Prepare to Sell Your Car

vacuum-front-row-01 Preparing to sell a car | photo by Christian Lantry

When done right, selling a car privately can yield more money in your pocket than trading it in to a dealer. But that monetary advantage requires more of your time, prep work and elbow grease to get the vehicle ready for the sale. Use the guidelines below to make your used car as attractive as possible to potential buyers.

Related: Now Is a Good Time to Sell Your Extra Used Car; Here’s Why

Fix It Up

Start by cleaning your car thoroughly. Wash and wax the exterior, remove interior and trunk clutter, vacuum and wipe down all interior surfaces, and clean the windows. You could have the car detailed by a professional to save time; the price can range from $20 to $50 for a simple clean and wash, or from $100 to $200 for full detailing (shampoo, wax, etc.). Remember to replace burnt-out lights or fuses and top off all fluid levels. As soon as the vehicle is cleaned up, take the time to do a thorough photo shoot for your listing, highlighting the best features of the vehicle.

Be Transparent

Get a vehicle history report to present to potential buyers; this provides credibility and builds trust. Reports from CarFax are available on Other vehicle history services are available online as well.

man-inspects-car Inspecting a car | Mirko -

Prepare for Inspection

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 creating a listing in order to avoid potential surprises closer to the 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 between $100 and $200. You can find service providers online.

Get the Paperwork Ready

Make a copy of your vehicle title in preparation for the sale. If you don’t have the title because you still owe money on the vehicle, you’ll need to call your lender to discuss how to close out the loan and obtain the title. If you paid off the loan years ago and the lending institution no longer exists, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation can help you obtain your title.

Some states may also require the seller to provide a bill of sale: a legal document that details the terms of the sale. The bill of sale serves as a receipt for the buyer and a waiver of liability for the seller. Templates are available to download on most states’ Department of Motor Vehicles websites.

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