How to Quickly Sell a Car for the Best Price

by Robert John Stevens, September 22, 2016

A good friend asked, “What’s the easiest way to sell a car?”

If you are too busy to take phone calls and show your car, or are uncomfortable with doing so, then ask a friend, neighbor or local dealership to help you.

Trading in your car is an option but don’t expect to receive a good price: Dealers pay auction prices which are usually far less than NADAGuides.com or Kelly Blue Book prices.

Here is how to quickly sell a car for the best price:

  • Detail your car yourself or take it to a detailer because most people buy on emotion. Clean, vacuumed and waxed cars that are priced reasonably usually sell to the first looker. After detailing it, store it in a garage or under a cover.
  • Repair mechanical problems to remove uncertainty for the buyer. Smart buyers will deduct the cost of the most likely repairs plus a premium for uncertainty and their time. Some buyers will prefer to do their own repairs but most will not.
  • Before creating an ad, find your car’s value at NADAGuides.com—Banks will lend up to the clean retail price but most buyers expect to pay private party values minus the cost of repairs. Banks in your locality may also use Kelly Blue Book.
  • Find comparable prices on Craigslist and your local newspaper ads. You can also find nationwide prices at cars.com
  • List in your ad the year, make and model, whether or not it was garage kept and has a clean title, the mileage, colors, the condition of the interior and exterior, if the A/C and heater work, recent repairs, and if your car will pass safety inspection and emissions.
  • Word your ad so buyers know it is genuine and from a credible person or family.
  • If you do decide not to disclose needed repairs in your ad, disclose them when buyers call.
  • If your car has a timing belt, check your owner’s manual to see the mileage when it should be changed. Old, unchanged timing belts and water pumps are costly—often $600 to $1,000. If a timing belt breaks the engine will need to be replaced. Mention in your ad if you changed them recently.
  • Upload many pictures of your car.
  • Ads listed early Saturday morning often do best. You may need to delete and re-list your ad every Saturday morning.
  • Put yourself in the buyers’ position by reading my article How to buy a used car: Free tips for how to find a creme puff and save lots of money.
  • Be ethical: Shows cars in the order of phone calls. Nobody wants to drive miles to see your car just to discover you sold it.
  • Use social media to notify friends and neighbors. They search for cars and will trust buying from you over a stranger.
  • Some people will want to take your car to their mechanic. If you agree to that, make sure your insurance will cover you. Write down their name, phone number and driver’s license number. You may decide to drive it to their mechanic for them.
  • Before the buyer arrives, print out a legal bill of sale from your state’s DMV website. Be sure to specify you are selling the car as is.
  • DO NOT accept personal checks. Only accept cash or bank cashier’s check. Only accept full payment.
  • Some buyers will not want you to write the car’s sold price on the title or Bill of Sale so they can pay less in sales tax. Do not leave those areas blank unless you are willing to risk unexpected legal consequences. The buyer may be an undercover policeman.

How to buy a used car: Free tips for how to find a creme puff and save lots of money

By Robert John Stevens, Last updated September 22, 2016

With the money you lovers of freedom and liberty save, you can help Ron Paul with his Campaign For Liberty and other worthy efforts

  1. Your goal is to find “creme puffs”. These are cars that are priced lower than their value, not salvaged, rebuilt or restored, not smoked in, but garage kept, owned by elderly or caring families.

  2. Never meet the seller in a parking lot. That is one of the first signs of potential fraud. Meet the seller at his or her home or dealership. If you decide to buy, photocopy the seller’s driver’s license or write down their information in detail. You may need it later if you detect fraud such as odometer rollback or a falsified title.

  3. Beware if the name on the title is different than the seller. They may tell you a vehicle is owned by their relative or they are selling it for a friend. It may be legitimate but it also may be curb stoning—people buying and selling cars without registering them and paying taxes. When dishonest people do this, they may be covering up other problems such as body, mechanical or accidents.

  4. Use online classifieds to find cars of interest.

    Search between 10,000 and 80,000 miles. Dealerships think anything with more than 70,000 miles is high mileage but note that Honda and Toyota vehicles will last for 250,000 miles if serviced regularly; however, from 2000-2005 Honda Odyssey, Pilot and smaller vehicles with larger engines had torque converter issues which result in needing new transmissions.

    Search between 1994 and the current year because most mechanics cannot service air conditioners before 1994.

    Search for sale by owner. Dealers rarely offer creme puffs for great prices but they may for older vehicles.

  5. Ask the owner if the vehicle has a clean title. Make sure it is not rebuilt/restored (salvaged) — If so move on.

    For cars with a salvaged title you can deduct at least $1,000 off the blue book value for good reason—The airbags may have been snipped or stuffed back in. The body or frame may have been straightened which means it may be structurally weakened. Most accidents are in the front. Ask to see the CARFAX and police reports. Ask if the airbags were deployed. Inspect it for potential structural weakness (ask to see pictures of the wreck, pound the sheet metal to find the Bondo and painted rust, run your fingers over every seam to detect unevenness, and see if the engine and frame bolts have been removed since it was new).

  6. Look up the car’s value. Check values at Kelly Blue Book and NADA Guides. You can also watch craigslist for sale by owner listings. Where I live, I watch Provo and Salt Lake listings:

    Provo CraigsList Cars by Owner (notice the o at the end of the URL)

    Salt Lake City CraigsList Cars by Owner

  7. Do not pay more than the KBB Private Party Good Value. If the car has very low mileage, it may be worth paying more—you may save later on maintenance.

    Banks often use NADAGuides.com and will loan up to the retail value, which may be much higher than what you should pay.

    Trade-in Values are meaningless. Dealerships use Manheim.com to determine what vehicles sell for at auctions. They do not want to pay more than what they would pay at an auction.

  8. Call the seller. If they speak with an accent, for maximum protection just forget it. Immigrant car fraud is a thriving business.

    The best values are from financial hardship situations, the elderly, people who inherit vehicles, people who do not check the blue book values, etc.

    To find a creme puff, often you’ll be the first caller or the first person to come see the car. You have to be ready to make an appointment, request they promise not to honor ethics and not sell (you don’t want to drive there just to find it was sold), and you may save money if you pay in cash.

    I find one or two creme puffs a week. They are worth finding.

  9. Have a mechanic look it over. Before the seller gets bombarded with calls, they are most likely to agree to let you have a mechanic look it over. In Utah, Kent Costner Mechanic on Wheels will do it for $50. Doug at Doug’s Auto in Orem will do it for $80.

  10. Price the car yourself. While you have the seller on the phone, go through the KBB.com year, make model wizard at http://www.kbb.com/used-cars

    Ask them for the details (trim, engine size, features, mileage). If you think you’ve found a creme puff, confirm each item with the seller on the phone. Sometimes they mistype information and you don’t realize it until you see the car. Again, ask them if the car’s title is clean and that it is not rebuilt/restored.

  11. Ask yourself, “Is it a creme puff?” If not, don’t buy it.

  12. Check the car’s oil for a blown head gasket. Pull the oil dip stick. Put some oil on your finger. If it is milky it could have radiator coolant in it which is a sure sign the head gasket is blown and will require a new engine.

  13. Smell the transmission fluid. If it smells burnt it may have problems.

  14. Drive the car in town and on the freeway. Make sure it goes into high gear, every gear and reverse as expected. Because the seller could have disconnected the battery terminal to turn off the check engine light, if possible drive it for 30-40 miles to see if the check engine light turns on.

  15. Using your fist, mildly pound every part of the sheet metal to look for rust or body work. You can tell by the sound. Another trick is to put a magnet on all the sheet metal. If the magnet does not stick there may be bondo under the paint.

  16. Bondo repairs must not be more than 1/8 to 1/4″ thick or the repair will eventually crack, water will leak in and rust the sheet metal underneath.

  17. Look under the car. Check for deep rust. Check to see if it leaks oil or fluids. Check for rust on the mufflers and exhaust system.

  18. Be ready to say you will buy the car (even if you are not sure) and ask them to hold it for you until you confirm all they have said and obtain your financing.

  19. Negotiate. If while inspecting the car you find things that were not mentioned or properly represented, estimate their cost outloud, point them out to the seller and ask for a lower price.

  20. Buy only safe and reliable cars. If you are uncertain about the reliability of the car or how it holds up in crash tests, check ConsumerReports.org — it is worth a month’s subscription.

  21. Buy only cars made within the last ten years unless you find a creme puff with very low miles. Cars older than ten years old are difficult to find parts for. Honda Civics and Accords, Toyota Corolla and Camrys, and Ford Mustangs will have affordable after market parts for much older cars.

    Most cars before 1996 cannot be electronically scanned. In order to scan your car for codes, you must first locate the diagnostic connector. It will be under the drivers side dash.

  22. Buy only the best makes. Personally I like Lincoln. They are almost always owned by old men. They are of high quality and you can find them with low miles for a good price. For some makes such as Cadillac, the price of any service or part may be much more than you would expect to pay.

  23. Consider the cost of major service maintenance. People often sell cars before major service maintenance which often occur at 30k, 60k, and 90k miles. Expect to spend an additional $500 to $1000 for a major service (spark plugs, replacing fluids, timing belt, etc.) or ask them to reduce the price if they have not had it done for you.

  24. Again, be sure to get the seller’s driver’s license number.

  25. Print out your state’s Bill of Sale when buying a used car. Have the seller fill it out completely as well as sign it:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=utah+dmv+bill+of+sale&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    Although the title acts as a Bill of Sale too, this document provides you further protection. If you go register your car and find it was stolen, this will give you a legal document to go after the owner.

    Make sure the seller fills out and signs the title (date of sale, odometer mileage, etc.); ideally in front of a notary.

    Again, make sure the title doesn’t say “Rebuilt/Restored” or Salvaged.

  26. Again, you must drive a car for thirty minutes before buying it because it is possible the seller unplugged the battery terminal to turn off the check engine light. If the check engine light turns on, there may be one or more problems. Using an engine diagnostic analyzer, the vehicle’s computer will report the problems it knows about. Checker Auto will diagnose your car for free.

  27. Fill out two copies of the Bill of Sale yourself

    This way you can avoid the seller forgetting to fill out any fields, forgetting to sign, or signing in the wrong place. Have the seller sign just the same name, in the same way, as shown on the title.

  28. Leave the amount empty on the title in case you want to resell the car

    The DMV doesn’t require an amount. They already know how much to charge for sales tax.

  1. Impound Lot – Vehicle Auctions

How to buy a new car

If you want to buy a new car, get a Costco membership and find participating dealerships Costco Auto.

Contact those dealers and tell them what you want to purchase. They must comply with set Costco pricing.

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