Remember when you drove your car home for the first time and how excited you were? It was all new and you were so happy. But now, well, not so much. You know it’s time you replaced old Blue or whatever you’d nicknamed your car but you think maybe you could do better selling it yourself rather than trading it in. Selling a car can be scary and a bit complicated but here are eight tips that could help make the process as smooth as the way your car rode the day you purchased it.
Tip #1: Do your homework
The first thing you need to do is study your local market. Go online to see what other people are asking for your car’s make and model. Read Craiglslist and search Google to get a sense as to what it’s worth. One of the tricks to selling a car quickly is how you price it. If you price it too low, people may think it’s a junker. But if you price it too high, you’re likely to drive away prospects that feel they could get the same vehicle cheaper from someone else.
Tip #2: Timing is important
It’s also important to time your sale if possible. If you’re selling a convertible or sports car, it would be much better to sell it in the spring or summer than when winter’s approaching. On the other hand if you’re selling a four-door kid carrier, it might not be as sexy as a low-slung coupe but you should be able to sell it any time of the year. And ditto for vans and trucks that tend to hold their values. You could have a pick-up with some dings and dents and 80,000 miles on its odometer but you should be able to get a good price for it because there’s almost always a market for used trucks.
Tip #3: Make it sparkle
Before you show it, make sure you clean everything out of `the interior (and bed if applicable) and have it washed and waxed. First impressions are critical and curb appeal is important. Get everything out of the cabin, trunk and even the glove compartment – excluding the owner’s manual. This can give prospects the feeling that they’re driving their next car and not just your old one. Many people will react to a car in the first few minutes so you might also get any minor dents and dings fixed before you list it – unless the car is a total beater. In this case you might sell it “as is” or if you don’t think you’ll be able to sell it in a reasonable amount of time, consider giving it to a charity and taking the tax write off. You should also top off all the fluids and get its oil changed. A smart buyer will check the dipstick and you would want it to come back a bright tawny gold and not a gunky black.
Tip #4: Have all your information
You did hang on to all your repair records, didn’t you? It’s best if you did. You could then be candid about any major problems you’d encountered or any repairs you’d had made. It’s even better to have the car inspected by a mechanic and have the report ready to show. A smart buyer will want to have the car inspected and you wouldn’t want his mechanic to discover something that would need to be repaired.
Tip #5: Advertise it everywhere
Most people look for cars online these days. In fact, this is what has almost killed off newspaper classified ads for vehicles. You will naturally want to list it on Craigslist but also on Cars.com, Autotrader.com, eBay classified and any local paper where you could post an ad free. You could also use Facebook and Twitter to get out the word that you’re in a selling mood. Also, don’t underestimate the power of putting a sign on your car with its year, mileage and your contact information. Online sites like Kelly Bluebook (kbb.com) and Edmunds.com are good places to find advice for selling your car. In fact, Edmunds has a free tool for appraising your car’s value where you can type in its make, model, mileage, color, options and condition. It will even show you its popularity by region. For example, town cars move better in the northeast than in the Rocky Mountains while pickups are more popular in the south and rural west. The important thing is to remember that old proverb that the wider you cast your net, the more fish you’re likely to catch.
Tip #6: Dress for success
There’s a reason why successful automobile sales people always look sharp and well dressed. Whether you will be showing your car in your driveway or a nearby parking lot you need to understand that you are selling yourself as well as your vehicle. You don’t have to wear a suit but you should dress nicely and neatly. If you look as if you took good care of yourself, prospective buyers will be inclined to think you also took good care of the car. Your prospect will want to test drive the car so be prepared to ask to see his or her driver’s license and proof of insurance.
Tip #7: Ask for a bit more
A good strategy is to ask for a bit more than you would be willing to accept for your vehicle. This leaves room for negotiations. As a rule, most prospects will try to bring down your price in $500-$1000 increments. For example, if you’re willing to take $9000 for that vehicle, try asking for $10,500. Of course, if your perspective buyer shows up and is ready to cut you a check for the asking price, accept it. But if they want to negotiate the price down and you leave some wiggle room, you should be able to get fair value and your buyer will be happy as she or he has been able to wheel and deal with you. This makes it a win-win situation.
Tip #8: Get cash or a cashier’s check
Above all, be realistic about your asking price. You need to try to look at your car objectively, see what it’s worth and price it accordingly. Some of us tend to fall in love with our cars and overvalue them. But if you do price it right, you should see a fairly quick sale at which time you want to make sure that you get a cash payment or cashier’s check. Don’t take a standard check. You could end up holding a worthless piece of paper while your buyer ends up with your car.
Some quick tips for negotiating the sale
When you’re negotiating the deal there are some things to keep in mind. For example, if your buyer says “I like the car lot ..” and then gets silent, you should ask how much he or she would be willing to pay for the vehicle. If you get the question “what’s your best price?” this is a direct approach plus a way of probing how much you would be willing to sell the car for. If you do get this question, don’t look as if you were too eager to lower the price. Try to stay firm at least for now.
“Would you accept?. …” If you get this question it means you are in serious negotiation mode. Your prospect has thought about the purchase and is making an offer while still giving you room to make a counter offer. Finally, if you get a “take it or leave it,” this means your buyer is playing hardball. However, this could also be a bluff. In either event, your buyer is close to his or her bottom-line offer. If you want to make sure it’s not a bluff just let him or her leave. You could get a call the next day with your price or you may need to continue negotiating until the two of you can reach agreement.
Finally, here’s a video with some good tips for selling a car on Craigstlist but they should be helpful whether you’ve listed it on Craigslist or not.