How to Sell Cars

The Salesman Hand Giving Car Keys to the Buyer's Hand, After Selling Him Car.

Selling a car seems like something that should be fairly simple and straightforward. You go out, find a buyer, give them the keys, take their cash, and everybody’s satisfied. However, as you’d expect, it’s never really that simple. There is quite a bit to know about how to sell cars safely and profitably.

We’ll go over everything you need to know to close a sale. You need to stay on the safe side and avoid any liability for a car that’s no longer yours while getting a price that makes the whole process worthwhile.

You’ll find out all about:

  • Preparing for a car sale
  • Setting the price
  • Improving curb appeal
  • Advertising your car
  • Meeting and negotiating with buyers
  • Closing the deal.

Here’s how to sell cars for maximum profit.

Preparing for a Car Sale

It never hurts to be prepared, especially when you’re looking to sell something as valuable as a car. Anyone learning how to sell cars should take the following information seriously.

Get the Paperwork in Order

First, you need to ensure you have all the necessary paperwork before doing anything else. Car title, or the pink slip (not to be confused with getting fired), gives you the legal right to sell your car. Don’t fill in any of the information yet, just have it at the ready.

Then visit your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) website to find more state-specific information about the car sale process. For one, you need to know what happens to the license plates after you sell the car. You’ll also be able to download the bill of sale and other necessary documentation included in the transfer of ownership.

Vehicle History Report

The vehicle history report is also an additional bit of paperwork that you can obtain ahead of the sale. It’s not necessary to have it, which is why we mention it separately.

You can get the vehicle history report from websites such as Carfax. Rest assured that potential buyers will be interested in learning about the car’s history. You might as well act preemptively and show you’re a serious seller by providing the report for your future buyers to see.

Reports such as these show everything from previous accidents to hidden problems. It’s much-needed insurance when buying used cars.

Figure Out How to Sell the Car

Whether you trade in your car at a dealership or sell it online is up to you. However, you should be careful if you’re selling online and do everything in your power to protect your identity and your car. Learning about how to sell cars is learning about staying safe in the process.

Instant cash offers are a new method of selling cars. You provide some basic information to instant buyers such as mileage and VIN number, and you get an offer.

Setting the Price

Use websites such as to figure out how much money you could potentially get for your car. Alternatively, you could look up cars that are in a similar condition to yours and see how much they’re going for.

When setting the price, consider how fast you’d like to sell your car. If you want a fast sale, going below the average price might get you attention of prospective buyers. That way, you won’t get as much money as you could, but you’d get it when you need it.

Going above the average price leaves more room for negotiations, although it could take more time before you close a sale.

The Importance of Curb Appeal

If you want buyers to take you seriously, you have to work on your car’s curb appeal. No one wants a dirty, decrepit old vehicle, even if the mileage is low and the engine fine. We’re not saying it’s fine to judge a car by its exterior, but it is what most buyers tend to notice. First impressions do matter.

Wash and wax the outside, vacuum and wipe down the interior surfaces, clean the windows, and empty the ashtrays at the very least. Don’t forget to remove any of your personal belongings from the car — a lot of people unwillingly sell more than just the vehicle.

If you can’t bother to clean your car inside out before showing it, pay someone else to do it. Even if you don’t care about the mess, your buyers will. Don’t neglect that.

Advertising the Car

There’s an excess of online websites that allow you to try and sell your car there. They’re usually low-cost options and won’t really strain your budget, so why not give them a go?

It’s up to you to decide how to advertise the car. Make sure you include all of the information that a potential buyer could be interested in. That includes mileage, trim, and the price you’re asking for it.

Don’t forget that the internet is not the best place to leave your sensitive information on. Avoid displaying your home address or license plates (you can blur them out).

Meeting the Potential Buyers

You’ve made your car attractive to potential buyers, got all the paperwork, and decided on a price. It’s time to meet the interested parties and let them see the car up close and give it a test drive. 

Safe Exchange Zones

Safe exchange zones are areas set up by police agencies where buyers and sellers can meet. They represent the neutral ground for both parties and are supposed to be safer. Usually, there’s enough video surveillance in the area to make any criminal activity improbable.

Of course, safe exchange zones are just for people who decide to sell cars on their own. Trading in your car at the dealership means you don’t have to worry about any of this.

Test Drives

Test drives are a normal part of the sales process. Make sure to get in the car with the potential buyer and let them test it out. That’s how to sell cars the best way.

Let them get a feel for your car and don’t overburden them with information as they’re testing it out. If they have any questions at this point, they’ll let you know.

Use common sense when deciding who to let in your car. If the potential buyer seems inebriated, it’s best to just say no and move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection

More serious buyers will want the mechanic to take a look under the hood to ensure the car is in working order. 

It’s not the end of the world if there’s something wrong with the car. In fact, it’s highly likely that the mechanic will find some imperfection, even if it’s just a blown fuse. It’s to be expected.

The bigger the issue, the more it will affect your asking price. If you think there’s something seriously wrong with the car, it might be better to fix it before having buyers look at it.

Negotiating the Price

You don’t have to accept the price that the buyer offers you. Negotiation is an important aspect of learning how to sell cars.

Make some room for negotiations by setting a higher asking price. If it gets too low for comfort, just reject the buyer. They might be back tomorrow and more willing to accept your price.

However, if potential buyers are rare and there doesn’t seem to be any interest in your car, you should consider accepting a lowball offer.

Closing the Deal

That’s it! You’ve set up everything correctly and found the buyer willing to pay up. Now you know quite a bit about how to sell cars.

All that’s left is to fill in the bill of sale and you’re done. Don’t forget that if there’s a lien on the car, you might need to close the deal at a bank (if they’re the lender).
Some states require you to file a release of liability before you can finalize the sale. It serves as proof you no longer own the car.

Bill of Sale

You can find the downloadable bill of sale on your state DMV’s website. While you’re there, check for any other state-specific requirements such as notarized bills of sale. Filling out the bill of sale is the last part of learning how to sell cars.

How to Sell a Car with a Lien?

It’s common for people to buy cars using loans from financial institutions. The lender is a lienholder on your car until you repay the debt fully. So, how to sell cars with liens?

If there’s still a lienholder on your vehicle, you need to reach out to them and tell them you’re planning a sale. When there are liens involved, you don’t have the freedom to sell the car in any way you like. The lender has to be present during the transaction, which often takes place at their office.

Know How to Sell Cars

With all of the information at your disposal, you should be able to make the right amount of money on the car sale. You now know how to sell cars. Always make sure to check with your state’s DMV to ensure you have all the paperwork necessary to close a sale, and you’re good to go.

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