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How to Sell Your Used Car Like a Pro

Over half of all used cars sold each year are purchased by private parties.

There's huge demand for good used cars, so if you have a well maintained, late model vehicle and you're thinking about trading in, you should seriously consider selling it to a private party - you could end up saving thousands of dollars.

Here's how to sell your used car like a pro and get the highest price for it.

Step 1: Find out How Much It's Worth

The first thing to do is get a good feel for how much your car is worth. You can start by checking the pricing guides, but as we've pointed out before, you can't rely on them for anything other than a ball-park value.

What you need to do is check out car classifieds sites such as Craigslist (look under cars+trucks by owner), Cars.com, and AutoTrader.com (Make sure you select listings by owner).

Find a few cars in your area similar to yours, call up the owner and ask them the following questions:

  1. What condition is the vehicle in?
  2. What additional options does it include?
  3. Has it ever been in an accident?
  4. Has it been smoked in?
  5. Do you have full maintenance records?
  6. Are you the original owner?

Next, offer them 20% to 25% below their asking price to see if they're willing to sell at that price.

Go back and forth until you get a number they'll agree to, at which point you'll have a realistic number you can compare with.

Next, check out the listings from dealers and find cars \ similar to yours in miles and trim style. You can figure a realistic selling price will be 10% to 20% below their asking price.

This gives you a good idea of what your car will sell at retail. The ideal strategy is to price your car somewhere between the private party prices and the retail prices. Check out our article, How to Set the Asking Price for Your Used Car for further tips.

Step 2: List Your Car For Sale

Now that you have a good idea of what your car is worth, you're ready to start marketing - but don't worry, this part is easy. (Make sure you read our article: How to Place an Effective Classified Ad).

We recommend you post a free ad on Craigslist and a paid ad on one of the listing sites such as Cars.com or AutoTrader.com.

If it's applicable, the main things you want to emphasize in your ad are:

  • Low Miles
  • Clean and Well Maintained
  • Full Service Records
  • Non-Smoking
  • One Owner

Step 3: Dealing with Buyers

This is the toughest part when it comes to selling your car - dealing with the general public!

There will be shoppers trying to low-ball you, those who don't show up for appointments, and those who have no common sense or manners.

Here are the most common situations you'll encounter and the best ways to respond:

1. If they ask what your rock bottom price is
Just tell them you haven't established one yet. Let them know there are a few people interested and that you're confident you will work out an agreeable price with one of them. Tell them you've done a lot of research and know its a fair price, then counter offer by knocking a couple of hundred off the asking price.

2. If they make a low-ball offer right off the bat
This is a strategy many buyers use hoping you'll be desperate and agree to it. Simply counter offer with a price that's a little bit lower than your asking price and remind them of the main benefits of your car (non-smoking, clean, well maintained, etc.)

3. If they won't budge on their offer
Try to use the old salesmen's trick by telling them you have someone coming by to take a look at the car in the morning, and that they offered $500 more for it. Let them know if they make an offer you like, you'd rather do the deal today and get it over with. This can work like a charm!

4. If they're offended by your lack of haggling
Ask them what they think a fair price would be for the vehicle. If they low ball again, thank them for coming by but that you're sure someone else will pay what the car is worth.

5. If they make a counter-offer slightly below your rock-bottom price
Counter offer with your lowest price and tell them that's absolutely the lowest you will go.

After you're done with the negotiating, you should be left with a price that is way more than what any dealer would have offered. For most people, the hassle of selling their vehicle to a private party is well worth the effort when you factor in the amount of money saved.

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle and Edmunds Price Promise are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan


Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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