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Tips for Selling Your Car Hassle Free

Tips for Selling Your Car Hassle Free

In many cases, selling your car privately can be more worth your while than trading it in at a dealership. The experience can be a positive one if you do your research and strategize from the beginning. Following these simple guidelines can help you sell your car without any hiccups along the way.

Do Your Homework Before Setting a Price

If you're looking to sell your car privately, it's important to set a reasonable price for it. Cars advertised at unreasonably high prices are often ignored entirely. On the other hand, if you set your price too low, you may not get as much for your car as you should.

Kelley Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealers Association are good resources for finding out what your car is worth. You can compare the sales history of similar cars and scope out local competition.

Many factors, such as mileage, cleanliness and warranty status, impact a car's value. A valid warranty that's transferable may even be worth additional cash.

You may want to start with a number that's a bit higher than your car is worth to leave room for negotiation.

Organize the Paperwork Ahead of Time

There's a lot of paperwork involved in selling cars. Some cars sell in a single day, so make sure that you have everything you need for a legal sale just in case you happen to find a buyer right away. The most successful car sales have thick paper trails and rarely end in dispute.

Laws vary from state to state, but these documents are usually required:

  • The title.
    • When the sale is finalized, you'll sign the car title and give it to the new owner.
  • The bill of sale.
    • The bill of sale should list all the terms and conditions that you and the buyer agreed to. This protects both parties in the event of a dispute. The document typically contains a description of the vehicle, the vehicle identification number (VIN), the names of the buyer and seller, the odometer reading and the final sale price. The condition of the car should be thoroughly described. The intent is to make it clear that the car is being sold as is and that the new owner is assuming all responsibility.
  • Warranty documentation.
    • If an existing warranty is transferable, provide the new owner with documentation.
  • Release of liability.
    • If the car is damaged or in an accident before the new owner has registered it, you could be held liable. Have the buyer sign this document for your legal protection.
  • Maintenance records.
    • You should have documentation of scheduled maintenance, tire replacements, repairs, upgrades and any other records of caring for your car. If you're missing items, request copies from the dealership or mechanic where you had the work done. Ideally, you should produce these when you start negotiating with potential buyers. Being able to show that the car was kept in top shape might fetch a better price.

Ensure That Your Car Looks Its Best

Investing in a detail job, a paint touch-up or new floor mats could pay big rewards. No matter how well your car runs or how little mileage is on it, a potential buyer's first impression could make or break the deal. Replace broken taillights or worn tires. At the very least, shampoo the carpets and upholstery and wash and wax the exterior.

Take a Number of Photographs

Take pictures in good light from several different angles. Close-ups are especially important. Take both interior and exterior shots that include the following:

  • Front.
  • Rear.
  • Both sides.
  • Front and back seats.
  • Carpets.
  • Dashboard.
  • Odometer.
  • Trunk.
  • Wheels.
  • Engine.

Create an Ad That Stands Out

Start your ad with the car's top selling features. Low mileage, cleanliness, single ownership and storage in a garage appeal to car shoppers. If you don't smoke in the car, say so.

Mention that you have maintenance records, and be sure to appeal to a potential buyer's lifestyle. You might say, “A reliable car that gets great gas mileage for commuting" or “Perfect for young families."

There are several free online services for posting your ad; Craigslist is probably the best known. You may also print fliers and take advantage of bulletin boards at your library, college, church or grocery store. Word of mouth often gets good results. Tell your friends and relatives, hairstylist, banker and dry cleaner what you're up to. Ask them to spread the word.

Put Your Personal Safety First

Don't become the victim of a crime in the process of selling your car. There are steps that you should take to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft or personal harm:

  • Screen incoming calls, emails and texts.
    • Go with your gut instinct. If a buyer seems more interested in getting personal information than learning about your car, cut off communication.
    • One strong indication of danger is a caller's willingness to buy your car without seeing it first. Only arrange test drives with serious inquirers.
  • Schedule test drives in public areas.
    • Take a friend or relative along if possible. Never agree to drive the car to the buyer's house.
  • Carefully inspect the buyer's driver's license.
  • Discuss forms of payment in advance.
    • If the buyer wants to pay with a personal check or money order, insist on meeting them at their bank to close the transaction. Don't give them the title until you have the funds in hand.
  • Inspect all documents, such as maintenance records, that you'll be giving to the buyer. Use a black marker to hide personal information like credit card numbers.

Selling your car doesn't have to be a hassle. The time and effort that you put into paperwork, presentation and advertising beforehand can make the process a lot easier.

Next: Trade-In or Sell?