Step 1: Communicating with Potential Buyers
Selling a car on your own can seem complicated, troublesome and even, sometimes, scary. As a result, most people choose to trade in their cars to a dealer rather than sell privately, thus taking a hit on the transaction price. But private-party sales don't have to be difficult, and will often result in higher transaction prices than trade-ins. To help prepare you, our Editors have compiled some good sales principles and sound advice, in 10 easy steps. Fully assess your car's condition.
It's important to know the condition of your car before setting a sale price. Kelley Blue Book offers a Condition Quiz that can assist you and can be accessed from within the Private Party Value
section of our web site. After assessing your car's condition, you'll feel more confident deciding on an acceptable, and reasonable, price. The Kelley Blue Book Private Party Value
can be used when setting your price but, remember, only you know the condition of your car and only you can best judge if any flaws might warrant a price cut. It's also very important to be brutally honest with yourself about your car's condition. Generally, sellers tend to over-rate their cars' conditions, and buyers tend to be fairly good at spotting problems. Therefore, if you over-rate it, and thus over-price it, you'll only prolong the time it takes to make a sale. Remember, the idea is to sell the car and, even if you accept a lower price than you might like, it will still likely be more than you would have made on a trade-in.
Do not decide that you "need" to get a certain amount for the car if that amount you "need" is more than the reasonable market value. That will just mean you'll never sell it. The buyer doesn't care how much you need. Remember; your car is in the market, competing with every other car in the market, and it is the market, and the market alone, that determines a fair and reasonable price.
You may also want to do some homework before showing the car to a potential buyer. If you were a dealer, you would give the vehicle a certain amount of preparation before putting it on the lot for sale, and you would do this preparation in order to get a better price. The same principle applies when selling your car to a private party. You may not want to spend a lot of money on your car just to sell it, but you do want it to look presentable and, just as important, you want to avoid unpleasant surprises while showing it to potential buyers. Pretend to be the Buyer
Before you show your car to a buyer, look at it as if you were interested in buying it for yourself. Look for scratches and dings. Are the tires in decent condition, do they all match and are they wearing evenly all of the way across the treads? Start the car and operate all the knobs, switches and controls. Does everything work? How about the lights, the turn signals, the wipers, the sound system, the power windows? Does the air conditioning and heating system work in all modes and blow hot and cold air? Try everything. Many people, for example, don't know if their cars' rear windows work because they've never used them, and don't know if the brake lights work because they never see them. If something doesn't work properly, either fix it or accept the reality that it will reduce your price. Take a Test Drive Rehearsal
Drive the car to make sure it operates properly. The idea here is to re-acquaint yourself with any new surprises before your potential buyer finds them. Know the Problems Before They're Discovered
At least three things can happen if a potential buyer points out flaws on your car that you didn't see or acknowledge before he or she does. First, it can be embarrassing. Second, it makes it seem like you don't know your car very well. Third, it now gives control of the transaction to the buyer. If the buyer is pointing out things that come as a surprise to you, or that you're trying to hide, the buyer will gain confidence in his or her ability to negotiate the sale and you are in the position of having to defend what is, really, an indefensible position. However, if you mention known issues before the buyer finds them, you gain credibility. When you know about any issues or flaws you can adjust the price accordingly, inform your buyer and remove those issues as bargaining points.