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How to Sell a Car

Chapter 5 How to Sell a Car

Fed up with having car payments and being in debt? Sell the car. Tired of constantly taking your car to the mechanic for costly repairs? Sell the car. Want a car that doesn’t have a cassette player in it and have cash saved up for an upgrade? Sell the dang car!

Did you know? Of Ramsey car owners surveyed, 53% said they’ve sold a car privately before.

Selling a Car

Here are some tips to make sure your car sale goes as smoothly as possible:

  1. Set the right price. It’s easy to get emotional thinking about all the memories you’ve had with Big Red or Old Blue. But you have to put aside your feelings when setting the price for your car. Buyers don’t care about your feelings. Sorry.

    The good news is that online sites like Kelley Blue Book or NADAguides can help you see what your car is worth in a matter of minutes. You can also check out what other sellers are asking for cars similar to yours. 

    When you set your price, be sure to leave wiggle room for negotiation. For example, if your car’s market value is $8,500, you might want to price it a little higher—maybe around $9,000. 
  2. Gather all the necessary paperwork. Having the right documents and paperwork in place will save you a lot of time and headaches. Here are the most important documents you’ll need to make sure your sale goes smoothly:

    Your car’s title
    Bill of sale
    Notice of transfer and release of liability
    Vehicle history report
    Warranty documents
    As-is documentation

  3. Advertise your car. The more places you advertise, the more potential buyers you’ll attract! There are plenty of free (or almost free) ways to let folks know your car is on the market:

    eBay Motors
    Facebook Marketplace

    You could go old-school and put a “For Sale” sign in one of your car’s windows or hang a flyer in your office breakroom.

    Your listing should also include high-quality photos of your car (inside and out) and an honest, detailed description of the car including the asking price, current mileage and any recent repairs or upgrades you’ve made.

  4. Prepare to meet buyers. You don’t want to waste your time on some goober who hasn’t even thought about how they’re going to pay for a car! You also need to protect yourself from fraud, theft or physical harm. When you’re selling something worth thousands of dollars, you may be surprised by how many nutcases pop up. 

    So how do you pick out the ones who mean business and ignore the rest?

    Get them on the phone. It’s one thing to trade messages over email, but you get a better feel for a buyer’s motives and level of seriousness with a five-minute conversation on the phone. 

    Ask for their full name. If they aren’t willing to give you their full name, that’s a huge red flag. Move along!

    Agree on acceptable forms of payment. Ask them how they’re planning to pay for the car. Cash is best and a verified check also works, but don’t transfer your car’s title until the money clears into your account.

    Sell local. You really don’t need the hassle of arranging a long-distance sale with someone who doesn’t even live in your state.

    Pick a safe test-drive route. For your own safety, meet potential buyers during the day at a safe public place—maybe a shopping mall parking lot. If you can find a spot near a test-drive route with light traffic, that’s even better.

    Agree on the car inspection. If a buyer really likes your car, they may also want to have a mechanic inspect it. That’s a reasonable request! Once you agree on a mechanic, pick a date and time to meet them for a full inspection or diagnostic check. Tip: The buyer typically foots the bill for an inspection.
  5.  Negotiate the price. After you’ve met with a car buyer and they’ve seen your car, now it’s time to negotiate the price. You should go into any negotiation with your lowest acceptable price in mind. Or if the asking price you listed is “take it or leave it” with no room for haggling, you need to clearly communicate that to your buyer.

    If your buyer won’t make an offer that hits that number, be prepared to walk away. Remember, there are plenty of people looking to buy a car. You don’t need to be pressured into accepting a lowball offer.   
  6. Close the deal. Once you’ve both agreed on a price, now you’re ready to finalize the paperwork and exchange the keys for the cash. Hooray! Here’s what you need to do to finalize the paperwork: 

    Complete the bill of sale. You and the buyer will both sign and date the document. Keep a copy for your records. 

    Sign over the title. Once you and the buyer complete and sign the title transfer, hand over the title to the new owner.

    Fill out the release of liability form. Depending on the state where you live, you might need to turn in this form to your local DMV. 

    Hand over the keys. Accept the payment from the buyer and that’s it. Congratulations! 

After You Sell the Car

There’s just one last thing you need to do after you sell your car: Remove the car from your auto insurance policy. 

If you’re buying another car to replace the one you just sold, this is actually a great time to take a fresh look at your car insurance needs and shop around for the best rates.