Before the test drive, anticipate a potential buyer's questions about your car. For example, if you're asking more for your car than others in the category, be prepared to explain why. Special features, complete maintenance records, and any recent upgrades are all logical explanations of a higher price -- especially when you can back it up with the paperwork.
Choose a safe location in a public place, ideally near a relaxed test-drive route. Make sure your insurance covers other drivers, and ask to see the potential buyer's driver's license before handing over your keys. You should also take a picture of his/her license, should anything happen.
Always accompany the driver - regardless of what kind of collateral they offer. If you're uneasy getting in the car with a stranger, ask a friend or family member to join you. The potential buyer may also want to bring someone else along, but try to avoid being outnumbered.
Sizing Up the Buyer, Sizing Up the Seller
Keep in mind that potential buyers will be evaluating you along with your car, so be friendly, knowledgeable and honest.
For many buyers, part of the appeal of dealing with the owner directly is the hope of getting a more accurate assessment of the car's condition and upkeep. Disclose the car's faults up front, but be ready with the paperwork that proves you've kept up with maintenance and repairs.
On the test drive, get to know your potential buyer. Find out what they currently drive, why they are looking for another car, and what's important to them. This will help you play up your car's strengths while easing any concerns they might have.
Some car shoppers will ask to take the car to their own mechanic for an inspection, a common and acceptable practice. If you have a recent mechanic's report, it may be good enough. If not, you can always drive with the buyer to get a diagnostic check.
Don't forget: the extra effort of selling your car yourself is generally worth 15-25% more than the trade-in value at a dealer. But if you find that the process is taking too long or is more effort than you're comfortable with, you can always choose to trade it in. Or you can go the quickest route and get an instant online offer through AutoTrader.com's Trade-In Marketplace (with no new car purchase required). Next Step 9: Negotiate the Best Price