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Cars.com Sees Record Number of Private-Party Sales in June

Advice on Selling Your Car Yourself Offered

Most car owners have considered selling a car on their own, yet many decide against it despite the financial gains it might yield. But with online advertising offerings such as Cars.com's Sell It Yourself program, more and more people are discovering the ease and convenience of selling a car themselves.

Since Cars.com launched the Sell It Yourself program in June 2000, the amount of for-sale-by-owner ads posted on the site has grown by more than 500 percent. The number of private-party listings on Cars.com hit an all-time high this June.

"We're confident that the number of people selling their car on the internet will continue to grow at a rapid pace," said Chris Long, Cars.com's director of private-party services. "The perception is that selling your car yourself may be more hassle than it's worth. However, as most of our Sell It Yourself customers are discovering, the internet has made that process extremely easy."

To make selling cars even more convenient, Cars.com recently launched a new Money-Back Guarantee for private sellers, making the placement of a premium ad risk free. Because Cars.com is confident that there's a buyer for every car on the site, consumers who are unable to sell their car after 90 days are eligible for a refund. What follows is the advice Cars.com offers to consumers who are ready to sell their car.

Selling a Car When You Still Owe Money on It

If you owe more on your car loan than you can readily pay prior to a sale, it's possible to close the loan and transfer ownership at the same time by using an escrow service. Cars.com recently formed a partnership with Escrow.com, the leading online escrow provider in the country. Escrow.com can facilitate payment to the lien-holder during a routine escrow transaction.

Another option is to conduct the sale at the lien-holding institution. The seller can pay off the loan balance with the sale proceeds and immediately sign over the title to the new owner.

Prepping Your Car for Sale

Start by thoroughly cleaning your car. Wash and wax the exterior, remove all interior and trunk clutter, vacuum and wipe down all interior surfaces, clean all the windows, replace burnt-out lights or fuses and top off all fluid levels.

Once your vehicle looks good, get a vehicle history report to present to the buyer; this provides credibility and builds trust. Reports from CARFAX are available on Cars.com. If you have detailed inspection records, prepare itemized copies with service receipts for the prospective buyer.

Pricing Your Car to Sell

Determine your car's value. Sellers can access their vehicle's worth by using the Kelley Blue Book pricing tool on Cars.com. The Private Party Value option is the most accurate for pricing your vehicle. It's important to provide an honest evaluation of your car's condition to get a true idea of its worth.

Next, search Cars.com's used-car listings to price similar models in your area. If your car needs repairs, factor that into the pricing. If your car is worth $10,000 but needs a new clutch, then don't expect to receive full value.

Placing an Effective Ad

A picture is worth a thousand words. According to Cars.com, 12 pictures are worth even more, and multiple photos are one of the best ways to improve response. Cars.com lets sellers place up to 12 photos of their car with a premium ad. Be sure to tell your car's story, and be specific. Avoid generalities like "loaded" or "like new" when describing your vehicle. Include descriptions about amenities that you enjoyed most: a V-8 engine, all-wheel drive, a sunroof, etc.

Meeting a Prospective Buyer for a Test Drive

It's best to meet potential buyers somewhere other than your home. When possible, bring along a friend for peace of mind, but in any case, make sure family or friends know of your plans.

Cars.com recommends that the seller accompany the potential buyer on the test drive; however, if the buyer makes a special request to go alone, make sure to make a copy of their driver's license, or write down their information. Set a time limit on the test drive, and exchange cell phone numbers as a backup strategy. Also, confirm that the driver's license information meshes with what you were told initially.

Securing Safe Payment

Be cautious and educate yourself about potential scams. Two of the most common internet scams involve cashier's checks and phony escrow services.

  • A cashier's check scam typically involves a buyer who usually inquires from overseas and arranges to pay for the car with a cashier's check or certified check in an amount that's more than the vehicle's purchase price. The buyer then asks the seller to wire the difference either to him or to the shipping company to cover expenses. Or, a buyer will send a cashier's check as a down payment and then decide to back out of the deal and ask for the money back.
  • Escrow services serve as a middleman between the buyer and seller. While they can be extremely useful when selling your car, the internet is littered with bogus escrow sites, so make sure you use a licensed, reputable service. Never blindly accept an escrow service proposed by a buyer. Cars.com makes using a respected online escrow service easy through its partnership with Escrow.com.


In addition to watching out for common internet scams, sellers should confirm with the issuing bank that a check issued for payment is valid. If possible, wait until the check clears the bank before you hand over ownership of the vehicle.

Transferring Ownership

The first thing you'll need to do is sign over the title to the new owner. Ownership-transfer legalities vary from state to state, so get the details from your local Department of Motor Vehicles. For added convenience, Cars.com provides links to DMV sites for each state in its free Seller's Guide. Remember: In most states, the license plates stay with the seller, not the car. Also, call your insurance company and remove the vehicle from your policy.

Shipping Your Car

If you need to ship your car, Cars.com recently partnered with Dependable Auto Shippers to support any shipping needs you have.

For more information about selling your car yourself, visit Cars.com.

About Cars.com

Cars.com lists more than 1.4 million vehicles from 10,000 dealer customers, classified advertisers and private parties to offer consumers the best selection of new and used cars online, as well as the content, tools and advice to support their shopping experience. Cars.com combines powerful inventory search tools and new-car configuration with pricing information, photo galleries, buying guides, side-by-side comparison tools, original editorial content and reviews to help millions of consumers connect with sellers each month.

About Classified Ventures

Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, (http://classifiedventures.com), which is owned by six leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), Knight Ridder (NYSE: KRI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).

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Michael Kraut
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