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.