Car Buying

How to Sell a Car During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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author photo by Eric Brandt March 2020

If you're in the middle of trying to sell a car or you were planning on selling a car soon, our apologies for your unfortunate timing. The coronavirus pandemic has created a temporary new environment that encourages people to stay at home and practice social distancing, which is not an ideal environment if you're trying to sell a car. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible.

Here are a few tips for selling a car during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep Your Car Extraordinarily Clean

This should go without saying, and it's a car-selling tip we recommend regardless of any viruses going around, but if you're selling a car, you need to keep that interior spotless. Recline the seats back to clean in that crack in the seat that hasn't been cleaned in years. Vacuum every corner of the floor. Scrub the inside of the cup holders. Clean the interior until it's cleaner than the day you got it.

As for cleaning your car with specific attention to the coronavirus, disinfecting wipes will be your best friend. Disinfect every part of the car that is touched regularly like the steering wheel, shifter, stereo controls, seat belts and door handles. For more information, read our tips on how to disinfect your car.

Don't forget to keep the exterior clean as well. Wash it, wax it and clean the windows inside and out. You may even want to clean the engine bay with degreaser since it's not uncommon for potential buyers to pop the hood when looking at a car they're considering buying.

Make Sure Your Car Is in Good Condition

Both the mechanical and cosmetic condition of your car play a big part in what your potential buyer is willing to pay for it. Is there any mechanical maintenance that it needs? Is it making any noises that will raise red flags for test drivers? Is there a crack in the windshield that could be covered by your insurance? These are all questions you should be asking yourself in the car-selling process, and the right answers can pay off big time when you make the sale.

Determine Your Car's Value

An excellent resource when determining the value of your car is Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Give KBB's price estimator as much information as you can about your car. On top of the year, make and model, your specific mileage, location, trim level, options and even paint color will give you a more accurate estimation for the value of your car.

Be Open to Negotiation

Naturally, you want to get the most money that you possibly can out of your car. However, your buyer also wants to pay as little as possible for your car, no matter how clean you've kept it. We recommend setting your asking price a little higher than what you actually want to get out of it and be willing to negotiate the price down a bit if a potential buyer comes in with a lower offer. Set a reasonable rock-bottom price in your mind and whatever you do, don't go lower than that.

Have a Vehicle History Report Ready

Having a vehicle history report on hand goes a long way in making you an attractive private seller that potential buyers can trust. Oftentimes, car shoppers don't know the whole story of a used car they're looking at on the private sale market. A vehicle history report from a service like CarFax or AutoCheck gives documentation of whether the car's ever been in an accident, how many owners it's had, the status of the title, where it's been registered and all kinds of other information that's useful to the buyer.

Consider Your Payment Options

Cash will always be king when it comes to selling a car, but in the 21st century, you have a lot more options for secure and convenient payment options. Online payment processors like PayPal, Venmo and Square are good, safe ways to accept payments from buyers as long as that's something you're comfortable with.

To be clear, we would never recommend accepting payments in installments for a private car sale, even from friends or family, which puts you in a very dicey financial situation. If a buyer wants to make a deposit on the car to let you know they're serious about buying it that's fine, but you need to be paid in full before the car leaves your driveway. You're not a bank!

Can I Still Trade in My Car at a Dealership?

A lot of people are wondering if it's even possible to go to a dealership in these uncertain times. Since the rules seem to be changing every day and whether sales departments are open depends on where you live, we recommend doing as much of your selling at home as possible. Another option is to get an instant cash offer right here on Autotrader based on the Kelley Blue Book value of your car. This offer is good for sale or for trade-in at participating dealers.

A lot of the same principles that apply to preparing your car for a private sale apply to preparing it for a trade-in, too. The cleaner your car and the better condition it's in, the more you can get for your trade-in.

How Do I Get My Car on the Market?

Of course, the coronavirus has no impact on your ability to list your car for private sale here on Autotrader. With just a few clicks, your car can be for sale in front of a national audience in no time at a low cost. Just make sure the car is spotless inside and out, take good pictures and write a clear and honest description to attract a good buyer and get a good price.

Looking for more information relating to you, your vehicle and the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out more of Autotrader's Coronavirus content.

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How to Sell a Car During the Coronavirus Pandemic - Autotrader
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