Choosing How to Sell
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14 Important Things to Consider When Selling a Used Car

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Choosing How to Sell
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Sales Prep

If your old set of wheels is at the end of its run, take the time to get things in order before you sell. With a little preparation, you can avoid mistakes and wring out every last dollar. We've developed a guide for what to do no matter how you choose to sell, along with a rundown of the ways you can turn a car into cash.

Related: 14 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Car

Knowing What it's Worth
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Knowing What It's Worth

When you plan to sell your car, the first step is always to get an idea of what it's worth. Sites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds offer simple, easy appraisal tools you can use to get an idea of a car's value online. All you have to do is enter some basic information about your vehicle and its condition — but be real about it. You don't do yourself any favors by overstating the shape your car is in, since the truth will come out during the sale. 

Related: 23 Cars Where You'll Save Big by Buying Used

Understanding the Law
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Getting Your Paperwork in Order
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Having an Inspection Done
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Having an Inspection Done

Get your car inspected before selling it. Proof that it was inspected by a reliable third party will put buyers at ease. Paying for an inspection can pay also for itself at sale. Learning if anything is wrong with the car that's easily fixable gives you a chance to get your car in shape to fetch the highest price possible.

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Fixing It Up
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Fixing It Up

If your inspection reveals the need for major repairs, you have to make tough decisions about whether the car is worth fixing. But manageable things such as bald tires, a cracked windshield, dull headlights, or other minor repairs are almost always worth the expense. By paying a little to fix what's broken up front, you can expect to recoup repair expenses and then some when you make the sale.

Related: 32 Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You

Cleaning It Up
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Cleaning It Up

Just like houses, curb appeal matters when it comes to selling a car. So get your vehicle looking its best before listing it. Remove clutter, clean the inside, get it washed and, if you smoke or have pets, consider paying to have it detailed.

Related: 12 Cheap Ways to Rid Your Ride of Nasty Odors

handing over keys
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Choosing How to Sell

Now that you know what to do to prepare for the sale, you have to consider which among the many ways to conduct that sale is right for you. There are platforms and methods, all with pros and cons. Some, however, have far more pros than cons and vice versa.

Choosing Word of Mouth
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Choosing Word of Mouth

It's an old-fashioned way to sell a car, but still one of the best: word of mouth. Neatly stenciled "for sale" signs on a car can attract attention from prospective buyers where you work, go to church, drop your children off at school or sports, or everywhere else you do your day-to-day driving, KBB says. You're less likely to encounter fraudsters and other shady players that lurk online, you won't have to deal with car dealers, and members of your own community are more likely to make good offers and be straightforward because they know they're likely to see you or your family around town afterward.

Choosing a Private Sale
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Choosing a Private Sale

Another old-fashioned way to sell: Place an ad for a car and wait for buyers to respond for a private sale, only today you'd place those ads on a site such as Craigslist instead of in the local newspaper's classifieds. Be warned that this involves taking lots of pictures, possibly paying for an ad, screening calls, and having strangers come to your house to take test drives. They'll almost always want to negotiate the price down; escrow scams and other frauds are common; and you have to do the title transfer and other legal work yourself. You'll also have to plan how you'll keep yourself and the prospective safe amid the pandemic.

Related: 20 of the Craziest Things Ever Offered on Craigslist

Trading It In
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Trading It In

If you're also planning to buy a new car, you might consider consolidating transactions by trading in your old car and putting the value toward the purchase of the new one. If you do this, make sure to negotiate the transactions separately, fight for the highest price — just as you would fight for the lowest price on the new car — and research beforehand to learn how trade-ins work.

Selling to a Dealer
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Selling to a Dealer

If you don't want to trade in your car, in many cases you can still sell it to a dealership outright. Autotrader recommends that you should start with a manufacturer-specific dealer (a BMW dealer if you're selling a BMW, for instance). If your car is very old, on the other hand, you might try a dealer specializing in used cars. Either way, call ahead first.

Selling to CarMax
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Selling to CarMax

CarMax has bricks-and-mortar locations across the country as well as offering online services. When you bring your car there — make an appointment online to save time — it'll give a free appraisal and an on-the-spot written offer that's good for seven days.

Selling Online
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Selling Online

You can sell your car online through a service such as Carvana, which gives you a real offer in just a few minutes. Log on, enter your license plate or vehicle identification number, answer a few questions, and you'll get an offer back. The offer is concrete — there's no haggling or lowballing — and if it works for you, the company will come, take a quick physical look at the car, and pay you on the spot. It's one of the fastest, safest, and simplest ways to get cash for an old car. 

Related: 25 Tips for Buying a Car at Auction

Getting an Instant Online Dealer Offer
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Getting an Instant Online Dealer Offer

As mentioned, KBB and Edmunds offer appraisal calculators that let you get an idea of what your car is worth. The same tools give you the option of getting a real-world offer from a dealer in your area. It doesn't take any more effort than the appraisal tool — you'll get an offer in a few minutes, and you don't have to leave a phone number or give an email address.