We live in the “do it yourself” age. Today, you are more likely to do things for yourself. Cutting out the middle man has become common place. After all, why pay a fee or commission to someone else if you don’t have to? Better to keep all the money for yourself.

This is especially true when it comes to selling your vehicle. It’s easier than ever to sell your used car online, and keep all of the sale price for yourself. However, are you doing everything you can to ensure you get top dollar for your second hand vehicle? Do you know all the steps you should follow to ensure that you get the most out of your old car or truck?

Want to protect yourself and ensure that you don’t get ripped off? Here are 15 tips you should keep in mind when selling your own vehicle.

Keep Maintenance and Service Records

Show the person interested in your vehicle that you were a good owner. Providing them with copies of the maintenance and service records will go a long way. These include things such as oil changes, new tires, repairs, scheduled tune-ups, and so on. A good set of service records provides assurance to the buyer that you were a diligent caretaker.  They will be confident the vehicle is in good working order.

Don’t have the maintenance records? Not to worry. You can contact the service centers that have worked on your car over the years and get copies from them. They can most likely e-mail your records to you. Alternately, you can keep your own log. Provide a prospective buyer with the list of services and where they were done. Then they can confirm for themselves, if they feel the need. Showing this type of care for the vehicle reinforces your responsibility. It can also justify your asking price.

Make Sure the Vehicle is Clean

This may sound like a no-brainer. However, you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother doing a single thing to their vehicle once they decide to sell it. And yes, that includes cleaning it.

Ensuring that your car is clean is critically important to sell it. First impressions are lasting ones. Nothing can turn off potential buyers like the sight of a filthy vehicle. Be sure to thoroughly clean the interior of the vehicle — removing items such as loose change, coffee cups, or candy wrappers. Make sure you also clean outside.

Here’s a serious pro trip. Just take your car to a local detailing place and pay a couple hundred bucks to get it professionally done. You should be able to recoup that money easily by raising your asking price a bit. Making sure your vehicle shows well is the first step to selling it. After all, no one wants to even test drive a filthy car.

Fix Any Major Problems With the Vehicle

We’re not saying that you have to fix every little thing that might be wrong with your vehicle. But it’s advisable to get any big problems fixed before trying to sell. It would not look good, for example, if you had an oil leak or a knocking in the engine when potential buyers come around.

If you are unwilling to invest any money in repairs, then you should be prepared to lower the price. No one is going to buy your problematic car unless it’s on a discount. They’ll just have to spend extra money fixing it themselves.

It’s worth doing some math over. If a repair will cost you $1,200, but means you don’t have to knock $2,000 off the price, you should definitely do it. On the other hand, if the repairs are too costly to recoup the expense, it might be time to consider selling it as “parts only.”

Set Your Price

Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to determine the value of your vehicle. To get an idea of what you can ask for, start researching online. Take a look at vehicles that are the same make and model, of similar age and mileage. You’ll start to see some consistent prices. You can also search online price guides to get an idea of what vehicles like yours are selling for. Be sure to consider things like additional features too. Tinted windows, leather seats, a working A/C, or a DVD player for the kids are all worth sometime extra compared to a bare bones model.

Once you have determined the price, add $500.00 on top of that amount for negotiating purposes. It’s important to be realistic about your asking price if you want to sell quickly. Cars that are overpriced will tend to languish and not sell. If you’re not in a hurry, though, you can always slightly overprice your vehicle and see if anyone bites. If not, just lower the price in a month. Keep in mind that everyone else has access to the same information online that you do. They will have an idea of what your vehicle is really worth.

Spread the Word

The internet is a great resource when it comes to selling items. However, don’t rely solely on one place to get the word out. Post photos of the vehicle (with your contact information) on social media websites. But also send e-mails to friends and families, and let people at work know that you are selling your vehicle. A sign posted in the window of the vehicle itself is also a good idea. Don’t forget to use traditional avenues as well. Local newspapers still accept classified ads and you can put up fliers in high-traffic areas around your city.

Studies show that the majority of second-hand vehicles are sold to people the owner knows personally. So don’t discount your own personal network. That neighbor down the street might be interested in buying your vehicle. Or your co-worker might be looking for something cheap and reliable for their teenagers to drive. That kind of interest can ensure that your vehicle sells fast.

Draft a Punchy Advertisement That Will Get Noticed

When advertising online or in a local newspaper, be sure to write an advertisement that will get noticed. This will require that you use punchy language that peaks people’s interest and gets them to contact you. Shorter ads are always better. Hit the high points of your car, the price, and a phone number where interested buyers can learn more.

Don’t make the advertisement too long or focus on things that people aren’t interested in. Mention the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the mileage. If you want, note in the advertisement that the price listed is “firm.” It might save you from dealing with aggressive hagglers. Also, be sure to list any special features the vehicle has such as a sun roof, leather interior, satellite radio, etc.

Include More Than One Photo With Your Advertisement

At a minimum, you should include two photos of your vehicle. One exterior shot and an interior one. However, don’t be afraid to include three, four, or even five photos with the advertisement. Just make sure that the photos are flattering and show your car in the best possible light.

Taking photos from multiple angles will help potential buyers get a sense of its look and appeal. They can also see if the body is in good shape, free of dents and rust. This is likely to further entice them. Interior shots can give a sense of the space in the vehicle, as well as the condition of the seats and steering wheel.

Use a Standard “AS IS” Bill of Sale

Once your vehicle is sold, it’s not your problem anymore. The last thing you want is the buyer coming back to you claiming that repairs were needed. Or blaming you for any problems that arise with the obviously used car you sold them. To protect yourself, be sure to draw up an “AS IS” bill of sale.

This means that you are selling the car with no guarantee or warranty on it. In other words, it’s being sold “as is” and it’s the buyer’s responsibility to ensure they are getting what they paid for. This will prevent the buyer from coming back later and trying to pressure you into paying repair bills. Or even worse, demanding a refund.

A quick online search will get you plenty of examples of an “as is” bill of sale. Some can even be filled out, downloaded, and printed for free. In the U.S., there are also many state forms that can be easily found and used. These are a great way to protect yourself.

Sell Your Vehicle Close to Home

There are plenty of scams out there. Lots of shady people are looking to rip you off on the sale of your vehicle. Be especially wary of anyone who approaches you online from far off places. It’s always advisable to meet buyers in-person who live in your immediate area.

Don’t be taken in by people who contact you online from out of state (or overseas) saying that they will buy your vehicle immediately. It’s a common scam, and you can simply ignore these requests completely. Make sure you sell your vehicle to someone you can meet in a familiar, nearby location.

Meet Potential Buyers in a Public Place

What happens if you toss the keys to a potential buyer for a test drive, and they take off completely? Boom, you “car for sale” is now a “car being stolen.” Kiss it goodbye. To ensure that you don’t get ripped off, be sure to meet any potential buyers in a public place. Credit unions, banks, and restaurants are all good locations for a meeting and test drive. These places usually offer video surveillance and plenty of people around as witnesses.

If you feel comfortable doing so, it’s also advisable to go along on any test drive that takes place. Better yet, bring along a friend too. There’s safety in numbers sometimes.

Get a Temporary Phone Number

When meeting strangers and engaging them in a business transaction, it’s always advisable to provide some separation from them and your regular life. One of the best ways to do this is by getting a temporary cell phone number. There are services available that offer free and temporary phone numbers. This is a great use for one.

You can also forward calls from your main phone number to a temporary cell phone. This might strike you as a bit extreme, but a temporary phone number can serve as a buffer between you and the person who buys your vehicle. You should also consider a secondary email address, that can be discarded afterwards. Once the car is sold, you can dispose of the number (or email) and move on without any worries.

Verify the Buyer’s License Number

The last thing you want is for someone who is not licensed to take your car for a spin. The good news is that you can quickly and easily verify any potential buyers’ license number online or with a phone call. In many U.S. states, you can use an online driver license verification system. It enables you to put in a driver’s license number and instantly see if it is legitimate or not. This is a quick check that can provide valuable peace of mind. It will ensure that you do not get taken advantage of (or in legal trouble) for handing your keys over to an unlicensed driver.

Don’t Feel Pressure to Settle

Negotiations are a two way street. Anyone selling a vehicle should expect some negotiation from the buyer. However, don’t feel pressured to settle quickly. Definitely don’t accept an offer that you’re not happy with. There’s no rule saying that you have to take the first offer you’re given. Feel free to reject a price if you feel it is too low.

Alternately, tell the person on the other side of the negotiating table that you need a day or two to consider their offer. Holding out for the price you want is fine. To help, have a price that you are unwilling to go below, no matter what. Stick to your guns when negotiating. Eventually you are sure to get the price you want for your vehicle, assuming it’s reasonable.

Ask Questions and Be Upfront About the Vehicle

Even though you are the seller, it doesn’t preclude you from asking questions. Don’t hesitate to ask the buyer where they live, what they plan to use the car for, and where they work. This will give you a better understanding of the person and the price they are likely able to pay.

At the same time, be upfront about your car. Tell them about any work or repairs done on the vehicle. Let the buyer know the last time you had the tires on the car replaced, if the windshield wipers are new, the condition of the brakes, etc. This will make you look like an honest person and someone the buyer can come to a deal with.

Only Accept Cash or a Certified Check

There are lots of scam artists out there. As such, you should only accept cash or a certified check (which is as good as cash) from the buyer. Don’t accept personal checks or online money transfers from Western Union or PayPal. Unless you know the buyer well personally, don’t even risk it. There are too many ways for you to end up manipulated and ripped off with other payment methods.

Getting cash upfront before turning over the keys is the best way to ensure that you get paid properly and in full. The last thing you want after going through this entire process is to find out you’ve been taken for a ride. It’s better to walk away satisfied that you got the price you wanted, and that you have the money in your pocket.


This article was worked on by a variety of people from the Autoversed team, including freelancers, editors, and/or other full-time employees.