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Farewell, old friend…

Figuring out what to do with your old vehicle can be one of the most difficult parts of buying a new one. This article gives you car selling tips that will help you weigh your options when getting rid of your old vehicle, be it trade-in or private sale, and walk you through each process so you can get the most for your old wheels no matter which option you choose.

  • Price the Car
  • Clean It Up
  • Trade-in vs Private Sale
  • Prepping Your Vehicle for Sale
  • Spreading the Word
  • Finalizing the Deal & Avoiding Scams

Price the Car

Before you even consider how you want to sell your vehicle, you’ll want to do some pricing research. Below are some resources that you can use to determine the approximate market value of your car, but a lot of the pricing process is based on you making a judgement call on its condition.

  • Find the trade-in value of the car. We offer a handy tool to check your car’s trade-in value. Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds offer similar calculators. Each of these tools will determine private sale and trade-in prices based on the make, model, and condition of your vehicle. Do note though that they can’t take everything into account, so only use these numbers as a general guide. These are just some of the most important Effuel benefits for your engine.
  • Compare listings in your local area. Since each local market is different, there’s no better reference than checking out used car listings in your area. Use the AutoTempest car search to find cars on all the top listings sites at once, and see what others in your area are asking for models similar to your own.

After doing some solid research, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect in return for your old ride. Remember to take into account the condition of your vehicle compared to the others you’ve found, as well as mileage, any modifications you’ve made since buying, and even things like rare coloring. Mods and non-standard options can make a car more valuable to the right buyer, but can also narrow down your market, making selling more difficult. (For unique rides, selling on eBay might be a good choice.)

Get a Trade-In Offer For Your Car

Regardless of how you will sell your car, take it in to your dealer to find out what they’ll offer as a trade-in value. Wait until after you’ve negotiated a price for the new vehicle though, or else the dealer may offer you what seems like a great deal on your trade-in, in exchange for jacking the price on the new car.

What they offer you will surely be lower than the private sale prices you researched earlier, but that’s in exchange for the labor, time, and money the dealer puts into your vehicle getting it ready for sale (plus a cut for themselves, of course). It should be comparable with your researched trade-in value (since you did all the negotiating for your new car separately, as recommended in our article on negotiating for a car.)

At best, the dealer could give you an offer near to what you get selling privately, making a trade-in a very appealing option.

At worst, this offer tells you the lowest amount you can get for your car if you must sell, and can help you determine the amount of money you’d like to spend getting your vehicle ready for sale. Either way, feel free to make a counter-offer to try and increase the value.

Clean It Up

Another thing you’ll want to do is give your car a good clean. Even if you’re planning on just going with a trade-in, a good looking, good sounding, and even good smelling vehicle can help increase your offer. Here’s a quick checklist of things you’ll want to do to clean up your car:

  • Completely empty the vehicle. Remove all your personal possessions from the vehicle (including anything you’re not selling with it, like GPS, MP3 player, etc.) and get rid of anything under and between the seats and in the bottom of the cup holders. Clear out your glove box, leaving nothing but the necessities like owner’s manual, registration, and insurance information. Organize any repair and maintenance papers and keep them in the glove box as well. Take everything out of the trunk, properly securing the jack and spare tire back into place once you’ve finished your cleaning. Not only does reducing the amount of clutter in your vehicle make it more visually appealing, it can also make the car more aurally appealing, as the rattling of stuff in your trunk could easily be mistaken as a more serious mechanical problem.
  • Give the interior a good vac and wipe. Everything that has a cloth surface should be vacuumed. It’s a good idea to give any removable bits a good wash, like mats or seat covers, using vinegar to get out tough stains. Clean any vinyl surfaces with Armor All Interior or the like, and treat any leather.
  • Wash and polish your exterior. I’m sure you’ve washed your vehicle a million times, so you know the do’s and don’ts. I will say this though: don’t forget the details. The headlights, taillights, and hubs should sparkle, and the tires and mudflaps should look spotless. Take off your bumper stickers too, in case the prospective buyer doesn’t share your sense of humour or political affiliations. Give it a nice towel dry after rinsing and it’ll shine that much more.
  • Wash those windows! Don’t forget the rear views either.
  • Clean all the minor mechanical bits. Oil the hinges (doors, hood and trunk), get a good clean in the door jambs and seals, and make sure that all the seat belts pull easily. Having the little things work well enhances a prospective buyer’s experience of the car.
  • Check your tire pressure.
  • Finishing touches. Another thing you’ll want to do if you’re having someone test drive the vehicle is to leave the driver seat all the way back and at the lowest setting. No one’s going to remember having to adjust the seat when they get in the vehicle, but they’ll probably remember feeling cramped or having their knees knock up against the steering wheel. Now that your cleaning is done, drive the car like it’s going to sell tomorrow to save having to do this all again.
  • Too much work? If this all sounds like too much, you could just trade it in at the dealership and take whatever they give you. Or, you could always take the car to a professional detailing shop. It will be immaculate for under $200, and you stand to make far more than that by selling your car privately.