How to Sell Your Car for the Most Money

Next to selling your house, selling a car will be one of the larger sales you’ll make in your lifetime, and you’ll probably do it many times over the years. In many cases this also means there are thousands of dollars on the line so it’s crucial you take the steps necessary in order to get the most money you can from the sale. Just two weeks ago we had to finally sell one of our cars and get something new. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your car sells for the most money possible.

Clean the Car

This may seem obvious, but it’s the number one thing you can do to help the resale value of your car. You know this as well as anyone, but first impressions are everything. If you went to a car lot and somebody showed you two nearly identical cars but one looked like it just came off the showroom floor and the other looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks which do you think you’re going to be more inclined to buy? Spend the time and maybe even a little money to get your car looking as shiny and new as possible. This means washing the outside, cleaning the inside, and dusting all the little nooks and cracks. Obviously, a little elbow grease is all it takes to make this happen, but if you’re crunched for time don’t be afraid to spend a little money to have it done. In the end, what’s 50 dollars spent to clean it up when you’re talking about thousands of dollars on a sale?

Make Minor Repairs

Continuing with the important first impression, making those little repairs will go a long way. Maybe it’s the tail light that’s burned out, or the unknown rattle in the dashboard somewhere, or maybe just a dead battery in the remote lock on your key ring. While you have probably grown accustomed to these minor inconveniences, they won’t go over well for a prospective buyer. It may turn them away completely as they wonder what other problems might be lurking, or they might be seeing big dollar signs as a way to reduce the price. Remember, even if it’s a $100 fix, a buyer isn’t going to drop the price by just $100 so it may in fact cost you many more times the actual repair would have.

List Your Car Online

It’s no secret that when you sell to an auto dealer as part of a trade-in you’re not getting the best price for your car. That’s because the dealer has to buy your car at a price they can then turn around and make a profit on. That doesn’t mean cleaning it up and making minor repairs won’t still help squeeze a few more dollars out of the trade, but you will still get far less than if you were to sell it on your own. In the old days you had to park the car by the road with a sign, place a classified ad in the local paper, or maybe hang flyers around town, but that’s not the case today. Thanks to the internet you can literally spend a few minutes and have your car online and searchable by millions. You can utilize your local Craigslist, Autotrader.com, or even eBay. I’ve sold a car on eBay and Craigslist and will have to say it’s a great way to find a private buyer. Lastly, don’t skimp on the details. Placing your car online isn’t enough. You’re competing with thousands of other vehicles for sale so you need your listing to stand out. First of all, take pictures! Nothing helps a sale better than quality pictures that cover the interior and exterior of the vehicle. People are far more likely to buy a car or at least follow up with you if they can get a good sense of what it looks like. Finally, list all of the specifications about the car you can. People want to know what engine it has, color of the interior, type of tires, mileage, and so on. The more information you can provide the better. If you take the time to prepare your car being sold and then take the proper steps needed to get your car in front of as many potential buyers as possible you’ll be sure to get every penny you deserve. If you have some extra time check out my article on dealing with car salesmen, you might be able to glean a few tips from that so you can better negotiate when that time comes.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

8 comments
digitalhobbyist
digitalhobbyist

Yea, a bit of elbow grease and getting the car to look top notch cosmetically helps a ton.  Taking great pictures to post online helps as well!

digitalhobbyist
digitalhobbyist

Yea, a few minor cosmetic repairs along with some elbow grease go a long way in getting top dollar.  Taking great photos of your car to market online helps too :)

Jen at Frugal Rules
Jen at Frugal Rules

I always thought that to make a good sale, one must see through the buyer's eyes and that it also applies to selling second-hand items.  No buyer would want to buy an item that looks like something the cat dragged in? I think I know better now how to keep high the resale value of my car. While it seems it will take some time before I sell it, keeping it attractive and well-maintained starts now.

criticalfinancial
criticalfinancial

Great post Jeremy, I have found that you will always receive more from a private party than you would from a dealer on a trade in.  If you have to trade in on a new car, make sure to negotiate the price of the new car before offering your old car as a trade in.  The dealers are trained to turn things upside down to make the deal in their favor!

Insurance Hunter
Insurance Hunter

Getting the best value for your car when selling can be a challenge. The first thing that you need to do is understand its value. Then you need to invest a little time and money into making it as attractive as possible to potential buyers. 

Laurie TheFrugalFarmer
Laurie TheFrugalFarmer

We followed these tips when we sold our fishing boat and it went within a few hours.  People appreciate cared for and quality used items, especially when you're talking bigger ticket.

moneysma
moneysma

I take pretty good care of my car and make sure I wash it at least once a month (usually it's twice) and I wax it four times a year. This keeps the paint looking great. I vacuum it out when I wash it to keep the inside in good condition too. But my best tricks are to keep all service records and to keep under the hood clean. Since I wipe down things under the hood when I wash it, it never takes me more than 5-10 minutes. When I sell my car, buyers always comment on how amazingly clean it is. 


That combined with my service records allows me to ask for and get a price higher than the market.

MoneyAhoy
MoneyAhoy

This is a great and timely article - I plan to sell my car any week now.  I've got to replace the door handles and the inside light in order to get the best price.