A List of “Don’ts” to Consider When Selling Your Car

Buyers check out 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV hot rod for sale

Buyers check out 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV hot rod for sale

We gave you the “Do’s” a couple of weeks ago in a piece about how to sell your car privately without problems. Now, in response to a story on MSN Autos, “10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Car,” we offer our (simpler and better) list of stupid things not to do.

There are five:

1. Don’t sell the car if you’re too far “upside down”—that is, if you owe a lot more than the car is worth. Yes, some accommodating lenders will roll your present car loan over and happily tack your balance owed onto a new loan. But that isn’t smart if it’s a big balance. Unless you like debt.

2. Don’t just pull a price out of the air, or from the Kelley Blue Book. Sam Smith, author of the MSN article, put it well:

Because they’re based on high-volume, often sight-unseen auction sales, such numbers aren’t always accurate. If the car is in any way special—a low-production model, for example—its estimated value could be low by as much as several thousand dollars. By the same token, if your car is a worn-out rat, even the lowest published number isn’t going to be correct. Your car is worth what someone pays on the day of sale—no more, no less.

Pricing the car is key, and our DealFinder Instant Market Value is the best tool on the Web to help you do that.

Cleaning a car3. Don’t ever finance a car for a buyer, even a friend. Take cash (or a cashier’s check) only, and don’t be bullied or persuaded by any other assurances. Know your state’s processes for title transfer, and prepare a simple bill of sale once the deal is done.

4. Don’t let the buyer take an unaccompanied test drive. Make sure your insurance covers him/her, or check that he has coverage. Write down his contacts and driver’s license number in any case.

5. Don’t try selling your car privately unless you are willing to put up with some risk, hassle, and possibly assume some liability. The Car Talk guys list five questions to answer about whether a private sale is right for you, and they are good ones. Yes, you’ll make more than if you sold to a dealer, but it will require an investment of time, effort and some money.

We’ve left off the obvious things like, “Don’t show a dirty car,” because we know our readers are car gurus, not car dunces.

Any other important “Don’ts” folks should think about when selling a car?


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  1. @ Randy
    Good advice, Randy. Some people, like the woman in the photo above, set a price and then say, “OBO,” which is just as foolish.

  2. Number one is don’t say you’re not setting a price and will take the best offer. First of all, that’s always a lie. If your best offer on a car worth $30,000 is $10,000 are you going to sell it for that? Of course not. Saying you’ll take best offer is just a way to say to potential customers that you’re a cheap, grasping miser, and want too much for the car. (basically the message as a sign on a house saying “For Sale by Owner”. Set a fair, intelligent price, know your lowest price, and be willing to deal a little bit.

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