fuses, and ensure that all items, including audio and navigations systems, are in working order.
Handle all overdue maintenance items – most importantly the motor oil, battery and filters. Check that the battery, hoses, belts, brakes, suspension, and other components are in top order. Provide copies of your repair invoices. Offer a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to demonstrate to buyers that your car is in the best condition.
2. Survey the market.
So, how is the car market where you live? Specifically, what kind of demand do you see for your type of vehicle?
For example, if you live in a warm climate and own a convertible, demand should be strong. On the other hand, if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle and live in Florida, chances are demand could be quite low. Review local ads to gauge interest in your type of vehicle.
3. Know your price range.
There are online tools to help you determine the price for your vehicle, but CARFAX History-based Value is the only one that takes your vehicle’s history into account. You’ll find three prices, including a trade-in value and a private party value. A retail price is also listed, indicating what a dealer could ask if they listed your car for sale.
Now that you know prices, you need to determine your bottom number for selling your car. This isn’t a number you’ll display or share with shoppers — it is the price you’re willing to accept.
Pricing can be tricky, but the 5 to 10 percent added to your bottom price gives you some wiggle room when negotiating. Further, when you set your price, avoid a round number such as $10,000. Choose $9,995 instead as it sounds better to shoppers. You’ve noticed that retailers use a similar pricing strategy for a simple reason: it works.
4. Market your car.
Be thorough with your ad, offering complete details about the car. The more details you supply about a car, the better. This means entering not just the make, model and model year of the vehicle, but its mileage, trim level and special options. Features such as navigation and driver-assist technologies mean you can fetch more for your car.
Include numerous photos, including interior, exterior, under the hood, trunk and cargo area. Explain your terms upfront — cash or a certified check.
Review other ads for ideas on how to create yours.
5. Displaying your vehicle.
Now for the hard part: showing off your vehicle. Strategically place your vehicle so people will see it with at least one “for sale” sign inside the car, unless you don’t want people knocking on your door at all hours.
Supply a contact number, but be forewarned: you’ll get your share of spam calls. Perhaps securing a temporary phone number would be the best approach here.
When an individual inquires about the car, engage them in a conversation to determine what they’re looking for. If you’re not comfortable with this individual, go no further. When it comes time to meet a buyer and test drive the vehicle, always meet in a public place. Ask for a valid driver’s license and ride with them. Explain the features and answer their questions. Never give your keys to a stranger; that may be the last time you see your car.
6. Let’s make a deal.
Only negotiate with buyers who show genuine interest in the vehicle. Ask them if they have the means to close the deal today. Not tomorrow, but today. Inform them that the first buyer who meets your price gets the car.
Expect negotiating to commence at once. A buyer’s offer may be far lower than your asking price. If you feel that you’re being lowballed, say so. If their offer is within an acceptable range, counter with your own price. If both parties give a little, then a deal can be reached. The idea here is to provide a win for both sides.
The buyer may insist on having a mechanic inspect the vehicle as a condition of the sale. Be careful. The mechanic may discover a problem and the buyer may counter with a lower price, costing you money. If you’re not OK with the inspection, show copies of the repair records and the CARFAX Report. Explain that the vehicle is being sold “as is” without room for further negotiation.
After payment, clean out the car (including DMV and insurance paperwork), remove the tags and hand the keys to the new owner. Cancel any remaining ads.
7. Wrapping up.
The cash is good or the check has cleared; everything is done, right? No, not quite.
You may need to take care of certain Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) business, depending on where you live. If you have the vehicle’s tags (license plates), return these to the DMV. Make sure the registration is canceled and all taxes and fees settled. Get a receipt and keep it for your records.
Lastly, contact your insurance company to ensure coverage is discontinued. This is also an ideal time to review your policy to ensure it meets your current needs.