Car Selling Guide

By following this simple car selling guide, you’ll be able to prevent future problems from occurring. You also hopefully get more value for your car. Do everything right the first time. You’ll be glad you did.

You’ll get more value for your car if you sell it privately as opposed to trading it in. I’m surprised at how many people trade their cars in with what dealers offer them. They either don’t have the time, or don’t want to deal with the hassle of people asking them a million questions over the phone, and lowball offers. Well if you do it the right way you won’t have to deal with all the hassles! By selling your car privately instead of trading it in, you’ll have a lot of extra money to get into something new. That way you won’t have to deal with the pushy salesman. You can also check the value of your car, and place an add through auto trader there to sell your car. You’ll want to focus on internet advertising. is by far the best place to advertise free online. Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free classified advertisements and forums on various topics. More people look on craigslist than any other website that offers free advertising. By advertising on craigslist, you’ll be off to a fabulous start!

When is the best time to sell a car?

The worst time to sell a car is late December / early January during the holiday season. Most people have spent all their money, and maxed out their credit cards from holiday shopping. It starts picking back up when people are getting their tax refunds back from the government, usually around late January/ early February. I’ve found the best time to sell a car is Spring, and Summer when the weathers nice outside. Cars with great air conditioning, and convertibles sell best in the summer. Vans do best in the fall when kids are going back to school. Before you put your car up for sale get it detailed. Have them do the exterior, interior, and engine compartment. If your going to clean the car yourself, start with washing the exterior, and polishing it. Get an electric buffer for $30 at Pepboys. Using the buffer on the exterior of the car really makes a big difference. Clean all the dirt off of the rims, and tires. Remove the floor mats, and scrub all the dirt off. Armor all the dash, shifter, emergency brake, etc. Remove all the dirt from the door panels.

If the tires are bad, it makes a huge difference to at least change the two front ones. If the tires look really bad, and you don’t want to spring for new ones, you can get used ones that are fair for $20-$25. I actually have a place near where I live that sells used tires for $30, and they look practically new.

If you have worn leather seats that aren’t torn, you can make them look nice again by repainting them with leather shoe polish. You first want to rub acetone all over the leather to remove the dirt. Mix the leather shoe paint in a cup, and apply it to the seats with a sponge. I’ve done this plenty of times on Volvos, Saabs and BMWs. The worn leather on these older vehicles is a turn off to buyers. The paint cost around five dollars, and takes about two hours to apply it. It covers up most of the cracks, and hides many of the imperfections in the leather from excessive wear. If you have torn leather, or cloth seats, it’s best to cover them with some seat covers.

Fix little cosmetic defects if you can like missing moldings, broken lights, etc. Taking care of these little things may bring an extra $500 to $1000 for your car. This is the first step in the car selling guide. Next, take lots of photographs of the car. If you don’t have a digital camera, borrow one from somebody. Photograph the vehicle from the front, side, and back. Take photos from different angels so you get the front & side, or back & side. It’s best to take the pictures when the weathers nice outside. Take your photos in the late afternoon when the sun isn’t glaring down on the vehicle. Take photos of the front seats and the back. Take photos of the dash, head liner, etc. Unless your vehicle is unique ( Exotic, Classic )Your asking price should be determined around the amount others are selling the same car for locally.

Compare your vehicle by mileage, cosmetic condition, maintenance history, etc. to that of other similar ones. Finding out the vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book value will also help determine your asking price. Set your price at least two hundred above the last price you’ll take for negotiation room.

Write a thorough description. Emphasize any selling points such as:


  • Unique features: “VTEC ENGINE”
  • Upgrades: “Flowmaster Exhaust” or “Chrome Rims”.
  • One owner
  • Original paint
  • Maintenance records, especially one for rebuilt engines, or transmissions. Records of oil changes, mileage services.
  • Always garagedPut the best features of the vehicle in your title add

    1991 Honda Civic EX Coupe ONE OWNER !! Always Garaged !!

    1992 Mercedes Benz 350SDL Turbo Diesel !Only 1500 MADE! !Very Rare!

    1996 Acura NSX Has been featured in Car & Driver magazine!

    1969 Chevy Camaro SS !! All Original !! Include any information of the vehicle’s history

    If you know the answers to these questions include them in your add

    length of ownership of the vehicle. If not the first owner, where did it come from?

    The mechanic who performed all the maintenance. Was this mechanic a specialist of this particular make, and model?

    Is the car rust free? Why did you buy it?

    If you were not the original owner, was the original owner a non-smoker? elderly? a professional? Gives a sense that the car was well cared for.

    Include the photos in your add. Without them, you’ll have trouble attracting people. Sell your car online. You’ll reach a much broader audience selling online as opposed to the paper. You could just put your email address in your add to weed out people who aren’t serious. This is the second step in your car selling guide. When people call me asking to set up some type of payment plan, I tell them to get pre-approved for a loan. I’d only set up a payment plan for a family member, or close friend. I’m sure you’ll want all cash for your car, but is it worth it to lose the deal if the buyer doesn’t have it all together? You don’t have to buy a car from a dealer to get a used car loan. Plenty of finance companies offer loans for private party transactions.

    Meet with the buyer and show them the car. I wouldn’t recommend showing the car where you live. Show them the car up the street or at a local gas station. If the car has a clean history, print a vehicle history report. Keep it inside the car, and show it to potential buyers to increase their confidence in the vehicle. If they want to take the car for a test drive ask to see their drivers license, and go with them. If you don’t go with them on the test drive they may never come back!! Make sure you at least have liability insurance when driving. Driving without auto insurance is like playing Russian roulette. If they’re driving recklessly, don’t be afraid to let them know.

    If the buyer likes the car and wants to leave you a deposit, tell them their deposit is only good for a certain length of time. Ask for a $100 deposit, and tell them you’ll hold the car for them for 24 , or 48 hours. If they decide they don’t want the car, keep the deposit. Make it clear that you plan on keeping the deposit if they decide they don’t want the vehicle. If you don’t the buyer will most likely ask for their deposit back. I find it ironic that someone would ask for their deposit back. Look at all the other people you could have sold the car too! but didn’t because you were holding it for somebody. Once you’ve come with an agreement with the buyer fill out the paperwork. When selling a car you should try to have the all the paperwork ready before the transaction. Go get the title.

Make sure you fill out the title in all the appropriate places:

Be Cautious When Buying a Revived Salvage Vehicle

Although many salvage vehicles are expertly repaired, some vehicles:
* Are not properly repaired and/or tested and may be dangerous to operate. * Have been repaired with stolen parts. If the California Highway Patrol or DMV determines the vehicle or its parts have been stolen, the vehicle cannot be registered and the vehicle or parts will be seized.

If a car has a salvage title, it will be branded “Salvaged” inside the rectangle on upper right hand corner of the title. Without the original title you have know way of knowing this. One time I bought a Honda Accord from somebody for resale who didn’t have the title. They gave me a duplicate, and I later found out the car had a salvage title. That cut the value of the vehicle in half. The vehicle history report will tell you if the car has a salvage title or not. Branded titles, are titles which have indicated problems in the vehicles past. There are other brands to look for besides salvage such as:

  • Original Taxi or Prior Taxi: Vehicles formerly used “For Hire” which usually have high mileage.
  • Original Police or Prior Police: Vehicles formerly used by law enforcement and which usually have high mileage.
  • Non-USA-Vehicles manufactured for use and sale outside the United States which have been converted to meet Federal and California safety and emissions standards.
  • Warranty Return or Lemon Law Buyback-Vehicles which have been returned to the manufacturer under California’s Lemon Law.
  • Remanufactured-Vehicles constructed by a licensed remanufacturer and consisting of used or reconditioned parts. These vehicles may be sold under a distinctive trade name.Many unscrupulous sellers take salvaged cars from out of state, and reregister them in other states hiding the salvage title brand. Salvage title brands do not transfer over when they’re reregistered in some states making the title clean. Many of these vehicles have flood damage, and come from places like Louisiana. Scammers are making a lot of money concealing these salvage titles. They buy them for half their value, and double their money when they sell them.

    What if I still owe money on my car for sale?

    If you still owe money on your car, you’ll have to pay off what’s owed on it before the lien holder relinquishes the title. Explain to the buyer your situation. Sign an agreement with the buyer, and have them pay you for the car. Pay the lien holder the remaining amount owed. They will sign off on the title that the lien has been paid, and relinquish the title to you. You will then take the title, and sign it over to the new owner. If the coast is clear continue with the transaction.

    The DMV’s records indicate that your still the owner so you’re responsible for the parking tickets.If you don’t fill out the release of liability or get the buyers information, you’re in a bad position. Make this a key point in your car selling guide.

    During the transaction ask the buyer to see their drivers license and fill it in personally. Make sure you put all the information in the appropriate place. I don’t recommend mailing in your release of liability. Take it to the DMV personally so you don’t have to worry about it getting lost in the mail. You can make an appointment online at the DMV website so you won’t have to wait when you get there. If you’re an AAA member, take the release of liability in. They’ll stamp it for you, and give you a copy for your records.

    Make it aware to the buyer that it’s an as/is transaction. Generally with a private party car deal, it’s implied that the vehicle is as/is making it difficult for the buyer to sue the seller in court. Lemon laws don’t apply to used car transactions, only new ones.

    If the buyer decides the car isn’t for them, and they want their money back, don’t feel you’re obligated to give it back. What you can do is tell the buyer you’ll give them their money back, but not the full amount. If the buyer bought the car for $2500, tell them you’ll only give them $2300, or $2200 back. The majority of the time this works.

    Next, do the Bill of Sale. Don’t write one out on a piece of paper. Instead get the DMV form REG 262. This is key in the car selling guide. The REG (262) is an official DMV document The Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262) is a single-page multipurpose form that combines odometer disclosure, transfer of ownership, bill of sale, and power of attorney.

    The REG 262 is not available online because it is printed on security paper, which makes it compliant with federal odometer disclosure regulations. Get one at the DMV or AAA beforehand

    If you have vanity license plates on your car, you’ll probably want to keep them. The new owner of the car can get brand new license plates at the DMV for $18. Once they buy their plates have them return your vanity license plates.