It's time to sell your used car. How do you get the most money for your ride without sacrificing too much time, energy and cost on your part?
Just follow the NADAguides.com Used-Car Sales Checklist, a handy tool designed to guide you through the used-car sales process from beginning to end.
Important Note: Remember, it's extremely important that you verify insurance coverage on the person that is buying your vehicle and that the sales paperwork is completed and filed properly. You are the registered owner of the Vehicle until this process is complete and you will be liable in case of an accident.
Step 1: Detail your Car
When it comes to selling your used car, think clean. A prospective buyer is going to appreciate (and will potentially pay more for) a car that looks good, one that's shiny and clean on the outside and one that smells good and looks good on the inside. Most importantly, a buyer will see that you care about the car and have kept it in good condition, a psychological element that's extremely important in any successful used-car sale.
A great place to begin is in our Car Care Center where we "detail" how to drastically change your car's appearance.
To begin, be sure to wash and wax the exterior. There are a variety of products on the market designed to bring your car's paint back to a shiny luster, including paint restorers that remove oxidation and return color. If you'd like, you can employ the services of a professional detailer who can buff the paint to bring it back to top condition and a full-service car wash that provides a variety of car detailing services in addition to your typical cleaning and waxing.
Don't forget to wash the wheels thoroughly and use a dressing on the tires to restore sheen. Be sure to clean the windows inside and out and polish the chrome. A good waxing can increase your car's value by hundreds of dollars.
If you have a little bit of extra money, a comprehensive professional detailing can enhance your car's exterior significantly and, at the end of the day, you might just end up making more money from the sale.
Next, pop the hood and take a look at the engine. If it's dirty, greasy or coated with grime, spray on engine degreaser and hose the motor clean on the top and underside if possible. There are a variety of degreasers available on the market. Battery deposits can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda and water. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes an engine that looks clean gives the impression the car has received plenty of TLC under the hood during its lifetime.
While you've got the engine in your sights, now is a good time to top off important fluids such as oil, coolants and steering, brake and transmission fluids. You might also consider having the oil and the coolants changed if you haven't done so in a while.
Your car's interior appearance is just as important as the way it looks on the outside. You can start by wiping down all inside surfaces with a quality cleaner. Be sure to vacuum the upholstery, including the carpets and the mats and spot clean any dirt or food particles that might be stuck to the fabric. If the interior smells like your pets, cigarette smoke or mildew, a good air freshener might be just the ticket to give it an appealing smell.
Make sure the windows are clean on the inside as well as the outside, and use a dressing on the dashboard and any other vinyl components to return luster. If there are cigarette burns, rips or tears in the seats, you might consider purchasing some attractive, snug-fitting seat covers or making minor repairs to the upholstery to bring it back to its original condition. And don't forget to clean out the trunk, the glove box and any other storage compartments.
Again, there are a variety of detailing services available on the market if you don't have the time or the energy to do it yourself.
Step 2: Repair your Car
When it comes to making repairs to your used car, you need to determine whether or not the repairs will actually increase the value of the vehicle at trade-in or sales time. Most importantly, you need to determine if you'll be able to increase the selling price of the car enough to recoup the cost of those repairs.
When it comes to safety or emissions requirements, we suggest you have a certified technician inspect the vehicle and make sure it meets or exceeds state requirements to make the vehicle roadworthy. Your car may also need repairs to make it operate properly. In this instance, we suggest you fix the vehicle to ensure it functions correctly before you sell it.
There may be easy fixes to consider, such as replacing broken headlights or taillights, having a body shop or a paint-less dent removal company fix small dents or scratches, or replacing tires if the tread life is gone, or if the tires are the wrong size or match. However, if the vehicle needs extensive bodywork or if certain features of the car aren't working such as the radio or CD-player, air conditioning, heater or other similar components be sure to research what those repairs would cost, determine whether or not you can increase the price of the vehicle enough to cover those repairs and make your decision accordingly. Let's face it fixing a vehicle, no matter what the maintenance, can be extremely costly.
In certain situations, it might be better for you to get an estimate of the repairs, share those estimates with a potential buyer, and use the repair costs as a potential negotiating tool. Either way, the repair costs will ultimately decrease the value of your vehicle when selling or trading it in. In some cases it may deter a potential buyer from even considering buying the car in the first place.
Step 3: Organize your Records
Now's the time to collect and organize your maintenance records, if you've kept track of the service your vehicle has received during the time you owned it. Any and all fluid changes, tire rotations, paint or body repairs, engine repairs and service and any other related maintenance documentation is important to have because it demonstrates to a potential buyer the care the vehicle has received.
Hopefully you've saved the owners manual for the car. It can be valuable to the next owner as well as a good selling tool. If your car has been serviced at a dealership, you can call the dealer and ask for a copy of the service history. We also suggest you obtain a detailed vehicle history report about your car based on its vehicle identification number, or VIN as back-up documentation about the validity of the vehicle's title and mileage as well as other important historical information.
Step 4: Name your Price
It's nitty-gritty time the time when you determine exactly what price to ask for your vehicle. Obviously, you don't want to undersell yourself, but at the same time, you don't want to assign an over-inflated price to the car and risk turning away potential buyers.
First things first. You need to research the NADAguides.com book value of your vehicle as a starting point. Be sure to include the mileage information and any optional equipment available on your vehicle.
Next, do some independent research of your own by determining what similar vehicles with similar features are selling for in your market. AutoTrader.com is a great resource for you to review in addition to local newspaper classifieds.
Now that you've done your homework, organize all your information and assign a realistic value to the car based on its condition, its fair market book value and what other similar vehicles are selling for in your area. Use this information to guide you in determining the selling price for your used car. Be sure to add a little bit more money to the asking price as a negotiating cushion since most prospective buyers will want to haggle you down a bit.
Step 5: Write your Ad
There are a variety of places you can advertise, including online, in local newspapers and flyers, or simply by posting For Sale signs on local community bulletin boards.
(Note: Be cautious when placing For Sale signs on your vehicle as many cities have laws against this practice. Check ahead of time to be sure.)
Whatever advertising medium you choose, be sure to write an ad that's easy to read; clearly states the vehicle's top selling points; quotes a price (whether it's firm or negotiable); provides accurate contact information should a prospective buyer try to reach you; and most importantly, includes a photo or several photos of different angles of the car. In addition to the standard make, model, trim, year and mileage information, you might want to consider adding some talking points about special features or options the vehicle possesses or any other important information about the car that will help sell it, such as seasonal appeal (four-wheel-drive for snowy climates, air conditioning for hot climates, etc.) or features such as high gas mileage or a CD-player.
Remember, you want to pique a potential buyer's curiosity so they'll call you to schedule an appointment to see the car. This is the main reason for placing the ad in the first place. When you begin to receive phone calls on your car, its seldom a good idea to haggle over the phone. The potential buyer ultimately needs to touch and feel the car and early negotiation will only complicate the deal.
Step 6: Entertain Buyers
Once you've written your used car ad, it's time to entertain buyers. The first rule of thumb about fielding potential buyers is accessibility; you need to make yourself as available as possible so potential buyers can reach you by phone or email to schedule an appointment to see the car. If you have a home phone, a cell phone or an email address listed in your ad, be sure to respond to buyer inquiries quickly. Virtually every prospective buyer will want to set up an appointment to view and test drive the vehicle.
For safety reasons, we suggest you meet potential buyers in a common, public place and let friends and family know where you're going ahead of time. Above all, be objective about the vehicle's condition and be honest with prospective buyers up front about any serious repairs or problems the new owner will be responsible for.
Step 7: Take a Test Drive
As we mentioned earlier, most buyers will want to take your car for a test drive. Be sure the driver has a valid license to operate a vehicle and whenever possible, go along for the ride. For safety reasons, have a friend or family member join you. It is also very important to verify that the person that is testing the car has proper insurance, or that your insurance would cover you if an accident occurred. This is an important process for a would-be buyer to check out the vehicle and get a feel for what could potentially be his or her new car. Be sure to answer any questions the potential buyer might have about the vehicle's history and performance. Be respectful of the test drive process by keeping the conversation to a minimum so the buyer can hear, feel and experience the car to its fullest and, since you're familiar with your immediate surroundings, guide them through city streets and freeways in a safe manner. It is often a good practice for you to drive the car first and then hand over the controls to the prospective buyer. That way, you give them a chance to get familiar with the car before taking the wheel.
In most cases, if a buyer is interested in the vehicle and is pleased with the test drive process, they'll request the vehicle be inspected by an independent technician, usually someone they know and trust. We suggest you allow the inspection, as this is a normal request and something that usually happens during the used-car sales process. One word of caution - price the car according to condition and be sure to point this out before the mechanical inspection to avoid confusion.
Step 8: Prepare for Negotiation
Like most automotive sales processes, negotiation is virtually always involved. As a consumer, you understand the need for negotiation when it comes to making a purchase as expensive as buying a car. As a seller, be prepared for the potential buyer to negotiate price by determining ahead of time the lowest amount you'd be willing to accept for the car. Since you've already determined the car's book value, what similar cars are selling for in your market area and what you've spent in repair costs (or what repairs still need to be made to the car along with their associated costs), determining the lowest amount you'd be willing to accept should be relatively easy. Keep in mind that this is only a car sale so be sure to leave your personal feelings out of the deal. Sentimental feelings will have very little value to the next owner.
Also, remember you have the power to counteroffer. By counter offering, you could boost the dollar amount into a more acceptable price range. Additionally, your willingness or lack thereof to accept, reject or counteroffer can be directly contingent upon your personal situation. If you need to get rid of the vehicle quickly and the offer is somewhat reasonable, you might be more flexible during the negotiation process.
However, if you don't need to sell soon and are willing to wait for a better offer, then don't be afraid to walk away from the deal. There are plenty of buyers out there who will appreciate the value of your car and who'd be willing to give you exactly, or close to, what you're asking. It's up to you to determine how much negotiating room you're willing to allow.
Step 9: Collect the Money
Once you and the prospective buyer have agreed upon a selling price, it's time to collect your money. The new owner may want to pay cash, finance the car or provide you with a personal check, cashier's check or money order.
There are a variety of ways the buyer can pay, but remember to use caution so you don't lose your money and potentially your car in the process.
If the buyer chooses to finance the car, you may want to ask for a deposit to hold the vehicle until they make the necessary loan arrangements. If you take a deposit, be sure to have an agreed upon time frame to complete the transaction. Keep in mind that you have paid for advertising and if the buyer fails to follow through with the transaction, your ad may expire or you may have lost another potential buyer. Avoid accepting personal checks unless you're familiar with the buyer. In this day-and-age its probably not a bad idea to verify certified funds by the issuing bank. One phone call can save you from trouble. And be careful for offers that seem to good to be true because they usually are.
Step 10: File the Paperwork
Each state has different regulations when it comes to the documentation required to sell a used vehicle and transfer ownership. To help you avoid confusion, NADAguides.com offers a complete Vehicle Transfer of Ownership kit designed to provide you with the required documents you need to sell a car and transfer ownership. Some of the documents you can expect to complete include a bill of sale, a release of liability, a transfer of ownership, smog certifications, titles and more. It is extremely important to be sure that all of the legal documents are completed properly and that the insurance is in the new owners name. Until the paperwork is properly completed, you are still the legal owner and can be held liable in case of an accident.
Be sure to research the documentation required in your city and state at NADAguides.com first to avoid confusion at the DMV later. And be sure to include a statement on the bill of sale that the car is sold as-is. You are not a dealer and you're not required to provide any type of warranty on the vehicle. At the same time, be sure to represent the vehicle's condition honestly and openly or the buyer may have some recourse. Keep a copy of the bill of sale to help protect you from any further liability. If you're mailing the notice of transfer documents to the DMV, you may want to send them by certified mail. That way, you know the documents have been received.
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