How to sell a car in 6 steps – Forbes Advisor


Editorial Note: We earn a commission on partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.

Buying a new car is exciting. Selling your old one, however, can sometimes be more difficult depending on the route you take.

The used car market can be unpredictable, and once you figure out what your car is worth, it doesn’t mean that all interested buyers will pay that amount.

Follow these six steps to sell your car and get more for your money.

Compare rates and save on your car loan

Get up to 4 loan offers in minutes at

1. Clean your car

Presentation is an important part of selling your car. Before registering the car, remove all garbage or personal items from the vehicle. Remove all bumper stickers, other non-essential stickers, and license plate covers.

Check the glove box, center console, trunk, and all other storage pockets, then throw out all personal items. Also lift the floor mats to make sure they are free of stray objects.

Also be sure to clean the entire car using a hand vacuum or visit a car wash to use their vacuum. Wipe a microfiber cloth over all hard surfaces to remove dust.

Wash the exterior of the car and polish all minor scratches. You don’t need to pay for all the details, but a professional car wash can be worth the cost. If you don’t have time to do it or prefer to pay for a professional to clean your car, you can always find someone to do an automotive retail by finding businesses online, Facebook Marketplace, or sometimes car washes will offer a retail for an additional charge.

2. Take pictures

After you’ve cleaned the car, it’s time to photograph it. Take photos from all angles, including the odometer, engine, seats, and trunk. Turn on the car and show that all electronics are working properly, like radio, rear view camera, and built-in GPS. Some private buyers will request videos or even FaceTime with you to view the car virtually, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Take more photos than you think you need, including close-ups of bumps or scratches. Being honest in the listing will ensure that a potential buyer doesn’t walk away because you missed a big dent in the side door panel.

3. Gather maintenance records

When selling a car to an individual, it is helpful to provide proof of maintenance and service records. If you live in a state that requires emissions testing, have copies of the most recent test handy. These records can be complicated to collect, but proving that you have faithfully maintained the vehicle can increase the amount you can charge. It may also be easier to find a buyer.

Can’t find proof that you replaced the transmission? Call the mechanic and ask for a copy. Some mechanics, especially large chains and dealerships, may keep copies of receipts.

Also mention any upgrades or customizations you have added to the vehicle to increase its value.

4. Determine the selling price of your car

Sites like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and will provide a basic estimate if you enter the year, make and model of the car, mileage, zip code, and general condition. Describe the condition of the car precisely to get the correct value.

You can also research how similar cars sell on private seller sites to verify that you have priced correctly and can negotiate for a fair amount. Take the average of all of these prices to determine how much to charge.

Since most private buyers will try to negotiate, consider adding an additional $ 500 to $ 1,000 to the price before listing. This gives you enough leeway with potential buyers to negotiate, while still getting paid for the value of the car.

5. Advertise the sale

Some of the popular websites to advertise and sell your car privately are:

  • Facebook market
  • Autotrader
  • CarGurus
  • To offer
  • Craigslist
  • eBay

Depending on the site you are using, it may charge you a basic fee to register the car and an additional fee to promote registration. Some consumers believe that sites like attract more serious buyers than sites like Craigslist. However, each site attracts different buyers at different price points, so it’s worth listing the car on multiple sites or paying to promote the ad if you want to sell the car faster.

Also, it is important to be extra careful when selling your car to a private buyer that you meet online. Do not meet buyers late at night and avoid them coming to your home. If possible, ask a friend to accompany you or agree to meet at a mechanical shop.

Some police stations allow buyers and sellers to meet in their parking lot or lobby. Call ahead and ask your local service if they allow it. If that’s not an option, choose a well-lit, public parking lot.

Another option is to look for local car dealerships that buy used cars, or websites like Carvana and Vroom that will virtually negotiate a price and sometimes pick up the car from you. The price may not be as high as you would get from a private buyer, but it is smoother.

6. Finalization of the sale

When dealing with a private buyer, accepting cash is a safer option than a personal check. You can also apply for a warrant as it is more difficult for the person to rip you off. If the buyer insists on a check, meet with them at the bank branch and ask them to issue a cashier’s check. A cashier’s check verifies that the account has enough money to complete the transaction.

When you sell a car to another person, you must use a bill of sale, a document that transfers ownership. You can find one from your state’s Department or Office of Motor Vehicles. Print one out and have it ready when you meet the buyer.

You will also need to transfer the title to the buyer. Most auto titles will allow you to transfer title after a sale. Read the title carefully and only sign in accepted places. If you sign the title incorrectly, you may need to request a new title and sign it again, which can delay the sales process.

In addition, some states may require an after-sales process involving the return of plates and the sales report. Be sure to check with your state if they have a certain process for selling a car.

It is important to keep in mind that if you are selling the car for less than what you paid for, you will not owe taxes. If you make a profit on the car, you will have to pay capital gains tax on the car for that year. You will pay short-term capital gains taxes if you’ve owned the vehicle for less than a year and long-term capital gains taxes if you’ve owned the car for more than a year.

Compare rates and save on your car loan

Get up to 4 loan offers in minutes at


Comments are closed.