Practical Steps to Selling a Car Fast

How to wash a car - suds-over
••• Photo © Aaron Gold

Selling a car might sound complicated, but if you’re smart about it, you can quickly sell a car (in good condition) in a matter of a few weeks. You will need a bit of patience, some good lighting, and some excellent negotiation skills.

Get Your Paperwork In Order

To legally sell your car and avoid last-minute scrambling, you will need to gather several pieces of documentation:

  • Title: to sell your car and transfer ownership, you will need that pink slip of paper, at least as far as the government is concerned.
  • DMV Sale Forms: Your specific state’s DMV website will list the requirements that apply to selling a car in that state.
  • Order The Carfax: You want to be able to show potential buyers a clean bill of health. To do so, show them the Carfax upfront rather than lettin them go and find out that information on their own. This will show that you are trustworthy and serious about making the sale.
  • Get permission from your lender: If you have a car loan, you will need to check with them before selling your car and find out the proper procedures.

Calculate Your Asking Price

How much should you charge for your car? If you are not in a rush to sell, you can pick an optimistically high number and hope that someone will be desperate enough to pay. But that is not generally how things work. To set a price that people will want to spend, find your car’s actual value in Kelley Blue Book. A good rule of thumb is to add about 10-15% to the cost as a starting point.

For example, if Kelley Blue Book says your car is worth $10,000, you can probably get away with an asking price between $11,000 and $12,000.

If no one buys your car, you can always adjust downwards. It is better to set a higher price and be patient than a lower one and lose the opportunity to make a bit more money.

Make Your Car Look Nice

No one wants to buy a car from someone they think wasn’t clean. Some rules of thumb:

  • Do not keep trash on the floor
  • Get your vehicle detailed from top to bottom
  • Fix any paint or external cosmetic issues
  • Consider buying an air freshener or some new car smelling spray

Like you would spruce up a home you are hoping to sell, you should make sure your vehicle is looking it's very best.

Take Some Great Photos

Would you buy a car from someone who has only posted grainy, dimly lit photos? Probably not. Using the highest quality camera you have, take a lot of pictures of your vehicle in broad daylight (after you have paid for detailing and a car wash, of course). This will make a great addition to any advertisements you are hoping to post. You could even use a few to display your on social media if you want to potentially sell to your friends.

Set Up Your Ad Smartly

Once you pick your photos, write a descriptive and helpful ad. Avoid those corny phrases that will turn people away, and consider creating a free temporary phone number on Google Voice that you can use to screen potential buyers.

Make Your Move Quickly – And Safely

Once you hear from someone who seems interested, reach out so that you do not lose their interest. Beware of buyers who are not legit; you can usually tell a lot about whether or not they are serious by making a quick phone call.

Make sure to meet for a test drive in a public place that is well-lit and safe.

If they make an offer, negotiate carefully so that you get the best price. Once you have made a deal, you can sign a bill of sale and sign over your title as well.