For many people it is a big deal to sell your own car (or motorcycle), and the big question for them is how to get the best price. There are a lot of things you can do to increase your chances of getting the most possible money — and there are some things you should avoid too! This guide shows how to get the best price selling a car.
There are a lot of stories that can be offputting… about car advertisements that are dead for months without any inquiries on the used car exchanges, or about dealers who want to lowball you and buy cars at outrageously low prices. But nobody should be deterred, because with a bit of common sense and a few smart strategies, everyone can correctly estimate his car and sell it for a good price.
How to get the best price selling a car: private or dealer sale?
There are two main ways to sell a car: either a private sale or the purchase/trade-in with a car dealer. We outline both those methods below. The third way is to put it in an auction, but then you cannot do anything to influence the price except to present the car in as good a condition as possible (see sections further down for this) and hope you get the price you want.
The private sale of the used car offers the seller some advantages: He can decide on the price and conditions. However, you need a little patience, because depending on the price range in which the car is located, it may take a while to find a buyer. To bring the car to the market, the way usually leads to an ad – either on the Internet in used car exchanges, or in the newspaper. If you like, you can also advertise your car in topic-related Internet forums or social media groups. Here are often car lovers who appreciate a particular model. A note on the car also makes passers-by and other traffic aware of it being for sale when you are driving around.
With serious prospective customers then an appointment for inspection and test drive is agreed — best with a trustworthy companion. Prior to this, a contract may be set up specifying that the test driver is liable for damages and for any deductibles and downgrades in car insurance. First check the buyer’s driver’s license. If you close the deal, the private car sale should necessarily be recorded in writing in a contract of sale. Corresponding templates are available on the Internet. Attention: Make sure that legal warranty is excluded.
Purchase or trade-in by the dealer
If the car needs to be sold quickly, the purchase by a dealer is the best choice when it comes to time — but not when it comes to price. The price is usually below the amount that could be achieved in private sales, but the seller does not have to deal with many inquiries or test drives.
Nevertheless, a little time should be invested here too. The prices that dealers pay for a car often vary greatly. The buyer is a professional who can judge the condition of the used car very quickly. Based on small defects, he will try to push the price down. In advance, one should therefore think carefully about where your own price pain threshold lies —the lowest price you will accept.
In addition, it is helpful to know the condition of the car exactly (eg by a previous used car check), so no additional weaknesses can be “spotted”. If with the sale of the old car you intend to immediately buy a new car, perhaps the trade-in route is worth considering. The dealer, where the new car is bought, accepts the used car as deposit. Here, the traders usually have a little more leeway than the classic purchase, since they gain a new customer by the trade-in — so they will generally give you more than they will if they are paying you cash for the car.
Pay attention to these in a private sale
Generally: Become suspicious if the buyer accepts the price, but refuses the other conditions. Do not respond to such “special requests”. Should the buyer become aggressive, cancel the purchase immediately.
• Do not sign anything the buyer brings! Only your own contract should be signed. If the buyer pressures you and wants a quick signature, cancel the sale. The seller determines the rules.
• Do not allow down payments unless the remainder will be paid in cash on pickup. Never hand over a car if the purchase price has not been paid in full.
• Only cash is true! Only those who hand over the purchase price in cash, get keys and papers. Never accept promissory notes, bank transfers, credit cards, cheques or installments.
• The car should be only handed after you have legally transferred the paperwork! Otherwise, there is a risk of trouble if the buyer does not report the car as agreed. As long as the car is still registered on your own name, you pay yourself taxes, insurance and fines. Even if the handover date is recorded in writing in the purchase contract.
• Report sales immediately! The registration office and the insurance company must know that the car is sold. Send the purchase contract to both by fax or send by e-mail!
Get the best price selling a car: defining the price range correctly
The most important thing when selling a car is of course the price. And to be able to assess exactly what the car is worth, sellers should first get a rough overview of the market situation. For example, used car exchanges on the Internet help. There simply enter the data of the car to be sold, you get results across the price range. If you take a look around, you quickly get a sense of how much you can ask for a used car. But: The prices, which are estimated in the advertisements, usually form the basis of negotiation. In the rarest cases, the car is sold at this price. If your ad is followed by an onslaught of interest, it may be an indication that the price is too low. If, conversely, even after a long time, nobody approaches you, the price expectations may be too high.
Get the best price selling a car: Presentation is crucial
To sell the car successfully and for a good price, presentation ise the key. Because before prospective lists, service booklet and technical data the prospective customers first see the car from the outside. The following applies: A car that makes a neat impression will arouse more interest than a used vehicle, which is still dirty on the outside and inside. That’s why it should be washed again and possibly polished before the test drives.
Pay attention to details when cleaning
Buyers will also carefully inspect tires and rims as well as the condition under the bonnet. Also, the interior should be vacuumed out and cleaned. If you do not want to do it yourself, you can have the interior cleaning done for about $100-$150 at the detailer. Clean out all the compartments and trunk – everything that does not belong in the car should be removed. But be careful: too much of a good thing can have a negative effect. An engine wash could give the impression that suspicious traces of oil have been removed.
Small investments pay off
Those who do minor repairs before offering the used car for sale can often get a better price. A few paint damage or dents are quickly repaired, and improve the look considerably. For stubborn odors in the interior (eg nicotine) it can help to have an ozone treatment — the cost is between $70 and $100. You could also have an independent assessor do a report on the car’s mechanical condition. Depending on the test center, the used-car check costs between $100 and $200 and also takes the wind out of the sails of the “badgers” who want to nitpick over imaginary problems. Also important: check the oil and coolant level and the windscreen wiper water, check the tire pressure and check the functionality of the lighting. If something is wrong here, it quickly gives the impression that the car has been neglected.
Good photos are half the battle
Good photos increase the chances of sale many times over. So why not spend some time here? If the car is in good shape and checked, the sales success is ultimately only a matter of presentation.
Of course, the same principle applies as in all other areas: Whoever has something to sell, praises it. The car should be comprehensively described with all the details — but above all, honestly (!). In addition to all features and peculiarities, so also deficiencies are listed. This creates trust with the potential buyer even before the first meeting. And for private advertisements, pictures are everything. Without photos, the chances of sales drop rapidly. But even with bad photos, only a few interested parties will report. For example, those who want to sell their convertible in the summer but show it in the snow on the photos, gives the impression that the car has been for sale since winter. The pictures should therefore tell the correct story.
In short: If you want to get rid of a ‘garage princess’ car, it will be photographed in front of the garage. The buyer sees: The vehicle was kept well and dry. The completed service book will be photographed. The buyer sees: The car is well maintained. In the photos a small bump on the tail is shown. The buyer sees: No one has anything to hide here. At the same time the interested party can already estimate that the “small scratch on the driver’s door” in reality is not so bad as it sounds in the advertisement text. Don’t hide the faults. For small quirks go on the offensive. So the buyer is confident that there is nothing to hide.
Get the best price selling a car: Which documents are needed for sale?
When selling, the car should be handed over with all related documents. This includes not only the registration certificates and all keys , but also the inspection certificate of the last main inspection and the service booklet. Also, any guarantee certificates, maintenance or repair invoices may not be missing. If something has changed on the car, the respective acceptance reports and registration certificates must also be handed over.
Tips at a glance
The most important thing about car sales is the price. Sellers should
therefore take a comprehensive picture of the current market situation in order
not to sell below value, but also to avoid a chillingly high amount.
• Small investments in a good polish, interior cleaning or small repairs pay off. For a well-groomed car, a higher price can be asked and there are more interested parties.
• Buying a used car is a matter of trust, so one of the most important goals is to gain the trust of the buyer. This is achieved above all with transparency. Therefore: openly admit weaknesses and deficiencies. State of the car best underpinned with a professional opinion.
• Bargaining and negotiating are part of the used car business, but if a potential buyer becomes abusive, there can be reason enough not to get involved in the deal.
• If the purchase price is not paid (in cash!), do not deliver the car. Only stop communicating and immediately inform the authorities and insurance.