8 Helpful Tips|How to prep your car for sale by owner

Image via actual Internet posting of this car for sale.

Nearly three years after starting this blog about the auto industry, I was reminded of how I got started here in the first place – giving friends car buying and selling advice. My coworker’s boyfriend purchased a new car and now it’s time for him to sell his current vehicle. Like many friends and colleagues before, they asked me for advice on how to get that car ready to sell.

First, I directed them to this oldie-but-goodie blog post – 10 Tips to Maximize the Resale Value of Your Car. I’d recommend you read it as well before launching into the additional tips below.

My friend, a car-selling virgin, was already half-way to success by grabbing a local coupon for a detail job and scheduling his used Toyota Prius for a shine up. Now, all he needed to do was follow these steps. You can, too – they’re easy and straightforward. And if you still aren’t certain how to proceed after reading this post and my earlier write-up, then don’t hesitate to post your questions in the comments section below.

8 Tips to help you prep your used car for sale by owner:

Research the market – How many cars like yours are already for sale in your region/area? How are they priced? Are they newer or older than yours? Are they private sellers or dealers (the latter will almost always be priced a bit higher)?

Research the value – Go to any of the car analysis websites available to estimate the value of your vehicle. The middle-of-the-road number for ‘private party’ is usually a good place to start. Also, keep in mind that few cars are actually in ‘excellent’ condition. Things that qualify your ride for that status are: lower than 10,000-12,000 miles/year, ding-free, accident free, regularly serviced, clean paint and pristine interior. Basically, it should look pretty close to brand-new on the inside and outside.

Write up a description of your car – Don’t write an emotion-filled soliloquy about your car. Chances are, you’re more passionate about your car (regardless of its condition) than any buyer will be. Be realistic in describing the condition. Make sure to mention: how many miles it has, the color, engine, transmission, whether it’s been garaged, damage or maintenance a new owner might need to take care of right away (that can cut down on your price); and whether or not you’re willing to negotiate.

Take good pictures of the interior and exterior – Make sure people can see the good, clean condition of your car. Or, if it’s a beater, the areas that need work. Pick a sunny day and park the car in front of a nice tree or something inviting. Make sure no other cars or objects are parked around it so people have a clear view.

Schedule test drives – It’s OK to be selective on who you test drive with. Jot down a few questions to help you screen for serious potential buyers. For example, if you’re selling your Nissan GT-R, you don’t have to let the 17-year-old who called you without his parents knowing get behind the wheel.

Advertise (for free) – Post a flyer up in your building or somewhere else public where people might have interest in buying the car.

Don’t sell it to your friend – You may not even want to share on your social networks that your car is for sale. While there are always exceptions, mixing money and loved ones does not usually end well.

Close the deal, safely –  If you’re selling online through a local site like Craigslist, then you should schedule to meet at a public place like the parking lot of a grocery store or bank. It’s also wise to ask for cash only, especially for vehicles under $10,000. Even phony cashier’s checks can be believable until it’s too late. Take a friend or family member with you as well. It’s never a bad idea to have a neutral person present when the negotiating and financial transaction happens.

Good luck and happy selling!!

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.