Having recently sold a car to a private party for the third time, I thought it would be a good idea to share my knowledge and provide some best practices I've learned along the way. In my opinion, while the process can be a little stressful and time consuming, it is well worth the large increase in value you will receive over trading it in or selling to a dealer. This three-part series will walk you through the entire process and give you the confidence to sell privately and maximize your return!
Part I – List your car for sale (the right way)
The most important part of the sales process is creating an effective advertisement for your car and listing it in the right places. This step will ultimately determine the price you get for your car and whether you end up selling it at a premium or a discount.
Keys to Success
Pay for a professional detailing.
This will pay for itself and then some. Image is everything in selling a car and yours must look as good as those being sold by dealers in order to compete with dealer prices.
Take great pictures, and take a lot of them.
A listing with sparse photos or poor photos creates a negative impression and potential buyers may skip on your car completely. A wealth of great pictures shows buyers that you are proud of your car and you are meticulous, good qualities to portray to someone looking to buy your car.
Describe your car well and be forthcoming with any issues.
A good description should highlight your cars best features while not coming across like a salesperson. My advice is to browse other listings for a description you like and use it as a template for your own. I also believe you should disclose any known issues within the listing as it displays integrity and trustworthiness, which are key to completing a private sale.
Buy a CarFax.
Every potential buyer will want and expect one. Pay the $40 and include it in your ads, or at least specify it is available upon request. You’ll also want to review it for any surprises and be prepared to answer any questions that it invites.
Price your car fairly.
Use Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds to find a fair price based on your car’s condition, then look at local postings for cars similar to yours (same make and model) and use them to adjust your price to be competitive. If your price is too high you won’t get any interest; you’ll have to change the price later, and as a result you’ll have an ad that has been listed for a longer time than average, generating skepticism for the buyer (“this car looks good, but why hasn’t it sold yet?”).
Throw a wide net.
You should list your car in as many places as possible to reach as many buyers as possible. Utilize all the free services that are available: Craigslist, Cars.com, neighborhood/company listservs, online forums, etc. When it comes to paid listings, I would only recommend Autotrader because of how much market share it has in the car buying marketplace, and I would only recommend it after you’ve given the free services a week or two and you’re unhappy with the response.
Part III - Completing the sale and tying up loose ends