Edmunds.com's Quick Guide to Selling Your Car
By editors at Edmunds.com
Selling your car today is a different experience than it was just 10 years ago, thanks to the tools available on the Internet. Here are a few simple steps that can help you turn your used car into cash in the shortest time possible.
1. Know the Market. Is your car going to be easy to sell? Will you have multiple offers? Is it a hot commodity? Or will you have to drop your price and search out additional ways to sell it? Your first step is to check other online car ads. Most sites, such as Edmunds.com Used Vehicle Locator and AutoTrader.com, allow you to search with specific criteria. For example, you can select the year and trim level of your car and see how many similar cars are currently on the market. Take note of their condition, mileage, geographic location and selling price.
2. Price Your Car Competitively. Use Edmunds.com's "Appraise a Car" feature to set the True Market Value® price. This figure is adjusted for a number of factors including mileage, condition, options and the region in which the car is being sold. When you are done configuring the car, you can print out a "For Sale" sign to put in your car window. Be sure to leave a little wiggle room when setting your asking price by asking more than what you want to sell the car for.
3. Give Your Car Curb Appeal. Wash, wax and detail the car. Inspect it to make sure it is mechanically sound and free from dents, dings and scrapes. Shovel out all the junk from the inside of the car. Wipe the brake dust off the front wheels and clean the tires with a product such as Armor All. Thoroughly clean the windows (inside and out) and all the mirrored surfaces. Wipe down the dashboard and empty the ashtrays. Put your maintenance records in a neat folder ready to show interested parties. Have your mechanic check out your car and issue a report about its condition — this could motivate a buyer because you have to overcome one more objection they can present.
4. Create Ads that Sell. When creating your "For Sale" signs or putting an ad in the paper, you have an opportunity to communicate how eager you are to sell the car. "OBO" ("or best offer") indicates that you are willing to entertain offers below the stated price. "Asking price" communicates the feeling that you will negotiate. It means you are asking a certain price, but might accept a lower price. "Firm" is less common, but it can be used to rebuff attempts to negotiate. It indicates that you aren't in a hurry to sell the car — you are most interested in getting your price. Think about what you are telling people by the way you phrase your ad. Little words convey a lot.
5. Advertise Your Car. Traditionally, people advertised in newspaper classified ads but now online ads, such as the ones offered by Edmunds.com, are becoming more popular. However, you should also consider other ways of advertising such as posting a "For Sale" sign in the car window and telling all your friends your car is for sale. Creativity is required when it comes to advertising. Think of unusual places to put ads (skywriting is probably too expensive), and you will get results.
6. Showing Your Car. Bear in mind that when you sell your car, people will also be evaluating you. So, you should make a good impression, make buyers feel comfortable and answer their questions openly. Potential buyers will want to test-drive the car. Ride along with them so you can answer questions. Also, they may not know the area, so you might have to guide them along the test-drive route. Some buyers will want to take the car to a mechanic to have it inspected. If you have a report from your mechanic, this might put their doubts to rest. But, if they still want to take the car to their mechanic, this is a reasonable request.
7. Negotiate Your Best Price. If a person test-drives your car and likes it, you can expect them to make an offer. If their offer is well below your asking price, you will want to either hold firm with your asking price or make a lower counteroffer. Consider your answer carefully. Speak slowly and clearly to avoid misunderstandings. Keep the negotiations impersonal by focusing on reaching a win-win price. Give the negotiation process some thought ahead of time so you won't be caught unprepared when the time comes.
8. Handling Complications. In some cases, you might reach an agreement with a buyer that is contingent on performing repair work. This can lead to misunderstandings down the line, so avoid this, if you can. The best thing to do is have your car in good running order and know in detail about any repairs necessary. Remember, a used car — particularly an old one — isn't expected to be perfect. But it still might be useful.
9. Finalize the Deal. The laws governing the sale of motor vehicles vary from state to state. Check with the governing agency in your state, most of which is now available on the Web. When selling your car, it's important to limit your liability. If someone drives away in the car you just sold, and they get in an accident, you don't want to be held responsible. Once you have the money from the sale (it's customary to request a cashier's check or cash) sign the title over to the buyer or provide them with a bill of sale. Finally, remember to contact your insurance agent to cancel your policy on the vehicle you have sold (or transfer the coverage to your new car).
10. After the Sale. Occasionally, there are unexpected bumps in the sale process that arise. These will be handled easily if you are dealing with a reasonable person. So, as you are contacted by prospective buyers, use your intuition to evaluate them. If they seem difficult, pushy or even shady, wait for another buyer. With the right person, selling a used car should be simple and easy.
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