Selling a used vehicle can be a stressful event. How do you know you’re getting the best price? Can you be sure of what your car or truck is even worth? What is the market like, and is now the best time to sell? There are a lot of things to consider, such as whether you should try to sell privately, sell to a dealer, or trade in your car.
Maybe you need to pay bills or need to get professional basement waterproofing. If you need to upgrade to a larger or newer vehicle, getting the most value for a trade-in is crucial, too. Perhaps you just want to travel and need money to see Corinth history or the Grand Canyon in person. Whatever your reason for selling, read on for tips that can help you get the best possible price for your vehicle.
Understand the market value
There is an enormous demand for used cars in the United States, and more than half the car sales made each year in America are private purchases of used vehicles. The first step to getting the best price is understanding that you have a valuable product and finding out precisely what that value is.
Check the Blue Book
Your first step should be to check the Kelly Blue Book to get the general value of your car. Remember that this is just a general step. When it comes to the value of your car, it will also matter how well you’ve taken care of your vehicle and how you’ve driven it. If you have gotten regular maintenance by professional truck repair services or at an authorized dealer, your value will be higher.
Check the local market
It’s not just a matter of the general value of your car. It also matters where you sell it. In northern New England, for example, Subarus are wildly popular. They have standard all-wheel drive and can handle the brutal winters and rough terrain at an affordable price. A used Subaru will automatically sell for a better price there than it would in, southern New Jersey, where Toyotas and Hondas are the car of choice. Know your local market.
To get your final feel for the market and where you are in it, check out classifieds in your area and look at the listings on sites like CarGurus. If you see something in your area that is similar to what you’re selling, give the owner a call and ask about mileage, condition, whether it has been smoked in, and maintenance records. Try offering them 20% less than they are asking and see what they say. This will help you establish a good baseline to work from.
Make your vehicle sellable
If you haven’t maintained your vehicle well in the past, there’s nothing you can do about that now. But there are things you can do to improve the way it looks right now. Everything you do now, even the small things, can translate into extra cash when you go to sell.
This includes the inside and the outside. No one wants to pay anything for a dirty car. On a sunny afternoon, take it down to the local self-serve car wash and give it a thorough vacuum, wash, and scrub. Don’t forget the tires, the dashboard, and the cracks and crevices between seats. Take this opportunity to clean out the glove compartment and trunk of all non-essentials.
Consider professional detailing
If you have an otherwise valuable used car that has had some rough cosmetic treatment, it could be worth it to get a professional detailer to take a look. You may pay two or three hundred dollars for the service, but if that could translate into a thousand more when you sell, it’s worth it.
Get the scratches out
If you just have minor scratches, you may be able to polish them out or even fix them yourself. Even slightly deeper scratches can be fixed if you have the time and patience to find matching paint and do a good job. Otherwise, get an estimate to see how much a professional would charge to get the outside of your car looking like new again.
Know how to negotiate
The hardest part of selling your new car is knowing how to haggle. If you go to a car dealership, they will likely offer you a reasonable deal. When you deal with a private party, all bets are off. This is because everyone’s way of negotiating is different. Some people will start out at exactly the price they’re willing to pay. Some will negotiate in good faith. Some will make insultingly low-ball offers.
The insulting offers
Sometimes it is hard to tell if this is a legitimate negotiating strategy or if you are just dealing with a cheapskate who would like to get something for nothing. The best way to deal with it is to keep your cool and simply offer a price just a bit lower than what you are asking. Remind them of the positives about your vehicle and see what they say. If they keep pressing with an offer that is too low, thank them and walk away.
If they won’t budge
If you have someone who will not offer you a cent more, you always have the option to walk away from the negotiations. If you’re anxious to sell, however, you could always try the salesman’s trick of telling them you have someone else coming in the morning to look at it: someone who has already offered a certain amount more. Sometimes this really works.
Don’t let yourself be bullied
There are some people out there who will try to bully or guilt you into selling for far less than your vehicle is worth. The best way to deal with these people is to stay calm and leave the situation. If you’re talking with someone online, always make sure they’ve acknowledged your asking price before they come to see it.
Dealing with older cars
if your car is on the cusp of a major milestone—usually 36,000 miles or three years, 60,000 miles, and 100,000 miles—you will see a significant drop in the value of your vehicle. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate this potential loss.
Know which parts will most likely need replacement when you reach these milestones. Then go ahead and get those done. Brakes often need to be done at 30,000 miles and timing belts at 60,000. Consider getting a fresh oil and filter change and a formal inspection so you can ask top price for your car.
If you’re getting close to a car milestone, it might be worth it to sell early, even if you’re not quite ready otherwise. Do your research to find out how much you might lose if you let the odometer bump up another 1,000 miles, and then you can make an informed choice.
Consider the value to you
If your car really has a lot of miles on it, you might want to re-evaluate completely. Once you get to that point, the car might be worth more to you as a vehicle you can use than it could ever bring you in sale. This can be hard to stomach, especially if you were counting on getting a new car, but it is a valid consideration you should look into.
Good luck with selling your car!