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Tips for Selling Your Old Car

Updated on July 13, 2009

Did you know that trading your car into the dealer is the worst way to sell a car? Yes, it is easier, but they typically do not give you very much money for your old car when you are buying a new one. For example, we were just offered $1300 for our trade in at the dealer, when the Kelley Blue Book value is three times that amount. No, thank you! So how is the best way to sell you old car? Definitely selling it yourself will get you the most money, but what avenue should you take?

There are so many options these days when it comes to selling a car. Our preferred method is Craigslist. We sold our last car in just five days for full price. We have our van listed right now on Craigslist too. There are no fees involved and you are typically dealing only locally, which is a big plus in my book.

EBay is another option for selling cars. I haven't used this method, but we came very, very close to buying one off of EBay and I sell other items on EBay all the time. There are lots of fees involved with EBay. You pay a listing fee, a Buy It Now fee, a reserve fee, a final value fee and of course, if you accept PayPal (their preferred form of payment, and mine too) you pay a fee when you receive money as well. All those fees can add up to hundreds of dollars when you are talking about a big ticket item like a vehicle. You do reach a larger market than most other avenues, but do you want to deal out of state? Do you want to try to ship the car? Sounds like more trouble than it is worth to me, but it is an option.

The newspaper is the good old fashioned way to sell a car, but have you looked through your for sale ads lately? In my paper they used to be several sections each day of for sale items, with lots of vehicles listed. Now, there is one small section and very few vehicles listed. People just aren't looking in the paper to buy things like they used to. Using the internet is the preferred method for most people.

You can also try parking your car on a street corner with a for sale sign in the window. We did this with our last car and had dozens of people stop by to look at it and test drive it. The more people you can get to drive it the more likely you will be to sell it quickly.

Another online option is Autotrader. This is how we found our new van and we also have our old van listed here as well as Craigslist. Autotrader reaches a large market like Ebay, which is what we wanted. I found the listing to be very easy to do and the price starts at $29, less than the newspaper.

Selling a car does take some work, but by doing the work upfront, you should be able to sell it quickly once you list it. The most important thing you can do is clean your car as well as you possibly can. Get every speck of dirt out, wash it well, vacuum it out, and spray some freshener in it. Make it shine like never before. Even if you didn't really keep it clean while you drove it, people will think you did. A clean car will always sell faster than a dirty one.  Once the car is clean, take lots of good pictures of it.  Then you can email anyone interested in the car.

When listing your car up for sale, be very truthful about any problems. People want to know this upfront. It will save you time and hassle dealing with people that aren't truly interested. List every good aspect of the car, but also mention any problems. For instance, our power door locks don't work very well. I mentioned in my ad that they were finicky. Try not to be too negative, but definitely mention any issues you have at the moment. Keep good maintenance records on your cars and you can easily show people how well you have taken care of them. This is a big plus for buyers. They want to see that you did the appropriate work as needed.

Speaking of maintenance, if there is any small maintenance tasks that could be completed easily; do them before listing the car for sale. Spending a hundred dollars to fix a few things gone wrong will bring much more than that at a sale. People do not like for things to be wrong with a car they are buying. Fix what you can ahead of time and your car will stand out above the rest.

Finally, be very realistic about the price you might get for your vehicle. If the Kelly Blue Book value is $5000, don't expect to get $8000. Also, check out more than just the Kelly Blue Book. Check Autotrader too for what other similar vehicles are selling for in your area. Different parts of the country will sell cars at different prices, so make sure you take that into consideration. If you want a fast sell, see what other similar cars or selling for in your area and list yours for a few hundred less. Chances are very good your car will sell in just a few days.

Selling a car does take some effort, but if you spend ten hours fixing up the car, listing the car, test driving it with people and completing the sale, and you triple the money you would have gotten for a trade in, don't you think it is worth it? For us it will be like earning $260 an hour. That is money worth working for. Good luck with selling your car.


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