5 Musts-Dos to Sell Your Used Car Right

By Alex Perdikis

Maybe you bought a new car and don’t need your old one. Or, maybe you inherited a car that’s not an antique, but not exactly something you want to drive, either. Whatever the reason, you’re thinking of trying to sell it yourself. But, where do you start?

Get Ready

Before you start placing ads everywhere, get ready. Prospective buyers need information before they hand over their hard-earned money for your used car and you’d better have it. You also have to protect yourself legally.

Here’s what you need to do before listing your used car for sale:

1. Write down the details. Document the year, make, model, mileage, average miles per gallon, number of previous owners, accidents involving the vehicle, maintenance records, mechanical problems and any other detail you know about the car in question.

2. How much is it worth? Look at the Kelly Blue Book (KBB) or Edmunds Appraisal sites to determine your car’s worth. To get an accurate assessment, answer the form questions honestly. Don’t set your sights on the price you get, however. More on that later.

3. How much are people in your area willing to pay? Check local print ads and sites like Craigslist to get a feel for prices where you live. Don’t look at dealer sales, but private party sales instead. That is the type of sale you’re engaging in.

Here’s a great tip. Check eBay’s used car sales. Particularly pay attention to prices on completed sales for cars similar to yours.

4. Check your title. Make sure you have a clean title. You will not be able to sell the car without a title and any liens have to be taken care of before you sell.

5. Meet inspection requirements. If you live in a state that requires inspections or certifications of any kind, check the laws governing your sale. Your car might have to pass inspections before you sell the car to someone else.

Price Me!

You have the KBB or Edmunds worth estimate and, if you did your research, you know how much people in your area pay for similar vehicles. Also, take into account the economic health and demographics of your region as you think about pricing.

The boring old sedan is in high demand for those with families on a budget. Sports cars and convertibles sell better in the summer and spring. Work trucks and vans are popular and can be competitively priced. Collector cars take longer to sell and are tricky to price, but the potential is high if you find the right buyer.


“Take into account any new parts, such as a new engine or tires. Also consider any negatives, including dents or rust spots.” — Alex Perdikis


Ask yourself how fast you want to sell it. If you don’t mind waiting, settle on a slightly higher price.

Initially, ask for more than you’re willing to settle for. Expect to negotiate with people. If, for example, you’d like to get $10,000 out of the deal, ask for $11,500. Most people offer down in $500 to $1000 increments. Asking more gives you a bit of leeway.

Pretty Me Up

Before you start showing the car, pretty it up. Take the time to wash it, vacuum the inside, clean the trunk and compartment areas, polish windows and wipe the steering wheel and dashboard down so they’re free of dust. If you’re up to the challenge, make low-cost repairs before you sell.

As an added buyer incentive, have your maintenance documentation and a vehicle history report ready to show. Even better, get a report from your regular mechanic about the car’s condition to show potential buyers.

Show the Car, But Protect Yourself

As people answer your Craigslist and print ads, it’s your job to evaluate them. If you don’t want people coming to your home, arrange to meet them in a public area.

Go with potential buyers as they test drive the vehicle. If they want to take the car to their own mechanic, take the car yourself or ride along. Let other people know where you are if you go anywhere with a potential buyer.

How Much?

Think ahead of time about how to handle the price negotiations. Below are a few examples of what buyers often say when they negotiate:

  • “What’s your bottom price?” Don’t see this as a sale if you greatly reduce your price. Stick to your asking price for the time being.
  • “This is my price. Take it or leave it.” Unless the price is acceptable, thank the person for coming and let them go. If they’re bluffing but interested, they may not leave after all.
  • “Will you take (specific amount)?” This person is interested but leaves the door open for you to counter offer.

Once you agree on a price, avoid problems by taking either cash or a cashier’s check. Don’t agree to accept payments over time or take a personal check.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.