How to Sell a Used Car

Tips for selling your car

If you want to know how to sell your car fast, this guide is intended to be a useful set of hints, tips and checklists. Depending on your circumstances the best way to sell a car could be privately or to the trade. There are a number of things you can do (and some things you must do!) when selling your car, that will maximise the amount of money you get and minimise the amount of time to sell.

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How to sell a used car – selling your car privately

Advertising: when selecting the method(s) of advertising when selling your car privately, take into account the cost of the advert, geographical spread (it is no use advertising many hundreds of miles away), time to go-live (you may need to wait several weeks due to printing deadlines) and the duration of the advertising period. Check to see if there are any early cancellation policies in case you sell your car fast and can get a partial refund.

Make use of free advertising: This can be a great tactic for how to sell a used car. Print out (and preferably laminate) two professional looking ‘for sale’ notices to place in the windows of your car when it is parked on your driveway or in a car park. Be sure to have them on both sides of the car and do not fall foul of any local authority rules that forbid selling vehicles in public areas (check with your local authority if you are in doubt). Include useful information: year, mileage, price, contact details and any extra features that may not be obvious.

Be honest in your description: firstly, it is not ethical to be untruthful. Secondly, by being genuinely honest about any of the down-sides to your vehicle for sale, you can be genuinely emphatic about the positives, whilst fostering a sense of trust in the potential buyer. If there is a positive reason you are selling your car (such as getting a company car, relocation, need more seats for children) say so!

Pricing: The lower the advertised price and the better the description, the more interest you will generate. The more competitive you are on price compared to similar used vehicles for sale in your area, the faster you will sell your car. Q. How to sell car fast? A. Drop the price! Hmmmm. The adverts on-line that state they buy your car for cash in 24 hours will give you a lower price than other methods. However all is not doom and gloom…

…there are other cards you can play! These are not secrets or tips, just a common sense approach to selling your car privately. These will ensure you get more value when selling your car and, by doing a bit of thinking up front, is how to sell a car fast. Read on.

Preparing the car to sell fast

Before you are ready to sell your car privately (see below for advice on selling to the trade), start to run through the following list as soon as you have decided you are selling your car, to ensure the vehicle is ready.

  • Make sure it is mechanically safe and sound, with a valid safety test (e.g. MoT in the UK) and has been recently serviced to the service schedule. Ensure the tires are in good condition (tread depth well above the legal limit) and inflated: although it is a bit of a joke about ‘tyre kicking’, potential buyers eyes will naturally gravitate to this area and they will want to know they are safe and have a good few miles left in them.
  • Clean the exterior. However, many people think they know how to sell a used car with a bucket and wax. The best way to sell a car is not usually by obsessing over the bodywork. Most buyers can see through both a bit of wax and polish and on the other hand, a small amount of road dirt and dust. However, the car must be clean enough for the buyer to inspect the bodywork (for dents and rust) and wheel condition.
  • Clean the interior. This is of vital importance and the area best spending your time on if you want to be selling your car fast. If you don’t get it professionally valeted, do a good job yourself.
  • Paperwork: collate all of the service history, other proof of maintenance and any supporting documents that shows the mileage history. Put these together with the vehicle handbook (search online for a printable .pdf version if you have lost it), radio key-code, spare keys and registration documentation. Put all of these in a well-organised ring binder and offer them for inspection. This says something about you and how you will have treated your car.
  • Depersonalize: remove anything that is not for sale with the car. CDs, sunglasses, visor organizers – lose them! Depersonalizing your car makes it more personalizable in the eyes of the viewer. They want to buy a car not your car.
  • Make it smell nice: hold your breath then get into your car and close the door. Close your eyes and breath. Still closing your eyes, smell your car – what does it smell like? A potential buyer will not consiously test the car for bad odors, but smell can make or break the deal – or even send potentialy buyers running! Consider deodorizing and lightly fragrancing your car, perhaps with a new car smell spray. If the vehicle has old leather seats, use some some leather scent spray to rejuvenate the leather smell.
  • Arrange the interior of the car with thought: a potential buyer will want to test the radio/sound system: what would come out of the speakers when they hit the ‘on’ button? Arrange the seating, mirrors and armrests so as to likely suit the viewer in advance.
  • Check it’s all there: spare wheel, warning triangle, first aid kit, inflators etc.
  • Take the buyer’s perspective: rather than thinking about selling your car, think about buying one. Most of the time from the buyer’s perspective is the driver’s perspective, so sit in the driver’s seat and ask ‘what would I think if someone were selling this car to me?’.
  • Get the car ready to test drive (make sure all legal requirements are in place). If it is very cold, de-ice and warm the vehicle in advance by taking it out for a spin in advance.
  • Positioning: make sure that access to all areas of the vehicle is possible. The buyer will want to open all doors, the tailgate and possibly get underneath the vehicle. Also bear in mind how you present the vehicle. In an overgrown yard with trash everywhere doesn’t paint the car against a pretty backdrop!

Selling your car to a dealer

Compared to selling your car privately, selling your car to a professional trader is more of a matter of bargaining. They will know (or should) how to sell a used car and how much they can get for it. However, with the internet on your side you can be pre-informed and even get indicative offers without having to drive anywhere.

  • Search on car trading sites for sales prices of a vehicles of similar spec, year and mileage.
  • Identify prices from trade dealers (not private) – these represent more than you will get.
  • The prices for cars sold privately represent the high-end of the ball-park range you can get, taking into account that most people will not want to pay the asking price.
  • Use the many sites such as WeBuyAnyCar.com, webuyanycarusa.com (USA only), WeComeToYouWithCash.com (USA only) or TradeMyMotor.co.uk (UK only) to obtain indicative offers. If you think any of these offers are acceptable, follow through with them, but remember they still need to inspect your vehicle and may reduce the offer.
  • Otherwise the offers from the sites above will represent an under-valuation of your vehicle, which you should keep in mind when negotiating with a dealer.
  • Call in advance to dealers and ask if they would be interested in buying your vehicle. Don’t just drop by – even if their advertising literature says so!
  •  Ensure you have several sound offers before selling your vehicle.
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Although you may at first think that when selling your car to a trader they will only be interested in the mechanicals and bodywork and will not be interested in how clean the inside is, this can be wrong. To prepare a used car to sell will require it to be valeted, this takes time and costs a business money. Either they bring in a contractor or they will need to book a slot with their cleaning department (for bigger dealerships).

It is often the case that there are cross-charges between the sales department and the workshop/cleaning bay, at high labour rates! These cross-charges will effectively reduce the sales margin and therefore the commission to the sales person when subsequently selling your car on. This is the same sales person that will be inspecting your vehicle! So – think about getting your car valeted at low cost or do it yourself. Additionally, with modern pressure washers the outside of the car can be cleaned in minutes. Indeed: many used car dealerships clean their stock every morning! So don’t get obsessive about polishing the bodywork. Preparing the interior of a car takes longer and can even require drying time – time that it can’t be selling.

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