How to Sell a Used Car to Get the Most Money


May 12, 2017

Are you ready to sell your car? You’ve enjoyed some good times together, but maybe it’s time for an upgrade or you need more space for a growing family.

While you may shed a tear or two, remember that no car stays with you forever. The trick, though, is to make sure when you sell a used car, you get the most money possible for it.

If you hope to sell your car quickly, it can be tempting to take the first offer that pops up. Resist that urge and remind yourself you will be better off if you take the time to approach it like a business deal. That’s what it is, after all. It’s a business transaction that will help you finance your next purchase: the replacement car. It pays to get the most cash possible for your current vehicle.

With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to sell your car to get the biggest profit.

Find Out How Much Your Car is Worth

This is the first thing you should do. To determine an asking price, you need to know what your car is worth, because anyone who looks at it will most likely research your car’s value on Kelley Blue Book®. You will need to set your car’s price with that number in mind.

Don’t just take Kelley Blue Book® into account, however. You should also look at a range of car appraisal sites to determine the right price. Be honest about any issues with the car, such as nicks in the paint, malfunctions or missing parts.

Determine Your Car’s Asking Price

After you’ve researched your car’s worth, you can work on determining your asking price. You should know whether your type of car is in demand. Convertibles, for instance, might sell for a higher price in the summer, when people are looking to cruise with the top down.

You should also check online classified ads to see what cars with the same make, model and accessories cost. Take into account the mileage on the vehicles.

Remember to leave room for negotiation when you set the price, too. While you don’t want to accept a lowball offer, you do want to leave enough wiggle room in your asking price so you can lower it and still get the money you want.

Get Your Car in Shape

Once you’ve priced your car, you’ll need to present it in top form to appeal to buyers. You should take photos of it to post online, but you’ll also need to keep the car in good condition for when a potential buyer visits. That means you must:

  • Make any repairs necessary that would keep the car from passing inspection.
  • Wash the outside of the car and have it detailed to make the inside shine.
  • Clean all windows and mirrored surfaces.
  • Store maintenance records in the glove box for easy access.
  • Collect important paperwork and make it available to potential buyers.

You may also consider having a trusted mechanic look the car over and give it a clean bill of health.

Sell Your Used Car Privately

With social media and online classifieds, selling a used car privately has never been easier. You can let your friends on Facebook® and Twitter® know you’re looking to sell a car, and within hours you could receive several inquiries. Keep these tips in mind as you move through the selling process:

  • Use social media, peer-to-peer sites and online classifieds to help you advertise, but also employ word of mouth by discussing the sale at work or school.
  • Meet potential buyers in public places, especially if it’s someone you’ve never met before. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you.
  • Always look presentable when meeting with a potential buyer. They may judge your car by how you present yourself.
  • Trust your gut. If you get a bad vibe from a potential buyer, don’t be afraid to turn them away.
  • Only discuss price in person after a potential buyer has seen the car.
  • Be ready for the unexpected when you sell privately. Have answers prepared for questions about the car’s history and any repairs that may be necessary.
  • Read the PennDOT rules governing vehicle sales in PA. Be sure to have the title available to hand over when it’s time.
  • Beware of online scams. Only take a cashier’s check or cash for your private car sale and only accept payment in person. You don’t want to get ripped off by someone offering a bogus personal check or entering fake information online.

Sell Your Car Fast

If you’re really in a hurry to move your car, you can do a few things to help it sell faster. Try posting your classified ad on a Sunday, when car dealerships close and people may rely on other sources to find available cars. Make your parameters clear when you post the ad, such as confirming you will not take a personal check, to discourage those who aren’t serious from contacting you. Don’t be afraid to tell potential buyers when you have multiple offers to help negotiate the price, but don’t lie about other offers if there aren’t any. When you’re honest and straightforward in your attempt to sell your car, others will appreciate it and be happy to do business with you.

Looking to buy a new or used vehicle? PSECU can help. We offer loans for a wide range of vehicles. Read about the best used cars for young buyers here or learn more about money management on our WalletWorks page.

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Kelley Blue Book® is a registered trademark of the Kelley Blue Book Co., Inc.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal or other professional if you have questions.