Whether your Honda Civic no longer fits your expanding family or you’re looking to unload that rarely used Chevy pick-up truck in your driveway, selling a used vehicle can seem difficult. Trading your old car in at a dealership is easy, but probably won’t get you the most money.
“You can almost always get more money if you sell a used car yourself,” says Mike Quincy, automotive content specialist for Consumer Reports. “The downside is you have to sell it yourself.”
Trading your vehicle in at a dealership can be fast, convenient and come with tax advantages. Many states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, only charge sales tax on the difference between the trade-in value and the new car price. Delaware charges a document fee rather than sales tax.
If you’re not in the market for a new car or want to get the most money for your used car, here’s how to sell the car yourself.
Maximize Curb Appeal
“If your vehicle is clean and in good running condition, it will improve the value,” says Bob May, managing director of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers.
Quincy advises, “Having your car professionally detailed inside and out will help its appeal. Usually this costs between $100 and $150. You can also do it yourself. Give it a good exterior washing and waxing, vacuum the carpets, clean out all the junk in the car and don’t forget to clean out the trunk. If something is broken, like the air conditioner, it might be worth having it fixed. It’s a little more money upfront, but will make it more appealing to the buyer.”
Find out what your vehicle is worth so you can price it reasonably and competitively. You can find estimates on many websites such as Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), the National Automobile Dealers Association (www.nada.org) or at www.edmunds.com.
“Whatever site you use to assess your car’s worth, be honest about the condition of your car and the mileage,” says Ela Voluck, public affairs specialist at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “A buyer will notice if your price doesn’t match the condition.” Once you determine your car’s worth, Quincy recommends pricing your car slightly higher so you’ll have room to negotiate.
“Long gone are the days of just sticking a sign in your car’s window or putting a week-long ad in the newspaper,” says Voluck. “Don’t discount these methods, but cast a wider net.”
Quincy says, “Use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. They’re free! Then if your free options aren’t working out, try the newspapers and websites that list used cars for sale.”
Autotrader.com also offers an instant guarantee for your vehicle on its Trade-In Marketplace. Enter your vehicle’s information on the website and you’ll receive a quote. You then take your vehicle to a participating dealership to verify its condition. If your description matches up, you can sell your vehicle on the spot. Instant offers like these are generally comparable to the amount you would get by trading in your car at a dealership.
Gather all of your paperwork and receipts for oil changes, recalls and other maintenance done to the car. This will show the buyer you’ve taken care of your vehicle.
Voluck says, “You might want to have a mechanic give your car a once over and prepare a report you can present to potential buyers. You can also print out a report from www.carfax.com.” For a fee, Carfax provides vehicle history reports, including ownership, title information and accident history. These reports can give buyers more confidence in you and the vehicle’s condition.
“You want to protect yourself, your well-being and your property,” says Voluck. “Never have people come to your home to see the vehicle. Meet in a neutral place and have someone else with you.”
`Voluck also recommends photocopying a potential buyer’s driver’s license or copying down information from it before letting him test drive the car. You might also want to consider riding along on the test drive.
Finalize the Deal
Consult your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure you take all appropriate steps and fill out the necessary paperwork for selling a vehicle. Voluck recommends selling your vehicle with an “as is” clause in your sales agreement to protect yourself if the buyer claims something isn’t working after the sale. “Be sure to have the signing of your agreement witnessed and notarized to protect yourself,” he advises.
Susan Stopper is a contributing writer to MetroKids.