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How To Sell Your Car Quickly

Updated on June 13, 2010

There can be no doubt that selling your car can be incredibly frustrating. As the car owner, we naturally believe the car is worth more than it really is - after all we know how much we have spent on it, and we may not actually want to sell it. We don't like people criticising our pride and joy, and we wonder if the next owner will look after it like we have.

This article will focus on selling your car privately rather than part exchanging at a dealer, and as a former car dealer i'll hopefully show you some 'tricks of the trade'.

1 - Preparation

Preparation is key to a quick sale. That doesn't just mean that the car is clean, but what you want to do is remove any possible reasons for a potential buyer not to buy your car.

Lets start by looking at our car. Remember that your car isn't new, and (dependant on age) buyers realise that a used car is not likely to be 100% perfect. In fact there is a case that if your 10 year old runaround looks too perfect, your buyer might start to get suspicious and dismiss your car even if it is really that good. It's reasonable to expect the odd scratch or ding in the bodywork.

So step one is a thorough valet inside and out. Remove any personal items from the car, you want your buyer not to feel like he or she is invading your second home. I never used to clean an engine, as i think a gleaming engine on a well used car looks fishy. Once you are happy with the overall cleanliness you can tell what else may need doing. Faint scratches should be polished out, any stone chips should be touched up in the right colour. If there are any very large dents or damaged bodywork it will be worth getting these professionally remedied. Remember that what you spend now (within reason) will save you having to lower your price to clinch a sale.

Once we are happy with how the car looks we need to make sure that the major features of the car actually work. If you advertise a car that has air-conditioning,but yours doesn't actually work it's going to put off a lot of people. So any big jobs like that should be done unless you want to take a lower price to reflect any issues like that.

Is your car desperate for any mechanical work to be done? If so get it done. I'm not talking about a full service, but if you know the car pulls one way or the other, get the balancing/tracking done. A change of oil and a top up of all the other fluid levels will also help to reassure a buyer that the car has been looked after.

So now we have a car that looks good and hopefully drives well. Now we need to look at the paperwork. Is it all there? Check you have the service records - reciepts for any servicing that has been done are useful, although if you have had the odd bumper spray done i would discard these - it's not important and again will give the buyer doubts as to what else has been done. (particularly if you aren't the first owner). Make sure the registration document is present, and that you have as many annual test certificates (MOT's in the UK) as possible - these also help verify the mileage.

2 - Advertising

There are two main ways to advertise your car and achieve a quick sale - the internet or local newspapers. Obviously there are a number of other ways, but we want to reach as many people as we can as quickly as we can. If you have a relatively inexpensive car local newspapers seem to work really well.But by far the best way of getting the sale is to use one of the major online advertisers.

Photos - As you have put so much effort into prepping your car, you'll want to show it off. I normally took 6 photos - a head on shot,one from the side,one from the rear and one on an angle (like at the top of this page). I would then take two of the interior - one from the rear seat looking at the steering wheel and dashboard, and one from the drivers door looking across the cabin at the two front seats). If you look at other peoples photos you'll see all sorts of random things - a photo of the number plate really isn't going to sell a car, nor is a picture of the spare wheel. What you are trying to achieve is an overall snapshot of the quality of your vehicle.

Specs - It's important to list the majorfeatures of the car, without going overboard. I'd list things like air con, alloy wheels, antilock brakes, and how many airbags. Try to avoid too many abbreviations. Buyers may not understand big lists saying ABS,TCS,PAS,SR,C/L and so on. Remember that your buyer will probably have done some homework on their desired car so will know a lot of the standard spec. If you have a full service history thats good, but if there's even one service missing it's better just to say 'service history'. Also avoid writing things like 'first to see will buy' or 'reluctant sale' - these mean nothing to buyer and are just a waste of words.

Pricing - This is critical. Search for similar cars to get a feel for how much you should set your price at. Too low and it'll look suspicious, too high and no-one will consider it. At this point it doesn't matter what you think it's worth, you have to be competitive whether you suffered a painful amount of depreciation or not.

One last thing - once your advert is placed you are bound to get canvassers calling you guaranteeing to sell your car. Don't take any notice - no-one can guarantee a sale so it's frankly a waste of money.

3 - Selling

The car looks great, drives great and is now advertised well. Now comes the actual sale. If you've set the price right you'll start getting calls and emails. Try to answer any questions honestly so that if your buyer comes to inspect there are no nasty surprises. If you don't know the answer to a question don't make up an answer. This will only catch you out later on and make you look dishonest.

The standard routine is to go for a drive (always go with your customer), and assuming that is all ok, they'll have a close look at the car. Most will look at the engine even though they haven't got the first idea what they are looking for, and most will inspect the paintwork for any missing minuscule specs of paint. At this point don't hover over them, let them take their time and let the car do the talking.

Now we're down to the crunch - they'll either want the car or they'll leave. If they want it they will most likely want to negotiate the price. The buyer will have a price in mind which they are prepared to pay, and you will have your 'bottom line' that you are prepared to accept. The buyer will normally chance his arm and 'go low'. Now is the time you politely refuse and counter offer just above your bottom line. If they are stubborn and refuse to offer more you have two options -

1 - refuse and let them walk

2 - Compromise - maybe move slightly on your price and say that is as far as you are prepared to go. Ask them if there's anything stopping them buying - if you've followed the above advice and done your prep right they won't have a sensible answer. If you have more people lined up to look at the car tell them - they won't want to miss a good car to the next person.

If your customer lets slip that they have brought 'x' amount in cash with them, you can assume that they have come fully intent on leaving with the car - in this case stick to your guns as they will likely buy it anyway, if you give in too early that's a bonus for them but bad for you.

And that's really all you need to know, follow the above and get a quick sale!


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    • profile image

      big mike 

      6 years ago

      well said, thank you

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      good work

    • profile image

      Sell My Car NJ 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for the excellent post.


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