Tips for Selling a Car

March 16, 2012

Information on selling a car yourself, fees charged by third party sellers, how to prepare your car for sale, and how to make your ad stand out.

Selling a car for top dollar isn't just a matter of having ace negotiation skills. In many instances, you don't necessarily have to be a shrewd negotiator to get the price you want—as long as you follow a few important tips.

9 Tips for Selling a Car

To get the best price for your car, implement at least a few of the following tips:

  • First, find out what your car is worth. You can find the approximate value of a used car by referring to the Kelley Blue Book website. However, since Blue Book values don't take into consideration the actual condition of any particular vehicle, you must have your car inspected by a professional mechanic to find out what it's really worth. This also gives you the opportunity to repair minor car problems that may be seen as a limitation by potential buyers.
  • Get the vehicle completely cleaned, waxed and polished so that it looks attractive. Consider getting it done by professionals so that the interiors of the car, particularly hard to reach areas, are free of dust and odor.
  • Keep all relevant car documents handy. Make sure that the vehicle has no title issues, so that you don't dissuade potential buyers. Along with the VIN number, provide buyers with a vehicle history report and car maintenance records. If all these pertinent documents are available, you're likely to sell the car at a good price.
  • As a general guideline, don't modify the vehicle. Cars that have been modified not only have a limited appeal, but also face insurance problems. Most insurance companies quote higher premiums for vehicles that have been modified. Since this will be taken into consideration by any buyer, avoid tampering with the car.
  • If you're selling a car that's still under factory warranty, you're likely to get a good price. Moreover, if you've purchased an extended warranty that's transferable to the new owner, take advantage of this feature and quote a higher price.
  • Don't trade in your car. You're will get a better price if you sell the vehicle yourself. Moreover, it's cheaper to sell your car online than to use the services of a dealer. Remember, all dealers will charge you a certain fee or a small percentage of the sale price if you use them to sell the vehicle
  • Avoid carrying out expensive vehicle repairs if you wish to sell the car. Explain any vehicle issues to the buyer and use proper negotiation tactics to get a reasonable price.
  • When placing an ad, include the important information in a concise and eye-catching manner. Be explicit about your asking price and state if it is firm (you're not going to negotiate) or if not, include the acronym "OBO" (Or Best Offer).
  • After advertising the vehicle for sale, make sure you respond to interested buyers promptly. Also offer to show the vehicle to the buyer, at any convenient location and take with you all your vehicle documents.

You don't need to sell the vehicle if you're not satisfied with the price you're being offered by sellers. Instead, wait a few weeks and try advertising the car once again.

Fees Involved for 3rd Party Sellers

You need to understand the various fees involved in the sale of a car for a third party seller, or an individual trying to sell his or her used car.

Title Transfer
The primary fee associated with selling a car is the title transfer fee. The process of transferring a title of a vehicle is what ensures that the car is properly under the ownership of the new buyer. The title of the car is the document you receive when you buy the car. It serves as a certificate to prove that you own the vehicle. If you buy or sell a car through a dealership, the dealer will take care of all of this paperwork and the fees that come along with it.

If you're selling a car on your own, you have to undertake the process of transferring the title on your own. Visit your local DMV and obtain a copy of your state's title transfer application. Fill out the application with the buyer of the car and pay a fee to the DMV to process the paperwork. This fee varies by state, but it's not typically more than around $20.

Vehicle Inspection Report
The vehicle inspection report is a necessary component of selling a car and is sometimes required for the title transfer application to go through. You can hire a separate, third party company to come in and inspect your vehicle. This is to give both the buyer and the seller a sense of the overall quality and the value of the car. These services may cost upwards of $100.

Odometer Check
Some states require that you have a professional certify the odometer reading of the car before you sell it to a new buyer. If this is the case, your DMV can help you find someone to do this. The odometer reading is easy to do and requires a professional only because it's necessary to ensure the accuracy of the reading. These readings can be done for a nominal fee of under $20, in most cases.

How to Sell a Salvage Car

One of the most popular options for people who have cars that are either extremely old or have been damaged beyond repair is to find a salvage lot to sell salvaged parts to. A salvage lot is a type of dealership that holds vehicles that have been severely damaged in one way or another. The lot typically will not sell damaged cars as whole items, but will rather split up the car into parts that can be reused and other parts that are useful only for scrap metal. Due to lemon laws in most states, it's illegal to sell cars below a certain quality level unless they're specifically for salvage. If you suspect your vehicle may have been totaled or would otherwise fall into this category, consider selling it to a salvage lot to make the most money possible.

Determine Which Parts Are Viable
The most valuable parts of the vehicle are those that are still viable and can be used on other vehicles. Survey the car and determine which parts are untouched and could be resold for additional money.

If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, you can have a mechanic or a certified inspector look at your car for you. Be sure to explain exactly what happened to bring about the damage to the vehicle, so they can accurately assess which parts can be used again.

Find a Suitable Salvage Yard
Most urban areas have at least one salvage car lot. If you live in a larger city or urban region, you may have multiple lots at your disposal. Determine the options in your area by looking online and in the phone directory.

Contact Salvage Lots for Price Quotes
One of the most important steps for making the most money on your salvage car is to shop around. Contact each of the salvage lots you've found and ask about how much they'd be willing to pay for each of the usable parts from your car based upon their condition. If you're unsatisfied with your answers, look to online auction sites like eBay to get a sense for how much similar parts sell for in typical situations. If it's more profitable to sell the parts individually, consider doing that instead.

Ask salvage lots about how much they'll pay for scrap metal too, as the rest of the car should be sold for scrap to maximize your value.