Prepping Your Car

When selling your car privately, take a cue from dealers and make the car as attractive as possible. Use these guidelines:

  • Start by cleaning your car thoroughly. Wash and wax the exterior, remove all interior and trunk clutter, vacuum and wipe down all interior surfaces, and clean all the windows. You could have it detailed by a professional to save time. This can range from $20 to $50 for a simple clean and wash, or from $100 to $200 for full detailing (shampoo, wax, etc.).
  • Replace burnt-out lights or fuses and top off all fluid levels.
  • Get a vehicle history report to present to potential buyers; this provides credibility and builds trust. Reports from Carfax are available on Cars.com; other services are available online as well.
  • If you have detailed inspection records, prepare itemized copies (with service receipts) for prospective buyers. This shows you've kept up with maintenance and suggests you're selling a reliable vehicle.
  • Many buyers will want to have your car inspected by a mechanic of their choice. You may want to have your own mechanic inspect the car prior to placing the ad in order to avoid potential surprises closer to sale.
  • You could also have your car inspected by a third-party service. These companies inspect your car at your home or office and independently verify its description and general status. These services cost around $100. You can find service providers online or in your local phone book.
  • Make a copy of your vehicle title in preparation for the sale. If you don't have the title, call your lending institution and request they send it to you with a lien release. If you paid off the loan years ago and the lending institution no longer exists, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (888-206-4662) can help you obtain your title.
© Cars.com 4/30/13