10 Things You Should Do When Selling a Vehicle

There could easily be 100 things to think about when it comes time to sell your car. To make it easier, we wanted to narrow it down to 10 essential things that you can do when selling a vehicle.

If you’ve ever wanted a job well done, it’s right now. These tips will help you build confidence with your buyers and ensure you’ll get top dollar for your car without encountering any unexpected surprises along the way.

Without further ado, let’s jump right in.


1.  Inspect the Car

Any prospective buyer who has mechanical knowledge is going to pick apart your car and lower the price as a result. If you have a buyer that doesn’t know what they are looking at, they might request a pre-purchase inspection to ensure they have that information before the sale takes place.

You can head all of this off by getting your own inspection. If there’s nothing wrong with your vehicle, you’ll have a good report to show from a qualified mechanic. If there are things wrong, have them fixed or be prepared to explain them to the buyer. Either way, the added confidence will increase your price.

2. Clean & Detail the Car

It’s been proven over and over that a clean car will sell faster and bring in more money. Your car needs to be cleaner than ever before, even in the ad photos. After all, no one wants to buy a filthy car.

Do people ever purchase a dirty vehicle from a car lot? Never. That’s because dealerships understand the value of selling a shiny, clean car off the lot. While you are cleaning and detailing, make sure you pay special attention to:

  • Carpets

  • Glass

  • Seats

  • Ashtrays

  • Dashboard

  • Steering wheel

If you smoked or had pets in the car, you will want to steam clean the interior as well.

For the exterior, make sure you get a good washing and don’t forget the wax. A little tire shine also goes a long way. While this whole process doesn’t cost you much except your time, it can dramatically improve the price you receive when you sell a vehicle and it helps show the buyer that you’re going about selling your car with purpose.

3. Set Your Price Appropriately

You want to know the proper amount to charge for your car. Check the various sites to get an estimate of what to ask. Start with KBB and NADA to see what they estimate the worth. You should also take a look at your local Craigslist to see what others are selling the same car for.

Often, there’s a big difference between what people are selling for and what the value truly is. You need to price your car reasonably compared to others when selling your vehicle. After all, why would someone buy your car if they can get a cheaper one someone else?

The answer might be the added value you bring to the table with your efforts. Don’t forget to take into account the things you’ve done from this list!

4. Meet in a Safe Area

Once you have your car listed for sale, you’ll start to receive calls and inquiries about it. You must protect yourself at all times because meeting strangers is a dangerous endeavor. Many people have been injured, attacked or killed when meeting someone they didn’t know. Just read about the older couple that was killed trying to buy a classic hot rod on Craigslist not long ago.

Thankfully, this doesn’t occur all the time, but it’s something you should be aware of.

Schedule your meeting at a public place and take someone with you. A busy shopping center is always a good idea. You could also check with your local police station as some of them encourage transactions to occur in their parking lots for added safety.

While you are meeting with the stranger, keep your guard up at all times. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal.

5. Handle the Test Drive with Care

Before you allow anyone to take your car for a drive, you need to do a few things to protect yourself and your property. Verify their identity first by inspecting their driver’s license. Take a picture of it with your phone and then send that in an e-mail to a friend so they also know who you are with.

Go with the potential buyer on the test drive. Agree on the route ahead of time so you know where you will be going. There’s no reason for them to take you anywhere deserted. There’s also no reason to subject your car to the worst roads in town with a stranger behind the wheel.

With a properly planned route, you can show them the capability of your vehicle without any surprises.

6. Negotiate Like a Pro

Once the test drive is over, the negotiations will begin. Expect them to make an offer that’s lower than your asking price. Sometimes, it might be dramatically lower. There are several ways this might happen, so here are the best ways to handle each response.

“I like your car, but…”

This buyer is usually trying to negotiate on the price, but they aren’t comfortable with doing that outright. Once they go into silence, remind them of the added value you’ve placed on the car thanks to this list. Ask what things they’re leery about, and perhaps ask them how much they would be comfortable paying.

“What’s your best price?”

This buyer is direct and to the point. They want you to come in at a lower price than they are expecting. Don’t become too eager to reduce your price quite yet. Start with a minimal drop and watch their reaction to it, then explain the reasons your car is worth that price.

“Would you accept…?”

This is a good negotiation. The buyer has already considered what they are willing to pay and they don’t mind making an offer. They are even polite about it.

“That’s my only offer.”

This buyer doesn’t want you to counteroffer them. Many times, they might just be bluffing, but they are definitely close to their final price. If you are comfortable with letting them leave – do so. They might come back tomorrow and pay what you are asking, or another buyer might come into play.

“Let’s negotiate before I see the car.”

If you encounter the person trying to negotiate over e-mail, text or the phone, you have another problem to think about. If you offer them your discounted amount in writing before they’ve seen the car, they have room to ask for even less when they arrive. Instead, tell them you’ll negotiate once they have seen the car.

Other negotiating tips to consider

While these are just a few of the situations you might encounter, it might be best for you to practice various scenarios ahead of time. The best rule of thumb is to stay confident. Remain close to your asking price until the buyer makes a solid argument to the contrary. With that said, it’s best to become flexible with the price you want or selling your vehicle will be a tedious endeavor.

7. Get a Bill of Sale

Once you’ve agreed on the price, it’s time to get to business. While a bill of sale isn’t required in every state and isn’t legal tender for buying or selling a car, it’s still a wise thing to have. It shows that you transferred the ownership of your vehicle willingly and it proves that the sale price was witnessed by both parties.

Some states require that the bill of sale contains specific information, so make sure you check the guidelines first. Most times, it should include:

  • Your name and home address

  • The buyer’s name and home address

  • The car’s VIN number

  • Year, make and model of the vehicle

  • Current odometer reading

  • Price paid for the car

  • Date the transaction occurred

  • “Sold as is” clearly marked on the document

  • Both signatures – buyer and seller

8. Be Wise About Payments

You should always be on guard with payments. For example, there have been plenty of people ripped off with fake cashier’s checks. The trouble with these is that you’ve already given them the car and title when you realize there’s a problem.

You can accept a cashier’s check, but you want to meet them at their financial institution where the bank can verify and cash it for you immediately. Once that occurs, you can turn over the car, keys and title.

Insisting that the buyer pays in cash is the best way to handle the transaction. It’s also a good idea to use a currency authentication pen to make sure the money isn’t counterfeit.

9. Finalize the Sale Correctly

As you finalize your sale, you want to take the time to research your state’s requirements.

Start by recording the current odometer reading and correctly signing the car title over. The buyer is now responsible for having the title transferred into their name and getting plates for the car. Consider obtaining a Release of Liability form from your state government website and filling that out as well, to ensure that anything the buyer does with your vehicle is on them.

Along those lines, be sure to remove your license plates when selling your car!

10. Complete the After-Sale Cleanup

Once you’ve sold your car, there are still some things to keep in mind. First of all, you want to call the insurance company and cancel your coverage. Check with the DMV to find out what you need to do after selling your car.

Some states also ask sellers to report the sale. This helps to reduce your liability if something happens after the car leaves your possession.

Final Thoughts

Selling a vehicle can be an exhilarating but stressful experience. These top tips will help make the process simpler while also increasing the amount of money you’ll receive during the sale. Who knows; it’s possible you might even enjoy the process of selling your car!


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

Cover Image Source