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13 Tips For Selling Your Car Privately

Drivers who choose to sell their used car privately have more advertising options than ever before thanks to the rise of online platforms and secure digital payments.
In the past, private sales almost always yielded more profit for the seller than selling to a car dealership. These days, with good used cars in short supply, dealers and private buyers may be willing to pay a premium for a good used car.
Of course, the better the condition of the vehicle the more money you can get!
In this article, well cover tips for selling a car privately, including how to prepare your vehicle for a sale, what paperwork you may need to complete the transaction, the best strategy for setting a price and negotiating with prospective buyers, and more!
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13 Tips For Selling Your Car Privately

1. Decide Where To Sell Your Car

There are more options than ever for selling a car, including: selling a car privately, selling to a dealer, and selling using an online service provider.
Privately. Selling privately means you advertise the car for sale and sell it to an individual, rather than selling to a dealership or car-buying service.
Instant Cash Offer (ICO). The ICO was first introduced by Kelley Blue Book (KBB) as a way of helping car sellers get the best price. These days, dealerships and other online auto buying and selling companies are offering the ICO feature. To get an instant cash offer, you’ll complete an online form that asks for details about your car, including the miles and condition. The program will generate a cash offer, which the seller can accept or refuse. If the seller accepts the offer they’ll bring the vehicle to a participating dealership that will buy the car for specified ICO price.
Dealership Trade-In. Used cars and trucks are in high demand, and many dealerships are paying more than they have in the past. Before you sell your car privately, call or visit several dealerships and find out how much they are willing to pay. Most online sellers can give you a purchase estimate over the phone and will pick up the vehicle too.

2. Preparing Your Car For The Sale

Here are some tips for preparing to sell your car privately:
Take Everything Out Of The Interior And Trunk. Be sure to remove personal items from the car and don’t forget to empty the trunk. Do leave accessories that were part of the car’s original purchase package, such as jumper cables, operation and service manual, floor mats, the spare tire and jack.
Thoroughly Clean Interior Surfaces. No one wants to purchase a vehicle that looks dirty and neglected. Wipe down the interior surfaces, clean stains off the upholstery, clean the windows with glass cleaner, vacuum up dog hair and food crumbs.
Perform Basic Maintenance. If the car is in need of an oil change or other routine maintenance, it’s worth it to get these things done before you list the car for sale. Replace tires that are near their end of safe use, put on new windshield wipers, and make other small repairs. Investing in repairs could add up to more money in your pocket from a buyer.
Get A Car Wash. This is the easiest and most obvious way to make your car look clean and cared for.

3. Run A CARFAX Vehicle History Report

Car buyers will be impressed by your honesty and appreciate the information in a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Use this tool, along with the CARFAX History-Based Value to get the history of your vehicle, which you can provide to prospective buyers.
Each CARFAX Report checks for information reported to CARFAX from thousands of sources and can include:
  • Vehicle registration
  • Title information, including salvaged or junked titles
  • Odometer readings
  • Lemon history
  • Total loss information
  • Stolen and recovery information
  • Structural damage
  • Accident indicators, such as airbag deployment
  • Service and repair information
  • Vehicle usage (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)
  • Recall information

4. Set The Right Price

To set a price when sell you car privately, first obtain multiple quotes from different sources (e.g., Kelley Blue Book, CARFAX, Edmunds, etc.). It’s easy to get a value estimate. Most sites require the vehicle identification number (VIN) and basic details about the vehicle’s condition. Make sure you're being honest about the condition of their car when obtaining these quotes; otherwise, the sale price might end up being too high. Although minor cosmetic, mechanical, or electrical issues may not concern you as the owner, they might be deal-breakers to a buyer. The more honest and accurate the information you input into the online value estimators tools, the more realistic the value estimates you’ll receive.

5. Get A Copy Of Your Title

All car owners should have their original vehicle title in a safe place. If you are not able to locate your original title, you will need to obtain a copy in order to sell the vehicle and transfer the title to the new owner. In California you will need to complete an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227)

6. Gather Maintenance Records And Receipts

Prospective buyers will want to know about the condition and accident history of your vehicle, even if they have the Carfax Report. To help your buyer feel confident about their purchase, gather all the maintenance records and receipts that you can. If you do not have these handy, consider contacting the garage, auto body shops, or dealers that did major service and repairs on your vehicle. 

7. Advertise Your Car

Now that you have your pricing and paperwork prepared, it’s time to advertise your car for sale. There are numerous online advertising platforms, and many local newspapers will offer print and online advertising options.

8. Contact Prospective Buyers

As prospective buyers start to contact you, it could become overwhelming to manage the calls and emails. Do your best to respond to each person in a timely manner. It’s ok to let them know you’ve received many responses and that you are doing your best to prioritize showing your vehicle.

9. Stay Safe

Make safety a priority as you sell your vehicle. Never give out your home address or any of your banking account information. Many scammers send emails and texts asking for the seller’s financial information and say they will wire money or deposit a check into your account. Don’t fall for these scams. Honest, legitimate buyers will want to know more about the car than they do about where you do your banking. Legitimate buyers will want to test drive the car and will be interested in speaking to you. 

10. Prepare For A Test Drive

Before you let prospective buyers test drive your car, check with your insurance carrier to see if you are covered for other drivers driving your car in case of an accident. Also ask to see the buyer’s license and take a picture of it.

11. Pre-Purchase Inspection

The buyer always pays for the inspection. You may agree to accompany the buyer to the inspection at a local garage or an experienced mechanic of their choice.

12. Negotiating The Price

Do your pricing homework and set a fair price from the start. The buyer will have done their homework and knows approximately what your car is worth. Being prepared to negotiate will help facilitate a meeting of the minds and make the deal less stressful. If a mechanical defect was discovered during the inspection, it may make sense to lower the price to complete the transaction.

13. Completing The Paperwork

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has specific forms that a car seller will need to complete to transfer a car title to a new owner.
Smog Certification: If you are selling your car, you need to give the new owner a valid smog certification when you sell the car. If the car you are selling is less than four years old, you do not need to get a smog inspection. Instead, the new owner of the car will need to pay a smog transfer fee.

CU SoCal Auto Loans

If leasing isn’t right for you and you decide on purchasing a new or used car, CU SoCal can help with car loan financing! We offer: 
  • Up to 120% financing for new and used vehicles.
  • Competitive rates
  • Quick pre-approvals.
  • Extended terms up to 84 months for the lowest possible monthly payment.
  • A personal auto-buying concierge service.
  • Low-cost loan protection add-ons.
  • No application or funding fees.

Why Savvy Consumers Choose CU SoCal

For more than 60 years, CU SoCal has been providing financial services, including car loans, personal loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other banking products, to those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.
Please give us a call today at 866.287.6225 today to schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our auto loan experts.

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