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Selling a car is a great way to turn an asset into cash. However, there’s quite a lot that goes into the process. You want to ensure that you:

  • Choose a strategic price
  • Advertise in the right places
  • And know how to distinguish serious potential buyers from tire kickers.

At Nationwide Auto Transport, we transport cars for sale by owners on a daily basis. Whether you decide to sell your car through a used-car dealership, an auction, or simply online via Craigslist or eBay, we’re here to assist. To that end, we have collected some of the most useful tips to help you sell a car. 

If you’re afraid of selling a car online, we’d like to encourage you to take heart. For every single horror story you have heard, there are many success stories. Take the necessary precautions, follow the law, remain vigilant, bring in enforcements, and you should be fine.

selling a car

Looking for more insights on optimizing your dealership’s operations? Our comprehensive guide on Vehicle Shipping Service streamlines your inventory management to meet market demands with ease.

How do I sell my car for cash?

These are the basic tips for selling a car.

Step 1: Find all the paperwork

If you still owe money on your car, you will have to discuss the potential sale with the lender. They will tell you how much you owe. The local state’s department of motor vehicles will tell you what paperwork will be needed to transfer ownership. The DMV site might have all the necessary forms for you to download and print.

Before selling a car, you need all the necessary paperwork, including:

  • Pink slip – This is the vehicle’s title, which gives you the legal right to sell the car. Don’t sign it just yet. If you owe money on the car, your lender will have it, and they will transfer it to the buyer. If you’ve paid the car off, it should be in a safe place at home. Alternatively, you could request a replacement from the DMV prior to selling your car.
  • Vehicle history report – You can request this from AutoCheck or Carfax. Potential buyers will want to see this, as it answers many questions they will have. 
  • Maintenance records – Being able to show any professional repairs of damages and the schedule of completed maintenance services will increase the perception that you took great care of the car.

It’s a good idea to understand the requirements for selling your car in different states. Here are quick links to the type of DMV requirements you might expect when selling a car:

in Texas



Be sure to read our post on buying a car from out of state to learn why it’s such a good idea to sell your car out of state.

Step 2: Calculate your asking price

Many people try to sell vehicles, having no idea how to calculate a reasonable asking price. If they’re lucky, a desperate buyer will be happy to put down the asking price, no questions asked. However, it is important to consider things such as mileage, minor (and major) damages and the make and year of the car. 

Sometimes, online dealerships might offer you a lot more than what you first imagined. Why? Because they use expert evaluation methods to arrive at the true value.

You can use the same tools to calculate a fair asking price when selling a car. 

Kelley Blue Book – This website uses a variety of data points to arrive at a price estimate, including your car’s details (make, model, mileage), market trends, geographic regions, and seasonality.

Edmunds – This company is a new and used car marketplace that also offers free car valuations. 

You could also look at what other sellers ask for similar cars, bearing in mind the conditions and the factory options that were included. 

Step 3: Create some curb appeal

While it seems like the right thing to do to repair major mechanical defects before you sell, we’d like to advise you against that. Why? Because you probably won’t get your money back when you trade it in or sell it from the sales price. Likewise, with minor collision repairs or damage. 

Instead, it’s a good idea to justify rejecting counter offers by obtaining written estimates of how much repairs will cost. 

Also, remember that buyers don’t necessarily want the car to be impeccably detailed. They know you’re planning on possibly buying a car from the dealership. However, it’s a good idea to at least clean it properly. This shows potential buyers that you’ve looked after it. It creates a subliminal message that the mechanical aspect is also well maintained. 

Dealerships will look past the outward appearances and consider market demand, mileage and mechanics instead. They will detail the car before they put it on the lot, which is why you don’t need to.

Step 4:  Market your car

When you market the car, be sure to be honest and disclose significant issues. This will save you as well as potential buyers the time and effort of arranging a test drive for a car they would never buy. Don’t fret; confident car buyers will still be willing to take on the vehicle in spite of the fact that it needs TLC, provided the price is right. 

When it comes to marketing and selling a car, it’s a good idea to cast a wide net. The internet is the perfect place for car sellers to advertise. You can list your car for free on Craigslist and many other sites that allow you to add photos and information without paying. Spread your marketing far and wide, and use appealing, good quality photos in your ads. The most important photos include:

  • Interior photos
  • Exterior photos
  • The cargo area
  • Engine compartment
  • Dashboard
  • Front
  • Back
  • Both sides

It’s important to include any and all detail about the car to ensure the information is accurate. 

Is your car still under warranty? Be sure to include that in the ad, as it is an important benefit that increases the value when selling a car.

selling a car

Step 5:  Pre-qualify potential buyers

When you receive responses to your ads about selling a car, get in touch with the potential buyers right away. This makes you look more legitimate. Can’t deal with them right away? Then simply say “I can’t speak now, but will call you later” – then do that. The last thing you want is for a potentially great deal to fall through. 

Let all the calls go to voicemail so that you can review the potential buyers before calling them back. Many will throw out low-ball offers before they’ve even seen the car. 

Only call back those who seem legitimate.

Step 6: Arrange a test drive

The test drive is the buyer’s ultimate step in decision making, but that doesn’t mean they need to do it in solitary – no! You’re going with!

First, take a photo of the potential buyer’s drivers license and text it to someone you know and trust. Ask them to call you in about an hour, and to call the police if you don’t answer within five minutes. They should have a description of the car, which you can provide by texting the photos to your friend as well. 

It’s a good idea to find a test drive route ahead of time. Make sure it winds through populated areas and that there’s a lot of right turns, which will minimize turning across traffic. Be sure your friend knows the route and let them know if the stranger decides to deviate from the agreed-upon route.

Step 7: Close the deal

Congratulations on selling a car!  If you’ve made it through all the steps above, it is now time to receive your money and transfer ownership. Our post on buying a car for sale by owner will give you advice on how to avoid falling victim to a payment scam.

Some car buyers tend to bully sellers into accepting low ball offers by convincing you that it is vastly overpriced. If you’re a first time seller, be careful. Have someone trustworthy on hand to consult over any offers. Remember, you’re under no obligation to sell your car to just anyone. 

Many buyers will be looking to buy your car and to flip it for a profit. The nature of selling a car onto another buyer is that they would have to low-ball the price of their vehicle purchases. Other people might tell you about a sob story as to why they need the car, but can’t afford to pay your asking price. Let them find a cheaper car elsewhere.

Remember to remove your ads once the car has been sold.

Selling a car? Need the car to be transported to its new owner? Request a free car shipping estimate now!