Who Buys Used Cars? Options for Selling Your Used Vehicle

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - July 30, 2020

If your jalopy is on its last leg, you may be wondering how to get rid of your old car so you can get into a new ride. The good news is that you typically have a few options for selling your used vehicle before you take out an auto loan.

Selling Your Car Privately

One good option for getting an old vehicle off your hands is to sell it yourself. Called a private sale, this process puts you in control of the entire sale of your car. This means it's up to you how much work goes into the vehicle before it's sold, and how you handle the sales process itself.

But there's more to selling a car yourself than putting a sign in the window. In fact, there's quite a bit of legwork to be done before you can sell the vehicle and sign over the title to someone else.

Preparing to Sell a Used Vehicle

1) Know your vehicle's value

The first thing you need to know is how much your car is worth. To find the estimated value of your vehicle, you can use online valuation sites such as Kelley Blue Book or NADAguides. These sites generate an approximate value based on your answers to questions about your car’s year, make, model, mileage, trim level, color, and overall condition.

It pays to be honest when you're filling in the information in order to get the most accurate estimate of value. If you misrepresent the vehicle, you may end up with an estimate that's far above or below the actual amount of money you're likely to get for the car.

2) Set the selling price

Now that you know how much you could possibly value your vehicle at, it's time to set a price. Be sure not to price people out – set your sales price a little higher than the amount you'd like to get (a little wiggle room is good for negotiations), but don't go overboard.

For example, if the estimated value of your car is around $4,025, you could potentially ask for $4,500, but asking for $5,000 isn't likely to get you as many shoppers.

Additionally, if you're selling your vehicle yourself, you need to be sure and have all your paperwork together before you park your car by the road with a sale sign in the window. Visit your local department of motor vehicles or secretary of state, either in person or online, to find what the specific requirements for private auto sales are in your state.

Typically, you should have the title, a vehicle history report, and any of your car's service records (if you have the receipts). Rules and regulations for selling a vehicle yourself can vary by state, so it's possible you may need more or less documentation.

3) Clean up for curb appeal

It's also important to make your car appeal to potential buyers – a clean vehicle is a happy vehicle after all! You don't have to detail the car or make any major repairs, but a good thorough cleaning both inside and out can do you good. Focus on the areas of the vehicle that buyers are likely to look more closely at, like the driver's seat, the center console, and the doors.

If there are major issues, it helps to be honest when you're talking to potential buyers. Hiding a huge hole in the backseat by throwing down a blanket isn't appropriate, for instance.

If your car is generating interest as people go by, or gaining visibility online from any advertising you're doing, you're likely to start getting calls with questions about your vehicle.

Make sure you screen potential buyers well, and never agree to anything that seems suspicious. The same goes for setting up test drives. It's a good practice to always have someone with you when you're preparing to meet with a potential buyer – safety first.

4) Make the sale

When you find a buyer that's looking for what you've got to sell, congratulations! Now you need to make sure you conduct your sale in an acceptable and legal manner. This means following the laws in your state, and generating a bill of sale. In some cases you may have to accompany the buyer to a bank, credit union, or a DMV/SOS to complete the sale, paperwork, and sign over the title.

Remember that if you still owe a lender for your car, you need their permission to sell it, and must pay off your loan before you can transfer a title to a new owner. If you owe less than your vehicle is worth, you can repay your lender and keep any extra funds to put toward your next auto loan.

Alternatives to Private Sales

If selling your car yourself sounds like a bit too much for you right now, there's an easier way to get rid of your old vehicle while getting your next auto loan at the same time: trade it in.

When you trade in a car to a dealership, you avoid having to do the legwork on the rules and regulations for yourself. You still have to gather documentation, and should always check the estimated trade-in value of your vehicle first. If you don't, you won't be in as good of a position to negotiate how much you can get.

Unfortunately, you might not get as much money for your trade-in as you could if you sell your car yourself. The good news in this case is that appraisal offers are typically good for around a week, which means you can take your car to several dealers to see where you can get the best price.

A good rule of thumb is to take your vehicle to at least three dealerships, making sure at least one is a franchised dealer that sells your make and model of car. You should also look for a dealership that has a good selection of vehicles for you to choose from, so you can finance your next car at the same time.

However, if you're struggling with credit challenges, it's a good idea to go to a dealer that works with subprime lenders. These lenders assist bad credit borrowers, but can be harder to find if you don't know what you're looking for. Here at CarsDirect, though, we know where to go to find dealerships that work with credit challenges.

Ready to Trade In Your Car for Another?

When you're ready to trade in your used vehicle and look for something new, CarsDirect wants to be your first stop! Not only can you research new and used cars right here on our site, you can get matched to a local dealer.

By simply filling out our fast, free, and no-obligation auto loan request form, we can get you connected to a dealership near you that works with the subprime lenders you may need when you're struggling with bad credit. Don't hesitate any longer, get started now!

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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