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Getting Ready to Sell Your Car

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Jon Acuff is a staff writer for AutoTrader.com.

The reasons to sell your car on your own are pretty simple and straightforward. When you sell your own car you tend to make more money.

Depending on the age and condition of your car, you can pocket an extra $1,000 to $2,000 or more. If you have a late-model vehicle, you stand to make much more. Just think of it as cutting the middle man out. If you trade your car in, the dealer has to pay to clean it, advertise it and sell it while making a comfortable profit. Your lower trade-in reflects that.

Besides, with today's online resources, selling your car is easier than ever. It’s simple to find out all you need to know about pricing your car and then list it at a less expensive price than traditional printed classified listings. Plus, you reach more buyers in your area — and across the country.

What are your first steps?

Selling your car yourself can be rewarding, especially with a little guidance. We've come up with a few tips to make the experience easier and to help you get the best price for your car.

1. Set a competitive price
A good place to start is determining the market value of your car. Check out our used-car values page to find out what your car is worth. You'll want to price competitively in your local market — look at our online ads in your area to see what used cars similar to yours are being sold for

If you're open to negotiation, determine the smallest amount you will accept. Based on that amount, you may want to create some cushion in your price — $500 is a good minimum. For instance if you’re smallest amount is $4,000 it might be good to start your ad price at $4,500.

Remember, buyers are looking at the same online pricing guides, so if your price is close to or lower than the price they found, your car could be that much more appealing.

Once you set your price, consider using the proper ad lingo to make your point:

Inserting "or best offer" (OBO or B/O) or "asking price" signals you'll consider an offer lower than the stated price. You may get more responses. Stating your price is "firm" signals that you're sticking to your price.

2. Get your car ready
Appearance is everything. That means you should thoroughly clean your car, inside and out. And consider taking care of any minor maintenance issues.

Here's a laundry list of things you can do to improve your car's appearance:

  • Wash, wax and vacuum your car.
  • Wipe down the dashboard and other surfaces.
  • Gloss up the tires and polish the wheels.
  • Clean all glass inside and out, including mirrors.
  • Clean out any junk from inside your car and the trunk.
  • Replace any burnt lights or fuses.
  • Top off the fluids.

Keep in mind, you’re asking someone to possibly give you thousands upon thousands of dollars. Spending a few dollars upfront on a car wash could pay you back in the long run.

3. Gather your car's records
Smart car shoppers want to know how well maintained your vehicle is and will ask for maintenance records. A presentable maintenance log with all of your receipts, especially oil changes, can be a powerful selling tool.

Consider collecting the receipts you have and creating a maintenance log. If you know you had something done but can't find the receipt, log it anyway. Warranty receipts are especially important. If you've recently replaced your tires or battery, present the warranty to the buyer.

One of the chief concerns of used car shoppers is that they’ll be forced to make expensive repairs on the used vehicles they buy. Help reassure them that there aren’t any secret repairs they’ll have to make by having a through record of your car’s “life.” One way you can do that is by offering to provide a Vehicle History Report. The buyer could always do the same thing, but by providing it upfront you show that you’re confident about the quality of the car.

That’s certainly a quick pass at the car selling experience, but rest assured that we have some other articles that can help make this a fast and painless experience. Read How to Close the Deal? and 10 Tips for Writing Online Car Ads for more information. For the easiest way to show your car to the most people online, Sell Your Car with AutoTrader.com.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.