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How to Sell a Car: 8 Simple Steps To Take In 2023

You might have a family and need to find a more accommodating car, or you want to relieve the burden of gas money and maintenance.

Either way, you’re trying to sell your car for a profitable price.

Navigating the car resell market can be challenging. A lot of paperwork, advertisement, and negotiation goes into the process.

That said, our guide can help you go through all the steps on how to sell a car.

After some market valuation know-how and car preparation, you’ll be ready to bid your ride goodbye with peace of mind.

Why You Should Consider Selling a Car

The U.S. used car market forecasts immense growth, reaching over $302.47 billion by 2027.

With this data in mind, you’ll have more reasons to sell your car.

  • Upgrade Car Model: Over 11.4% of car sellers want an upgraded model with a specific feature. You can upgrade to a four-door sedan, automatic drive shift, or AWD.
  • Save Money: Going carless can save you lots of gas budgeting, especially if you have accessible public transport. The American Automobile Association stipulated that car owners spend an average of $10,000 annually on their vehicles.
  • High Resale Value: Your car doesn’t have to be a top model to get a high resale value. You can get a decent profit margin even if you own a Hyundai or Subaru.
  • Downsize: Your current car may be eating up your gas mileage. For this reason, you can downsize your gas consumption with an electric or hybrid vehicle.

Problems With Selling a Car

Several problems may arise during the selling process. The ordeal can be costly and time-consuming, from security problems to car preparations.

  • Security Issues: As an individual selling their car, you’re more vulnerable to scamming incidents or unsecured payments. If you’re selling on Craigslist, you don’t know who the buyers are, posing risks.
  • Time-Consuming: It can take four to eight weeks to sell your car. The lengthy process doesn’t guarantee a sale in the end.
  • Car Preparation: Preparing your car to get sold involves cleaning it and clearing it of any scratches or bumps. You’ll want to run maintenance to check for any changes needed and issues to tell the buyer.
  • Liability Complications: Unless you have a no-refund policy on the car, you’ll have to deal with after-sale liability. If something goes wrong with the vehicle, the buyer might want to return it, and you’ll have to repay them.

What You’ll Need to Sell a Car

You’ll want to know the items needed to get a clearer idea of the sales process.

Besides the actual car, here are the other things you’ll need to prepare.

  • Paperwork: This includes the vehicle title, owner’s manual, odometer disclosure, Bill of Sale, warranty files, service records, and emissions test documentation.
  • Car Preparation Tools: Unless you’re opting for a professional car detail, you’ll need a car washing kit and repair tools to restore your vehicle’s purchase appeal.
  • Advertisement Space: Your ad space can come from several formats, whether you’re listing your car on a website or an online marketplace.

Where to Sell a Car

There are multiple car-selling platforms. You can decide between the popular options Craigslist vs. Facebook Marketplace. Fortunately, other safer sites are available and worth exploring.

1. Facebook Marketplace

A screensot of the facebook_marketplace homepage

Facebook Marketplace hosts an extensive buyer audience. It’s an online marketplace found on the social media platform, Facebook.

What Makes This Option Great

You can reach several buyers through the social media application. The best part is that you can view your buyer’s Facebook profile before making the sale for extra precaution.

You can list your car for free on the platform. Another advantage offered by Facebook Marketplace is ad targeting. For instance, if you’re selling a Toyota, you can find a Facebook group dedicated to Toyota enthusiasts where you can list your car.

  • Fees/Commission: 5% per shipment or a $0.40 flat fee for shipments below $8
  • Payment Methods: Credit Card, Debit Card, or PayPal Account

2. Craigslist

A homepage of the craigslist screenshot

Craigslist is an ideal option for selling your car within your local space. It holds a plethora of products and even advertises jobs and housing.

What Makes This Option Great

It doesn’t offer as much of an expansive reach as Facebook Marketplace. In turn, the website is well-suited for a straightforward and old-fashioned selling process.

All you have to do is list your car, meet the buyer, and complete the transaction. The site does pose security risks since you don’t know much about the buyer. For this reason, you can take safety precautions like meeting in a public place.

  • Fees/Commission: $5 Listing Fee
  • Payment Methods: Cash or Check

3. Cars.com

A screenshot of the cars.com homepage

Cars.com offers a reliable medium to sell your car.

The automotive website specializes in the buying and selling of vehicles.

What Makes This Option Great

Cars.com holds a large inventory of vehicles.

One of the platforms’ best unique selling points is that it allows you to sell your vehicle to dealerships.

You can sell your car faster and get an instant offer after an inspection.

Besides that, you can reach more audiences because the site has several affiliate links. Despite this, selling your car on Cars.com can pose challenges.

With an overwhelmingly large inventory, standing out among other sellers needs more effort. You’ll want to take better pictures and optimize your description.

  • Fees/Commission: No Fees
  • Payment Methods: Check, Credit Card, or Bank Payment

How to Sell a Car: Step-By-Step Instructions

Selling stuff online is hassle-free for the most part. Selling cars is a different story.

You need to be extra wary of the received payment and buyer. The good news is that using online platforms has streamlined the car-selling process.

Step 1: Check Your Paperwork

Before deciding to sell your car, you need to collect some paperwork. Ask your lender if you still have money due from the vehicle’s loan.

You’ll also need to get a pink slip from the DMV but only sign it after receiving your payment after transferring ownership. Check the DMV’s website for any forms required to sell your vehicle.

You may need to sign a Bill of Sale. Inquire whether your license plate can go with the new owner. Get a vehicle history report from your dealer to establish credibility. It’ll detail the number of previous owners and accidents.

Overall, you should have

  • Car’s Title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Original Sale Paperwork
  • History Report

Step 2: Establish the Selling Location

After completing the necessary paperwork, it’s time to find out where you’ll sell your car. You can either sell it to a dealership or privately.


You’ll have better chances with a car dealership if your car is relatively new with lower gas mileage.
The process involves contacting the dealer and allowing them to inspect your car and give you a value.


You can sell a used car through platforms like eBay Motors or Shift. They’ll offer an easy and safe selling experience.

You’ll also likely get better deals but consider the commission fees. Some sites like CarMax charge $150 per vehicle sold.


Private sales are usually the most profitable but at a cost. Finding an eligible buyer will take time since you’ll do most of the advertising.

There’s also the risk of getting scammed because of the little security of the payment method.

Step 3: Price Your Car

Establishing an asking price involves more than checking your car’s valuation. You also need to be knowledgeable of the market.

With the increase in new car prices, the market for used cars is growing, giving you a better selling outlook. The most lucrative sale is an SUV, whereas the least is a hatchback. The sedan falls in the middle.

If you have a convertible or sports car, wait until the summer and spring months to sell it. That said, when deciding your resale value, you should account for several factors, such as:

  • Gas Mileage
  • Condition
  • Make, Model, and Year
  • Features
  • Color

Fortunately, you can use online resources that account for these factors when valuing your car. There are Kelley Blue Book and NADAguides. They’ll help you determine the used car’s depreciation, private, and retail value.

Step 4: Prepare Your Car

Making a good first impression on potential buyers can make or break your sale. You should give your car a makeover to restore some of its fresh and original appeal.

To do so, you can:

  • Clean the car’s interior with a vacuum.
  • Shampoo the carpets.
  • Wash the exterior.
  • Wipe any glass component, including the windows and mirrors.
  • Wax and polish the car.
  • Gloss the tires and dust them off.
  • Take out your possessions.
  • Check for any needed repairs or oil changes at a maintenance shop.
  • If needed, replace the tires, brakes, or windshield wipers.

Step 5: Advertise Your Car

Once your car looks as good as new, you’ll want to advertise it on various platforms. Find your car’s best angles and snap some pics for the ad. You can post them on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Cars.com, and other platforms to get the best reach.

You can also ask your friends to get the word out and place a “For Sale” sign on the car. Use message boards and car forums to list your product as well.

The ad’s description should include its make, model, and year. Add the car’s condition, asking price, and preferred forms of payment.

Mention the vehicle’s features to stand out from competitors. For example, you can raise the stakes by mentioning the car’s extended warranty, heated seats, or fuel economy.

Don’t forget to include your contact information, such as your phone number and email. Be ready to receive lots of inquiries.

Step 6: Assess Buyers

Screening the buyers is a critical step in the selling process. You’ll want to contact the buyer via phone call first.

Try to pick up signs of pushy or rude behavior. If your intuition tells you something’s off, then something is likely off, and you should wait for another prospective buyer.

If all goes well on the phone, arrange a meeting for a test drive. When meeting in person, you’re not the only person assessing. Buyers are also gauging you to ensure you’re a reliable seller. For this reason, you’ll want to come off as friendly and transparent.

If the client asks for a car inspection, even though you already have an inspection report, don’t hesitate to provide it.

Test Drive Tips

  • Complete the test drive in a public area, like a mall parking lot.
  • Bring along a close friend or family member for extra safety.
  • Guide the potential buyer if they’re new to town.
  • Avoid small talk so the buyer can focus on the driving experience.
  • Respond to any inquiries.

Step 7: Negotiate

After the test drive, your buyer could be ready to negotiate. It can start with a, “It’s a nice car, but….” In this case, you can respond with, “How much are you willing to pay?” A more no-nonsense buyer might ask, “What’s your best price?”

Don’t feel pressured to reduce your price significantly. Be confident in your research and valuation. Avoid trying to close the deal as fast as possible.

Negotiating is a slow process, especially with car sales. You don’t want to rush into decisions. Be strict with your price but offer some flexibility to increase your chances of a sale.

Step 8: Finalize the Offer

You’ve agreed to a final offer and will proceed with the payment process. While cash is a safe option, some buyers will likely feel uncomfortable carrying $10,000 or more.

Choose a check payment method instead. After completing the payment, you’ll need to complete the necessary paperwork, such as transferring the car title and making a Bill of Sale.

If you still owe a car loan, go to the bank with the buyer to complete the transaction there. Next, scrap your auto insurance policy and browse for a new ride.

Things to Consider When Selling a Car

Before selling your car, you’ll want to consider a few things to get the most out of your sale.

1. Ad Creation

When creating your ad, you need to use enticing elements. For example, you can add a “Must Sell!” to make it seem that the price is heavily reduced.

You can also mention an “OBO,” which stands for “or best offer.” It means that you’re flexible with the price. Another similar option is “Asking price,” since it translates to you being negotiable.

2. Paperwork Preparation

Dealing with the paperwork beforehand will clear your mind for the actual selling process. You’ll want to get Regional Transport Office (RTO) tax information, pollution certificate, service history, and registration certificate.

If paperwork assembly seems too overwhelming, you can sell your car to a dealership, and they’ll do most of the work for you.

3. Market Knowledge

Gaining market knowledge in the used car industry will keep you one step ahead when negotiating a price.

It’ll show that you did your homework and are fully aware of your car worth. Market expertise will help you decide the best time and place to sell the car and earn you the highest profit margin.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Paperwork Do You Need When Selling a Car Privately?

The three most vital pieces of paperwork you’ll need to provide are the Bill of Sale, Certificate of Title, and Release of Liability. Other documents may be needed depending on your state’s requirements.

How Easy Is It to Sell a Car Privately?

Selling a car privately these days is easier thanks to the online platforms that allow you to list your vehicle.

They allow you to gain a wider reach. It may take longer to sell the car privately due to the competitive market. For this reason, you should incorporate an effective advertisement.

Similar Tutorials to Check Out

Fortunately, you can find other ways to make money with your car, such as sticking an advertisement on it or starting a rental business.

Wrapping Up

Selling an old car can be challenging without understanding the used car market trends. You’ll need it to accurately value your vehicle and attract more car buyers.

Preparing the car is also a critical step, whether you’re completing a private sale through an online service or giving it to a dealership.

Another crucial step when selling your car involves navigating through the paperwork when transferring ownership. Once you’ve accounted for all these steps, you’ll be on your way to selling your car with ease of mind.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments. Although car selling may seem like a tedious ordeal, it can be highly rewarding when done right.

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