How To Get The Most Money For Your Used Car

Whether your car has been a constant source of aggravation or your loyal companion, there comes a time to move on. I remember the process of selling my first car: the phone calls, the emails, the negotiations. I expected to say “good riddance” as that little green car pulled away for the last time, but instead I felt a touch of sadness. Perhaps I felt downhearted because I had an attachment to the car, but more likely it was because I could have gotten more money from the deal.

The pressures of selling a car can be stressful. The following eight tips should help you get the most for your used car and allow you to approach the sale with confidence.

1. Make it Sparkle
Even if that shiny new car is within your sights or already in the driveway, it’s not time to neglect its predecessor quite yet. Taking a few hours to give your used car a thorough cleaning, both inside and out, can add hundreds of dollars to the buyer’s perceived value of the vehicle. If it appears as though the interior and exterior of the car have had little maintenance, the buyer may assume the same is true of the engine. First impressions can be everything.

2. Comparison Shop
Shopping for a new car is exciting, but take some time to consider the older automotive alternatives as well. Investigating how similar cars are selling is the key to determining a fair price and unloading the car quickly. A good place to get a ballpark price is the Kelley Blue Book. After entering a few details about the features and condition of your vehicle, the Blue Book provides a free estimate of the value. 

After you’ve got a general idea about the value of the car, it helps to compare prices locally. Free websites such as Craigslist and Cars.com are some of the best for local comparison shopping.

3. Effective Advertising
The days of selling a car through a newspaper's classified ads are coming to a close. While your local rag can still be an effective way to sell a used car, it costs money and who knows how long the ad will have to run before the car sells? 

Today, there are numerous free ways to advertise your used car directly to car buyers. Craigslist provides a free forum to list your car for sale and even allows you to include pictures of the car. Trying to sell a car online without a picture is a lot like trying to set up a stranger on a blind date, so make sure to include a few pictures. Websites like Cars.com and AutoTrader also let you post advertisements, if you create a free account.

When selling a high-end or vintage car, you might want to post photos from all angles on Flickr, which is free, and link to the account via your online ad.

Don’t forget about putting a “for sale” sign in the window either. Include the basic details about the car, such as the requested price, mileage and a phone number for interested buyers. My neighbor recently sold his used car in just days by putting a sign in the window and parking it along a busy street.

4. Gather Records
Before you start showing the car to buyers, gather all the records you can find and put them in a file. It'll provide proof you've done major work, like replacing the timing belt and water pump, so the buyer won't have to worry about these expensive repairs. I keep records of all my oil changes, as well, to show constant upkeep.

5. Do Your Homework
Sure you’ve been driving the thing for years, but how much do you really know about your used car? Does it have anti-lock breaks? Front-wheel or rear-wheel drive? What’s the gas mileage? Research the important features of the vehicle to become an effective salesperson. Scan the owners’ manual to find the answers. 

Being aware of what buyers are looking for is vital to getting a good price.

6. Use Your Networks
If you're plugged into social networks, you have a means of advertising right at your fingertips. P
ost some basic info for your friends on Facebook and Twitter, with a link to fuller details (perhaps on Craigslist) and see what impact it has. You're dealing with people who already know you, so the trust factor is high to start with. Even a note tacked on the notice board at work can be effective.

7. Come Prepared
My dad used to tell me, “A successful negotiation is when neither party is entirely satisfied with the deal.” Even though there’s some truth to Dad's advice, a little preparation will help you feel satisfied after the deal is completed.

 Knowing your limits and being confident about them are critical to a successful negotiation. Be aware of the lowest offer you would accept. Hesitation on a lowball offer indicates to the buyer they’ve got you on your heels. Be firm about what you want to get out of the vehicle.

8. Cash or Certified Check
When the deal is finally done, it’s time to make sure you get paid. Most people are generally trusting by their nature, but when you’re dealing with transactions for thousands of dollars, it’s okay to ask for a little security.

Accepting a personal check is just too risky when selling a car. If the check doesn’t clear the bank, you can be out a car and some serious dough. Insist that the buyer pay with cash or a certified check. A certified check can be obtained from the buyer’s bank and guarantees that they have the funds available. If you’re dealing in cash, the Secret Service has a few tips on determining if bills are real or counterfeit.

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