Selling Your Used Car, 6 Things That Could Cost You Real Money

Whether you’re upgrading to a newer model or just trying to clean out the garage for some extra cash, selling a used car yourself is a great way to put a little more cash in your pocket than restoring it using paint protection. While you could spend years learning to sell cars professionally, with a few key points and a couple free weekends you can easily do it yourself. The experience might even help you save a little money if you decide to buy a used car for your next ride or as a fun side project.

Check Used Car Prices

This is an easy enough step, but the key is to be thorough. Don’t just look up the book value, take a look at your local newspaper and other classifieds, or look at online auction sites to see what people are actually willing to pay. You may be surprised, rare cars, like the late nineties Toyota Supra, regularly sell for well over their book value, more common cars, like the late nineties Ford Taurus, often sell for less. When you know what buyers are willing to pay, you can set your asking lower for a quick sale, or set a higher price that’s still realistic.

Make Small Repairs

Over the years a lot of little things can go wrong with even the best cars, and a lot more with cheap ones. When you first bought the car you would be quick to fix any little blemishes, since you still felt pride of ownership. Once you’ve grown accustom to the car and newer models begin to come out, it gets easier to let little things go, but leaving small problems unattended can cost you hundreds when selling your used car, or even blow the deal entirely. Used car buyers tend to be well informed and will have probably looked at a few other cars already, don’t give any reason not to buy your used car.

The other pitfall used car sellers are often guilty of is over-repair. For instance, a new paint job will certainly make any used car look brand new, but at a cost $1,500 or more, it’s unlikely you will make that money back. Also, avoid the temptation to use cheap “patch fixes” to keep the car running when it is in need of serious repair, the last thing you need is an angry buyer coming back threatening to take legal action. Many used car buyers are mechanics or car collectors who look at making repairs as a hobby, and don’t mind buying a used car with problems for a slight break on the price.

Wash and Vacuum

If you have been regularly cleaning, washing and maintaining your used car, then congratulations, your hard work and discipline will soon pay off, if you’ve been too busy to wash the car every few weeks, now is the time to start. While it may not be economical to get a new paint job for your used car, a good wash and wax can work wonders. Car wax not only acts as a protective barrier between the cars paint and the elements, but it’s clear sheen, similar to clear coat, makes faded paint look almost brand new.

Next is the car’s interior, remember when the potential buyer sits down in a used car they are going to imagine what driving it everyday will be like, and no one wants to imagine driving everyday in a dusty used car filled with water bottles and fast food wrappers. If you only have five minutes the two most important things are taking out any trash or personal items, your selling the car not your old CD collection, and vacuuming. If you have more time use some window cleaner on the glass, while you can use it on the dashboard and other interior items if you’re in a hurry, but the best practice is to use a purpose made car interior cleaner, available in car part store and convenient stores.

Try Free Used Car Classifieds

There many great ways to sell your used car online or in print, but unless you’re selling a rare or hard to find car, it’s best to list your used car in a free classified ad service. Even if it doesn’t sell you will at least get an idea of how interested potential buyers are, what features they want and how much they’re willing to pay.

Know the Highs and Lows of Your Used Car

The key to easy negotiating is to being prepared for any questions about your used car before they come up. Your research on the cars price should have turned up some information on common problems with your make/model used car. Most of these problems are usually found only in the earlier models though, as the newer ones have had all the “bugs” worked out. In many cases a well informed used car buyer will already expect these issues and if you have a particular model they have been looking for specifically, they may overlook those issues altogether. For any other problems with your used car the best policy is to be informed. If you decided not to fix something yourself, have a good repair shop give you an estimate of the repair cost. This way when the trouble spot comes up in discussion you won’t have to discount the price any more than necessary. Also, remember to keep things on a positive note, have a list of extra features or recent repairs and upgrades. That way every time the buyer mentions a problem, after explaining it, you can redirect their attention to some positive aspect of your used car.

A Few Final Tips

Obviously there’s quite a lot to keep track of when selling a used car yourself and all of it is important, however, there are also a few little things that are well worth remembering. First and foremost: have a way back. If you’re meeting a potential buyer on the other side of town, have a friend drive out with you or waiting for you to call. If possible, try to show the car closer to where you live, ideally you could just walk home. Second, remember to bring the car’s title, if you don’t keep it in the glovebox, and a pen to sign it with. Last bring a screwdriver, usually flat-head, to remove the license plate, unless you like paying for other people’s traffic tickets. And remember to lighten up, you’re selling a used car, not negotiating international finance, and there’s no reason to put up with rude or pushy buyers.

S Christopher Penn is a Real Estate and E-commerce professional writing about his favorite products, hobbies, and ways to make/save money. To see a combination of all three check out

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