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How to Close the Deal

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author photo by Jon Acuff May 2008

You’ve done all your homework. You’ve posted an ad and answered questions over the phone. And now it all comes down to a test drive and a number. How do you get through this particularly tricky step? Not surprisingly this is often considered the most difficult part of selling your car. That’s why we’ve come up with a few different ideas that should help:

1. Show your car to interested buyers
Once you make an appointment, a buyer will most likely want to take your car for a spin.

Before the test-drive, remember to

  • Ask to see a valid driver's license and proof of insurance.
  • Let the buyer drive, but you navigate.
  • Use a planned route that allows the buyer to experience a variety of driving conditions.

If a buyer is very interested and wants you to hold the car, ask for a deposit and specify that it's only for a certain amount of time. Also, some buyers may want to get the car inspected by their mechanic. This is a reasonable request, but you should decide how you want to handle it.

2. Negotiate a fair price
By now, you know what your car is worth, and you know what you're willing to accept. Prepare yourself with possible responses when a buyer begins to negotiate. For example:

If a buyer mentions a scratch or ding, say it's normal wear and tear and that it's accounted for in the depreciated market value. If a buyer makes an offer lower than your asking price, make a counter offer. Never seem too eager to lower your price. And don't budge beyond your minimum.

If a buyer shows you a mechanic's receipt for repairs needed on your car, take a look at the suggested repairs. If they're warranted, consider reducing the price based on the amount needed for the repairs. If you advertised that your car is being sold "as is," then simply refer to your ad. Also, get a mechanic you trust to review the list of fixes the buyer requests.

3. Finalize the sale
Once you settle on a price, accept only cash or a cashier's check before you sign over the title. And make sure the check has cleared at the issuing bank. Be suspicious of any buyer who offers a complicated payment arrangement that involves overpayment with a refund. This is often a sign of fraud. To learn more about spotting a scam, read our fraud awareness tips.

You should have a bill of sale ready for both parties. A bill of sale is a sales receipt that shows transfer of ownership to the buyer and contains both parties' contact information, details about the car, the agreed upon selling price and the odometer reading. Your state motor vehicle website should offer you the detailed form you need. To find yours, simply use our list of motor vehicle websites. If not, try an office supply store for a generic form that you can add to if needed.

Your state motor vehicle website should also let you know what the requirements are to transfer the title to the new owner. Generally, you will have to sign and date the title before turning it over to the buyer. Notifying your local motor vehicle office of the transaction and ensuring the title is correctly transferred will prevent you from being liable for any accidents.

If you still owe money on the car and a lending institution is holding the title, you can finish the sale with the buyer at the offices of the lender. You can collect the money for the car, use it to pay off the loan and then sign the title over to the buyer.

If the bank is out of state, you can go with the buyer to the motor vehicle office and get a temporary operating permit based on the bill of sale. Once you pay off the balance of the loan with the money from your car sale, you'll receive the title. Sign it over to the new owner and the transaction is complete.

Last, but certainly not least, is your insurance policy. Make sure you remember to cancel or transfer your insurance policy to your new car.

Ready to sell your car? Once you've completed your research, reach the most car shoppers on the Internet by selling your car with AutoTrader.com.


© 2007 AutoTrader.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. "AutoTrader.com" is a registered trademark of TPI Holdings, Inc. used under exclusive license.



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.
How to Close the Deal - Autotrader