Many people buy used cars directly from their owners. I’m one of the “many,” mostly so I can avoid the high pressure sales hassle of going to a used car lot…and the expensive commission! There is a lot of room for mistakes when selling your used car, from pricing and advertising, to negotiating and finalizing. Allow me to optimize your used car’s payout potential with 10 simple steps to help anyone turn their used car into new cash.
Step 1: Research The Used Car Market
How do you know if your car going to be hard or easy to sell? What is “hot” in the used car market at the moment and where is the best place to research used cars like yours?
Here are some general rules about the used car market that stand the test of time:
Family sedans are in constant demand by those in need of basic, inexpensive transportation. Boring…but “old faithful” never goes out of style.
Convertibles and sports cars are seasonal sellers. Sales will be high when the sun is too. Fall and winter will cool their appeal…and lower your profit if you sell them then.
Trucks and vans are steady sellers with anyone who needs them for work. Price them competitively and they’ll sell well any time of year.
Collector cars usually take longer to sell and can be difficult to appraise and price correctly. Yet, to the right buyer, these cars can be worth much more than you thought.
NOTE: Read my article at GearheadDIVA.com on “How To Appraise The Value Of A Used Car.”
First check out some on-line classified ads to find how your type of car is priced. Search your car’s specific make and model on Internet sites like Edmunds.com “Used Vehicle Locator.” See how many similar cars are currently on the market, and figure out their price range. In addition to asking and selling prices, be sure to note the cars’ condition, mileage, and location. Each of these variables can effect a used car’s price greatly.
Step 2: Determine A Reasonable Asking Price For Your Used Car
After you finish researching on-line used cars, you can use Edmunds.com “True Market Value” (TMV®) to determine the fair market value of your used car. The prices there are adjusted for mileage, color, region, options and condition. While you’re on their website, you can also print a “For Sale” sign for your windshield. Some believe that an Edmunds.com “For Sale” sign will give your used car’s asking price credibility.
With all rules of pricing, there are always exceptions. So ask a little more for your used car than you’ll settle for and be flexible with your asking price. For example, list your car for $10,500, if you want to get $10,000 for the car.
Used car dealers prices usually end in “995,” as in $9,995. Their prices are based in the science of psychology. A product that didn’t sell at $20 might at $19.95. But, a private party seller does NOT want to look like a used car dealer. You can simply set your asking price at a round figure such as $9,750 or $10,500.
Step 3: Get Your Car Ready To Make A Great First Impression
Potential buyers who come to view your car may make up their minds within seconds. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so be sure their first look is positive.
Before you even advertise your used car for sale, it must look clean and attractive AKA have “curb appeal.”. Here is a “curb appeal” check list to turn your oldie into a goodie:
Wash and vacuum your car. Ideally, you should have it detailed.
Clean the inside and outside of all windows and all mirrors.
Wash the dashboard, ashtrays, cup holders and all organizers.\
Clean the tire rims and treat the tires with a tire gloss product.
Make sure your car functions mechanically and is free of dents, dings and scratches.
If it is not, read my articles here on “How To Get Rid Of Car Dents” and “Scratches.”
Consider making low-cost repairs yourself rather than selling it “as is.”
Read my articles here on “How To Repair” just about anything on your car.
Remove EVERYTHING of yours from the vehicle, so potential buyers can visualize it as their own when they give it a test drive.
Have all your car’s maintenance records readily available.
If your car is due for servicing or an oil change, do these before listing it.
Have your mechanic issue a report to assure buyers of it’s good condition.
Get a Carfax report. This shows potential buyers know the car’s title is clean and it’s odometer reading is accurate. Carfax invested a lot of money in TV advertising. So, their brand name is strong and buyers will feel secure when they see it.
Step 4: Advertise Your Used Car For Sale
Most sellers advertise used cars in newspaper classified ads. They are expensive, but get results. Internet classified ads (like the Edmunds.com Used Vehicle Locator mentioned earlier) are a less expensive option that is becoming more popular every year. On-line ads reach a geographically wider area, and are most effective for rare, collector cars.
Here are the most popular advertising methods for used cars:
Internet classified ads
Newspaper classified ads
Word of mouth
“For Sale” signs in the car window
If you do choose to pay for an expensive, newspaper classified ad, be ready and available to take lots of phone call questions and make appointments for viewings. No matter how many stupid questions you’ve answered that day, you MUST be polite on the phone. A good first impression during the phone call is the first step to getting buyers for a viewing.
Step 5: Write A Concise Used Car Ad That Says More With Less Words
When it comes to paying for expensive, newspaper classified ads, a small amount of little words must be used to convey a lot about your used car. Your ad must include your car’s price, year, make, model and trim level, mileage, color, condition and options. You can say more in less space by using the following abbreviations and phrases:
Must Sell!: This often means the owner must sell the car at a low price in a short time.
OBO: This means “or best offer” and says the seller is willing to hear offers below the asking price.
Asking Price: This means the seller will negotiate about the final sale price of the car.
Firm: This means the seller will NOT negotiate, and will wait until they get their price.
Step 6: Host Used Car Viewings For Prospective Buyers
Use common sense, and a little intuition, to evaluate prospective buyers. If a person seems difficult, too aggressive, untruthful or untrustworthy on the phone, take their information, but do NOT schedule a viewing for them yet. Wait for other buyers and save them as a “last resort.” Easy going buyers will make selling a used car easy too.
Some sellers feel unsafe at the thought of having strangers come to their home to view their used car. If you don’t wish to show your car at your house, arrange to do so at a nearby park or shopping center. Remember the final buyer will see your address on the car title.
When you sell your used car, people will also be evaluating you as the previous owner. Buyers may be thinking, “Do I trust this seller?” Buyers may be uneasy about the big decision and large sum of money.
Potential buyers will test-drive your car. Before they do, check to make sure they have a driver license! Always ride along with them, to protect your vehicle, give directions to those unfamiliar with your area, and to answer any questions about your car’s history and performance.
Potential buyers may ask to take your car to their mechanic for inspection. An inspection report from your mechanic may ease their minds, pr they may still insist on their own. If you feel uncomfortable or doubt their trust, decline the buyer’s offer or ride along with them.
Step 7: Negotiate Your Used Car’s Price
When a potential buyer comes to look at your car, expect them to make an offer once it passes their approval. Know that most people are NOT comforta