Selling Your Car Directly to an Individual—Without Problems

Used cars

Avoid the dealership hassle in selling your car

Most car gurus know they will get a better price selling their car privately rather than through a dealer. It’s retail versus wholesale. But to make that extra money, you’ll have to do a number of things that may be intimidating or difficult for you. In fact, they should be neither if you follow the guidelines we offer here.

For women who are leery about meeting and dealing with guy shoppers, my advice is always: Bring a friend with you. Here’s a good checklist. Selling privately takes time and effort, but you should reap some very tangible rewards.

Here are the steps:

  • Preparing the car and getting a vehicle history report
  • Pricing the car to sell
  • Advertising on DealFinder and locally
  • Dealing with buyers and lookers
  • Arranging financing and delivery

Preparing the car
Your car should look as beautiful and sharp as possible. This means everything from doing mechanical fixes to waxing the exterior and removing all gunk from the engine. Details are here, and if you can’t handle this sort of detailing yourself, by all means spend the $75-100 and get a professional detailer to do it.

Get a car history report from Carfax or AutoCheck, and give your buyer a copy.

Used Volkswagen

What's it worth?

Your best resource is our DealFinder Price Analysis, which can not only give you accurate “instant market value” but determine best local and regional pricing for your car. We think, a bit immodestly, that it’s the best car-pricing tool on the Web. Add about 10 percent for bargaining room if you’re willing to wait a bit, or price below market to sell quickly.

Post your car for sale (it’s free) on CarGurus, and reach over 3 million shoppers per month. Add any local resources, print or online, that you think will appeal to buyers in your area (community bulletin boards, newspapers, flyers). Write a simple descriptive ad, stressing your car’s strong points and the fact that it is clean and well-maintained. Don’t lie, and don’t put your home address in the ad.

Dealing with buyers
As I said, always have someone with you when meeting prospective buyers. Meet at a public place, like a mall parking lot, not at your house. Encourage buyers to have a mechanic inspect the car, and if they want to test-drive it, make sure you follow these procedures.

Financing and payment
Cash is king, as Keith Griffin says, and you never want to finance a car for a buyer. Always get payment with a cashier’s or bank check. No personal checks! If you’re “upside down” on your loan (you owe more than the car is worth), you’ll have to pay the balance down—or postpone selling your car. Some good advice on that score is here (scroll down).

When you have your payment, sign over the title and give your buyer a simple bill of sale (buyer’s name, seller’s name, date, car description, VIN number, mileage, and signatures). Keep a copy for yourself, and run to the bank to deposit that check.

Have you sold your car using any or all of these procedures?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

1 Comment

  1. Here’s a slimy little request I’ve had a number of times when selling a car: “Can you write the bill of sale for a few thousand less than the actual sales price, so I don’t have to pay as much sales tax?”

    It’s a question that is bound to come up, and your response should depend on your level of integrity. Don’t feel bad saying, “I’m just not comfortable with that.”

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