Guide to Selling Your Car

Selling an old car or truck privately doesn't have to be complicated. With a little research and organization, you can simplify the process and get the most profit possible.

Use this simple step-by-step guide to help you along the way.

Step 1: Determine the Vehicle's Worth

Sometimes the decision to sell a vehicle privately comes down to the amount of profit you'll gain through the transaction.

Before you can decide whether or not the process will be worth the effort, you'll need to find out exactly how much your car is worth.

A few resources that will estimate your vehicle's current market value include:

If your car isn't worth as much as you thought, you may want to consider it for trade-in value at a dealership instead.

Step 2: Gather the Paperwork

If you wait to do this step toward the end of the process, you find yourself scrambling for all the necessary documents. A better approach is to gather everything you'll need to finalize the transaction once you've decided to sell your car or truck privately.

Each state has its own requirements for required paperwork when selling a car; as a general guide, be prepared to have:

  • The title.
    • You'll need to sign the title and hand it over to the new owner.
  • Maintenance records.
    • Keeping up with scheduled maintenance can increase the value and reliability of your vehicle.
    • If you've kept all of your maintenance records, great. If you haven't, you can get them at the dealership or mechanic who handled your services.
  • Bill of sale.
    • A bill of sale is used to document the terms and conditions in the event of a dispute, and can release you of certain liabilities.
  • Release of Liability.
    • This form will keep you from being liable for any damages incurred after the vehicle is sold. Without it, there could be a dispute over accidents or other events that occur before the vehicle is registered under the new owner.
  • Warranty documents.
    • If the car is still under the manufacturer's warranty or an extended warranty, you'll want to have these documents ready to provide to the new owner.
  • As-is documentation.
    • If there are no warranties, make it clear that the potential owner will assume all responsibility for repairs and damages once the vehicle is sold.
    • You can sometimes include this on the bill of sale.

Step 3: Get the Car Ready

A clean vehicle will be more attractive to potential buyers, and give the impression that the car or truck has been properly cared for.

Before you take pictures of the vehicle or list it online, you'll need to detail the interior and exterior of the vehicle. If you decide to do this yourself, be sure to:

  • Wash and wax the exterior of the vehicle.
  • Clean the rims and tires.
  • Replace or wash old floor mats.
  • Vacuum the floor, seats, and trunk.
  • Clean the ashtrays.
  • Wash the windows inside and out.

Step 4: Take Pictures

Once the car is clean and detailed, you'll want to take plenty of pictures. This will aid in your efforts to advertise the vehicle and attract potential buyers.

Be sure to take multiple shots from different angles and choose the best of your selection when you create your ad. A few shots you'll want to be sure to include are:

  • The exterior.
    • Front.
    • Rear.
    • Both sides.
  • The interior.
    • Front and back seats.
    • Trunk.
    • Dashboard.
    • Carpets.
  • Wheels.
  • Engine.

Step 5: Find a Place to Advertise

To advertise your vehicle properly, you'll need to find an online classified service where potential buyers will be shopping.

There are plenty of options out there, so we've provided a guide to advertising your vehicle to get you started.

Step 6: Create an Ad

Creating a good ad is a must to attract buyers, and it starts with knowing the details of your vehicle inside and out.

Since a detailed description will leave a good first impression and help you attract more buyers, you'll want to make sure it's as accurate as possible.

Be sure to include the following information at a minimum:

  • Asking price.
    • Be sure to include if the price is firm, OBO (“or best offer"), or a quick sale.
  • Mileage.
  • Condition of the vehicle.
  • Any history of accidents or damage.
  • Modifications or upgrades that have been made.
  • Recent repairs.
  • VIN number.
  • Number of owners.

Step 7: Screen Potential Buyers

After you've posted an ad online, be ready to respond to incoming inquires. Answer any questions by e-mail or phone, and only set up test drives for serious buyers.

This is also the time you'll want to beware of fraud. Lay out your guidelines to determine legitimate candidates. Before setting your appointment:

  • Ask for the person's full name.
  • Clarify forms of payment that will be acceptable.
    • Checks and money orders are riskier option, so if you accept these methods make sure you have the funds in hand before you sign over the title.
  • Make sure the buyer knows monthly payments aren't acceptable.
    • There's no way for you to collect if a buyer decides to stop payment.
  • Determine if the buyer is in the area.
    • National or overseas sales will complicate the process, especially if the buyer doesn't plan on looking at the vehicle first.

Step 8: Give Your Sales Pitch

If a buyer makes the effort to come over and look at the car, use the opportunity to make a sales pitch. The best time to inform the buyer of why your vehicle would be a better purchase than others on the market is during the test drive.

A few tips for a good sales pitch include:

  • Sizing up the driver.
    • Find out what they currently drive.
    • What they're looking for in their next vehicle.
    • Use this information to ease their concerns.
  • Pitching the benefits of your car, such as the:
    • Fuel economy.
    • Affordability of replacement parts.
    • Performance specification of the engine.
    • Reliability and safety features.

Step 9: Negotiate the Sale Price

After you've shown and discussed the vehicle, remind the buyer how firm the price is. If it's up for negotiation, don't be afraid to make a few counter offers if you aren't happy with the buyer's price.

When you negotiate, it's a good idea to have a starting price that's higher than what you're willing to accept. Also have a dollar amount in mind that's your lowest acceptable price and stick to it.

Step 10: Finalize the Sale

Once a sale has been agreed upon, you'll need to finalize all the paperwork. If you accept a cashier's check, go with the buyer to his or her bank to get your money. When payment has been completed, you'll need to:

  • Complete the bill of sale.
  • Sign over the title.
  • Fill out the Release of Liability.
    • Submit this form to your state DMV if required.
  • Provide warranty documents, if applicable.
  • Provide copies of maintenance records.
  • Include any additional transfer paperwork your state may require.
  • Hand over the keys!

Don't forget to remove your vehicle from your insurance policy

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