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Tips on How to Sell a Used Car

Selling it yourself will take more work to get the price you want

Last updated: February 2014

Selling your cur­rent vehicle on your own will get you a higher price than trading it in. You can always expect to get more than the wholesale price, and unless the vehicle is in big demand, buyers should expect to pay less than the retail price. But selling your car yourself takes a lot more work than just driving to the dealership for a trade-in. You’ll have to go through the hassle of advertising, taking phone calls, and showing the car.

Set a competitive price

After doing your research, you should have a good idea of what the retail and local asking prices are for your vehi­cle. If you checked to see what a local dealer would offer on a straight-up sale, you should have plenty of information to price your car reasonably. Remember, it’s always smart to price your vehicle just a little bit higher than what you are willing to take for it. That way, the buyer can negotiate for a slightly lower price and feel good about it. Don’t be greedy, though. You could scare off potential buyers who don’t think they have a chance to negotiate.

Advertise effectively

There are many ways to advertise your car. Some are more effective than others, and cost can vary from free to quite expensive. Don’t feel limited by the suggestions you see here. Use your imagina­tion and go with what you think will work.

  • Word of mouth is very effective. Tell your friends, relatives, colleagues, and anyone else you know that you have a car for sale. If your network of con­tacts is big enough, you might be surprised at how much interest you generate in your vehicle via Facebook or Twitter. And it’s free.
  • Online classified ads are quickly becom­ing the most effective way to advertise cars., offers several ad packages ranging from $15 to $55. The lower price is for a 21-day ad accompanied by a stock manufacturer photo of your model. To post photos of your personal vehicle, however, you need to upgrade to a premium ad, but with free renewals. Auto­, which works in conjunction with MSN Autos, has ad packages that range from $45 to $99 (including photos of your own car), and will post your ad on several other websites, including and Yahoo Autos. Spending more on the ad gives you more photos, a longer duration, performance metrics, and even premium placement on the page.
  • Daily newspaper ads can work but aren’t as effective as they used to be. Some newspapers will give you both a print and online ad for one price. Rates can run about $30 to $40 for a week or two, although some major metropoli­tan papers charge more.
  • Ads in weekly shoppers and free news­papers can work, but they may have a lot of competition in attracting readers’ attention.
  • There’s always the traditional way: Just put a “For Sale” sign in the window of your vehicle with your phone number and a few other details, such as model year and mileage.

Showing your car

Once you’ve placed your ads, make sure you keep your car’s specifications, mileage, and other particulars near your phone. Interested callers will want to come to see the vehicle, so have your schedule ready so you can set a day and time. That said, don’t be surprised if some callers never show up. No-shows are one of the frustrating aspects of selling your own car.

When you do show the car, answer all questions honestly. Be prepared to provide service receipts and to accompany the buyer on a test drive and to an independent mechanic.

The prepurchase inspection

Just about any savvy buyer will want to have your car inspected by a mechanic before the sale takes place. If the buyer is a friend or relative, there should be little risk in allowing them to take the car for an inspection. If the potential buyer is a total stranger, however, you’ll probably want to drive the car to the shop yourself. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.

Know what paperwork you need to have with you

The paperwork requirements for sell­ing a car vary from state to state. In some, transferring ownership of a vehicle to another person is as simple as entering the odometer reading, sale price, and your signature on the back of the cer­tificate of title. In others, you must fill out official title-transfer forms. Con­tact your state’s DMV to see what you should do.

If there’s an outstanding loan on your car, you and the buyer will have to go to your lender and make sure the lender gets its money before you get what’s left. And a bill of sale is often required by the buyer for sales-tax purposes.

Wrapping up the details

Buying a new vehicle can be a thrill, but getting taken advantage of on your old car is not. By knowing its true value, spending time to make it look its best, and by sticking to your price during negotiations, you can get its full value, whether you trade it in or sell it yourself.

New Car Buying Guide

Learn more about choosing a car, what to do at the dealership, pricing, trading in your car, financing, closing the deal and more in our new car buying guide.

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