How Do I Sell My Car? The Entire Process in a Nutshell

Are you thinking, "It's time to sell my car?"

Whether you're looking to buy a new vehicle or have an extra car sitting on your property, you're probably wondering what options are available to you. While selling your car can be a bit of a struggle, there are countless solutions out there.

However, if you've never sold a car before, you probably don't know where to start.

How much should you sell your car for? How do you list your car for sale? Who can you sell your car to?

These are all valid questions.

If you feel like you're in the dark, don't worry. We're here to help answer all of your car-selling questions. Keep reading for an in-depth guide on how to sell your vehicle.

Have Your Car Checked Out By a Mechanic

Before you can sell your car, you need to find out what kind of condition it's in. This will likely cost between $150 and $250. You might not want the added expense, but this is important for multiple reasons.

First, the resale value of your car is heavily dependent on the condition it's in. For example, if your car has mechanical issues, electrical problems, or a lot of cosmetic damage, it will be far less valuable. Even something like bald tires will lower your vehicle's market value.

Secondly, you need to make sure the vehicle is mechanically sound. The last thing you want to do is sell someone a car that's dangerous to drive.

Additionally, you don't need the karma of selling someone a lemon. For example, if you sold your car to a single mom who then needed to spend hundreds of dollars on repairs, it wouldn't be right.

If you know your car has issues but can't afford to make repairs, it's imperative that you're open and honest about the vehicle's condition. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes and think about what you would expect from a seller.

Determine the Value of Your Car

Now that you know more about the condition of your vehicle, you can move forward in the process. The next step to "sell my car" is looking up its fair market value. Here's are some options.

Online Valuation Tools

There are multiple websites you can use to find the value of your car, such as Kelly Blue Book and Autotrader. On these sites, you will fill out thorough questionnaires to get the most accurate value of your vehicle possible.

Some example details you'll need to list include:

  • Vehicle make, model, and year
  • VIN (vehicle identification number)
  • Vehicle trim level (basic, luxury, sport, etc.)
  • Mileage
  • Special features (engine, transmission, electronics, speakers, etc.)
  • Vehicle condition
  • And more

Once you enter all of this information, you will see how much your car is worth. There will be multiple options here as well. You can see a fair value for trade-ins and private sales.

Additionally, some of these websites have a "sell my car for cash" option where you can see what they will offer you for your car. Taking a cash offer might be your fastest and most convenient solution.

We recommend using two or three valuation websites to find the average value of your vehicle.

Local Car Listings

While most online valuation websites take your location into account, it never hurts to verify the results based on where you live (assuming you're selling the vehicle locally). Look at local car listings from other private sellers and used car dealerships.

Compare and contrast their prices. Obviously, you need to be looking at vehicles that are the same make, model, and year as yours.

Decide If You Want to Make Any Repairs

Now that you've learned how much your vehicle is worth, you have a decision to make. You can decide to "sell my car as-is" or make repairs to increase its value.

In most cases, investing in repairs is not worth the time and money. Vehicle repairs rarely give you a valuable return on your investment. However, as noted earlier, if you're going to sell the car with existing issues, they must be disclosed.

If your car has major mechanical or electrical issues that will make it challenging to sell, we recommend accepting a cash offer. Otherwise, you might spend months waiting for the right buyer to come along.

Prepare the Car to Sell

Before listing your car, you need to put some elbow grease into the cosmetics. Whether you've decided to make repairs or sell your car as-is, it needs to look clean and well-maintained. This will make the vehicle more appealing to potential buyers.

Once again, put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. Would you be impressed by a car that was filthy inside and out? Would you be motivated to make an offer on a vehicle if you felt like you needed a shower after test driving it?

Work hard to wash the car and shine up the paint. Then, detail the inside of the car. This includes:

  • Cleaning all windows and glass
  • Using the proper cleaning solutions on the dash and upholstery
  • Vacuuming
  • Removing all odors

Buyers will be more inclined to look twice at your car if they can see the work you've put into it. A dirty vehicle suggests a deeper level of neglect and poor maintenance. An unclean car is a red flag to potential buyers.

Look Into Your Options for Selling Your Car

The next step in our "sell my car" guide is to learn about your options for selling your vehicle. There are pros and cons to each option. Ultimately, it depends on your circumstances, such as how much money you want to make and how quickly you need to sell.

We've mentioned a few of the car selling options above in passing, but let's take a closer look at each method.

Dealerships

When most people say "I want to sell my car," they immediately think about used car dealerships. If you're in the market for a new vehicle, trading in your old one can be a fast and convenient way to secure a downpayment. Even if you still owe money on your current vehicle, this is generally an option.

Some used car dealerships will even take your vehicle off your hands for cash. After they have their in-house mechanics inspect the car, they'll give you a cash offer. Then, you can decide whether or not you want to accept.

If you're worried your car is too old or too beat up to qualify, it never hurts to ask. Many used car dealerships will accept trade-ins, even if they don't intend to sell them on the lot. Instead, they'll take your trade-in and sell it to a local auto auction.

Selling to a used car dealership can be a convenient, all-in-one solution if you're looking to buy a new car. They can use the transaction towards your downpayment and as part of their in-house financing.

Just make sure you do your homework to learn the fair trade-in and resale value of your vehicle. Some dealerships will try to give you a super low offer. Knowing the trade-in value of your car can help you negotiate a better deal.

Car-Buying Websites

Next, let's look at some popular car-buying websites. Consumers can use these websites to buy cars, list cars, or sell cars directly to the website. This is a great option for car sellers who:

  • Are looking for a quick and easy sell
  • Are looking to sell a car in disrepair
  • Don't want to deal with listing and marketing their vehicle
  • Don't want to deal with negotiations with buyers and giving test drives
  • Etc.

Common car-buying websites include Cars.com, Carvana.com, and Vroom.com. As noted earlier, KellyBlueBook.com and Autotrader.com will also give you a cash offer for your car. You'll need to fill out a questionnaire similar to the one you completed on Kelly Blue Book to determine the value of your vehicle.

If you accept a cash offer from one of these sites, they'll work out the payment details with you. They'll also arrange for your vehicle to be picked up.

However, don't be surprised if they send someone to inspect the vehicle before giving you a final offer. Like any buyer, they will want to verify the condition of the vehicle before purchasing it.

Car Listing Websites

If you're looking to "sell my car" for more money, consider selling it to a consumer, rather than a used car dealership or auto website. While this strategy is not guaranteed, it can prove to be more lucrative. You'll be more likely to get the full resale value for your vehicle by selling to online car buyers.

Some of the car-buying websites we listed above also allow you to list your vehicle for sale. Listing your car through these sites will greatly increase its visibility. These sites offer varying listing fees, for example:

  • Autotrader- $25-$90
  • eBay Motors - $25-$95
  • Car Gurus - $5
  • Craigslist - $5
  • Cars.com - $5

There are other benefits to using these car listing sites as well. For example, when listing with Autotrader.com, you also get:

  • A vehicle history report at no additional cost
  • Up to 30 photos of your vehicle
  • Free ad renewals every 30 days
  • And more

If you want the best deal, look at various sites to determine which one you want to use to "sell my car." You can also use multiple sites, as some of them are incredibly affordable.

Private Sales

For some people, selling their car privately is the best option. They feel better about keeping everything in their own hands.

However, this option can present a challenge in terms of marketing and exposure. You'll need to put in extra work to get the word out about your car.

Fortunately, things like Facebook Marketplace make it easy to advertise your vehicle within your community. You can also post your car on your personal page and ask your friends and followers to share the post.

When it comes to meeting buyers, play it smart and think about your safety and security. We recommend meeting potential buyers in highly-trafficked, public locations.

Do not give people your address or have strangers come to your home. We also suggest bringing someone with you when meeting buyers.

Before you allow them to test drive your vehicle, use your phone to take a picture of their driver's license. You should also ensure that your insurance policy covers other drivers.

Finally, if they place an offer on your vehicle, only accept cashier's checks or cash. You can also use a trusted online payment app.

Salvage Cash Buyers

Finally, let's talk about what to do if you have a vehicle that doesn't run or needs an extensive amount of work. You have limited options here, but options nonetheless.

First, you can try to sell your car privately by listing it as a "mechanic's special," "parts car," or "project car." However, this is a very niche category. You may or may not find a buyer.

Conversely, if you want to "sell my car now," you can get a cash offer from a car salvage company. These local companies will give you a cash offer for your junk car. In most cases, they'll even come to your home and haul away the vehicle for free, as part of their services.

If you choose this option, be warned. You will probably get a bare minimum price for your vehicle.

Listing Your Car

Now that you know how to sell your car and who you can sell it to, we need to talk about your listing. Whether you're selling locally or online, you need to disclose the details of your vehicle. Think about what you would want to know if you were the buyer.

For example, you need to list:

  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle
  • The exterior and interior colors
  • The trim level
  • The relative condition
  • Maintenance documentation and paperwork
  • Any specific damages or issues (cosmetic, mechanical, and electrical)
  • Updated features (speakers, entertainment, rims, wheels, new tires, etc.)
  • Etc.

When buying used cars, people want as much information as possible. They need to verify that it's the right car for them and that they won't be buying a lemon.

Vehicle History Report

To grant potential buyers further peace of mind, provide a vehicle history report for those interested in your car. A vehicle history report tracks a vehicle from the day it leaves the manufacturer. It documents:

  • Number of owners
  • Registration locations
  • Commercial use history (lease, rental, fleet)
  • Major accidents and repairs
  • Maintenance history
  • Factory recalls
  • And more

There are many websites that sell in-depth vehicle history reports. However, you can find the basic information for free on other websites. If you're thinking "I want to sell my car quickly," make the best impression on buyers by paying for the full report.

Vehicle Transportation Options

Now that you know how to sell and list your vehicle, let's talk about some of the logistics. When selling your vehicle privately or online, you might run across a problem - getting the vehicle to the buyer. If the buyer is local, there's no issue.

However, if you're selling a vehicle to someone who lives out of state, what are your options? Most people don't have the time or desire to transport the vehicle themselves. If the buyer flies down to drive the car back home, they'll expect a massive discount.

We recommend looking into the various vehicle transportation options. Here's a brief outline of what you have to work with.

Open Air Transport

Open-air transport is one of the fastest, most convenient, and most affordable options for transporting vehicles. Open-air transport is more widely available, which makes it ideal for time-sensitive transport.

Because open-air options take several vehicles at once, it's also more affordable. For this reason, it's also more economical and environmentally conscious.

Yet, open-air transport leaves your vehicle somewhat exposed to inclement weather and road hazards. While it's rare that anything happens to vehicles during this transportation process, it might not be ideal for rare, valuable, or classic cars.

Enclosed Transport

If you want a vehicle transport option that offers more protection and security, consider hiring a service that offers enclosed transportation. Your vehicle will be protected from wind, rain, hail, snow, ice, rocks, and more. While the driver is stopped or resting, you won't have to worry about vandals or any other criminal activities.

This added layer of security, however, comes with a slightly higher price. But if you're selling a high-value car, it would be worth the extra cost. The seller wouldn't be very happy if the vehicle arrived damaged.

Door-to-Door Shipping

At Nexus Auto Transport, we go the extra mile (literally). We offer the next step up in auto transport - door-to-door shipping.

We'll come to your home to get your vehicle and ship it directly to the buyer. Neither you nor the buyer will have to go out of your way to ship or receive the vehicle.

If you're thinking, "I want to sell my car quickly," offering this to buyers is a good way to motivate them. Click here to learn more about how it works.

Classic, Rare, and Exotic Car Transport

For especially valuable, rare, or exotic cars, you need an auto transport option to match. Nexus Auto Transport understands the importance of preserving your car to maintain its integrity and value during loading, transportation, and unloading.

We have specialized services for your needs. Our drivers are trained to handle these types of cars with extreme care. That way, both you and the buyer will have peace of mind about the entire sales transaction and the transportation process.

Expedited Transport

Finally, if you need to ship your vehicle as soon as possible, we have an option for that too. Nexus Auto Transport will ship your vehicle in the quickest time frame possible while maintaining care, safety, and security. For this purpose, we offer guaranteed car pickup dates through some of the best truckers in the industry.

Take Care of the Logistics

Lastly, let's talk about some of the logistics you'll face when you decide to "sell my car."

First, if you still owe money on the car, check with your lender to learn how to proceed with the sale. They might have certain documents to fill out or hoops to jump through. This is especially important if there's a lien taken out on the vehicle.

Title Transfer

Then, you need to figure out how to handle the vehicle title transfer. This process typically depends on the rules laid out by your local DMV. In most cases, the buyer is responsible for transferring the vehicle title.

In some cases, the buyer will need to retitle the vehicle. They'll also have to pay to register it in their name and pay state taxes.

If you don't have the title, you'll need to write up a bill of sale that both parties sign. We also recommend having the bill of sale notarized by a licensed notary.

Keep all of this paperwork until the sale is finalized and you verify that the title is no longer in your name. If something happens, you need to be able to prove that the transaction took place.

Other Documents

For the sake of the buyer, it's a good idea to bring them all the service records you have for the vehicle. This includes any manufacturer recalls, accident documents, etc. A full vehicle history report should contain all of this information.

Additionally, remember to update your insurance policy to remove the vehicle from your plan. Only do this once you are sure that the vehicle is no longer in your name.

In some states, it will be necessary to prove that your vehicle passes the local emission tests and requirements. You might need to get a smog test to provide the buyer with a certificate for emissions.

Finally, contact the county tax assessor's office to notify them of the sale of your car. If the buyer never changes the title to their name, reporting the sale to the tax assessor's office will give you an added layer of protection.

Are You Thinking It's Time to Sell My Car?"

If you're planning on selling your car, we hope our in-depth guide helps you streamline the process. It's important to know all of your options and how to go about things the right way.

And if you're thinking "I need to sell my car and ship it across the country," we can help you figure out the details. Check out our car shipping cost calculator to find out what your options are. And, of course, feel free to ask us any questions or address any concerns.

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