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When we decided to sell our sexy Jeep Wrangler in favor of having sexier finances we knew we needed to do a bit of homework and preparation before slapping up the for sale signs. Getting top dollar when selling your used car isn’t complicated, but it does require some work. I’ve outlined some easy to follow tips for you below.
Prep Your Car and Make it Sexy
You want it to look and perform at its best, so take the time to look it over carefully. Fix what obviously needs to be fixed and give it a meticulous cleaning. Obtain a mechanical inspection and pay for a professional detailing if necessary. Make any routine maintenance or service needs and have any large dents, dings, or scraps handled. Also, consider replacing floor mats or wiper blades if needed.
Research the Market to Understand the Value
Jump online and check out current ads for cars similar to yours. Check locally by viewing dealerships in your area or Craigslist, but also check the broader market by using sites like Cars.com. Dealers will generally display prices higher than private party listings but not always.
Cars.com and other large Internet sites allow for precise search criteria, such as mileage, trim level, fuel type, and color so you can easily see similar vehicles currently on the market. Look at the photos, jot down the selling price, condition of the car, current mileage, and location for quick comparison later.
Be sure also to check Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com for free online valuation tools to estimate your car’s value. You’ll be asked about the trim package, equipment, condition, and mileage of your vehicle. Be careful not to overestimate the state of your car – most used automobiles will be considered “good” with “excellent” condition reserved for almost-new used cars sold at dealerships.
Price Your Vehicle to Get Top Dollar
After considering all the above, base your price on how rapidly you need to sell. If getting top dollar is more important than selling quickly, match prices within 500 miles of you. But if you need to move your vehicle fast, set your price just below advertised rates for similar cars.
Be sure to leave yourself a little wiggle room though, by setting your asking price 5 – 10% above what you actually hope to accept. Negotiate in the smallest steps possible but don’t let the buyer drive off without making the sale at a fair price for both of you.
Take Good Photos
Take a minimum of 5 or 6 photos, more if you are advertising the vehicle on a national. Interior and exterior shots from various angles, storage space, dashboard and odometer readings, tire treads, and the engine are often requested shots. While you may only provide a handful of photos in your ad, buyers often ask for additional pictures before arranging to see a vehicle in person.
Write Your Ad to Sell
Provide all the facts in an enthusiastic ad without too much hype. Note any unique features and maintenance history, and let it be known if you are the first owner.
Besides price, your ad should include the:
- trim package
- notable options – sunroof, premium sound, wheel size, etc.
Optionally, use phrases such as firm, OBO – or best offer, asking price, or must sell to indicate your willingness to entertain offers.
Definitely, stick a sign in the vehicle’s window, use word of mouth, online forums and social media, to let it be known you are selling your car. But for a nice full geographical reach, there’s nothing like online advertising.
After reviewing the various online sources, we choose Cars.com for its broad reach, simplicity, and pricing – Free to $49. They also provide you with the opportunity to purchase a Carfax report which may help you with the sale – we did not do this, but I know many that have. I wrote the ad, uploaded some pictures, and received inquiries the same day.
We ultimately ended up selling our Jeep for a pleasing price within three weeks of the listing, to someone in Tennessee. Apparently, Wranglers are a hot commodity there. The offers we received locally in Michigan were well below what we sold the Jeep for. I know that had we not used Cars.com our bank account wouldn’t be as sexy.
Note: When you run your classified ad, make yourself available to take inquiries via phone calls, texts, or emails promptly. Many buyers don’t like leaving voice mails for a return call, so answer the phone or reply quickly with a text. Selling yourself and creating a good first impression is often the first step in selling your car once it’s advertised.
Check out these tips for negotiating the sale of your car.
Getting top dollar when selling your used car requires a little bit of time, probably some elbow grease, and maybe even a little bit of money. But proper preparation should pay off in the end. It did for us and can for you too.
Do you have experience selling used cars or do you typically trade them in at the dealer? Any additional advice you’d add to get top dollar when selling yourself?