Sell Your Used Car Like a Pro – Here’s What You Aren’t Being Told!

Successfully sell your used car with this do-it-yourself guide.

Used Car Salesman
Used car sales is a competitive business. Most people dread characters like this… you can be the better alternative.

First thing’s first:

When it’s time to sell your used car, DO NOT assume anything.

What I mean is this…

Prospective buyers can’t see the beauty that may lie beneath filth, clutter or deferred maintenance.

In fact, buyers are completely turned off by a dirty or messy car, or one that needs maintenance and repairs.

Most people do not want a so-called “project car”.

They don’t expect to be cleaning something they just paid good money for.

That work is the seller’s job!

Make no mistake, used car shoppers expect a vehicle of interest to be 100% in order.

And if it isn’t? They won’t even consider getting out the checkbook.

Guys, take it from me…

Buyers almost always choose the cleaner car with documented maintenance.

In short, to easily sell, you need to make your car super clean.

Getting Ready to Sell… The Basics

When to start preparing your car for sale? Well, the day you get the keys.

I know, it’s a little late for that!

So, follow these 3 tips with your next new car:

  • Keep maintenance records and inspection reports with your owner’s manual. Have a paper trail when it comes time to sell;
  • Do all the maintenance that the manufacturer recommends or even requires. Slack and you’ll pay for it in the end;
  • Drive the car as if you are ready to sell it now. You don’t need to baby it (unless you want to). This means keeping it clean, polished and waxed.

These preparations are a must.

You’re unlikely to get the sale without meeting a car shopper’s expectations in this regard.

Yup. It’s that simple!

BUT, if your car is properly prepared the result is typically:

  • Compelling advertising and;
  • A quick sale.

That’s not all…

The car will also command a higher resale value.

When Reconditioning is Recommended

Are you among the majority of people who don’t meticulously maintain their car?

Don’t fret.

It’s not difficult to recondition (as dealers would say) a vehicle. The benefits of reconditioning work are many.

You know what else?

The drawbacks are few (a few hours of time and a few dollars).

Whatever you do, make sure your car is in top mechanical condition BEFORE putting it up for sale.

Think Like a Used Car Buyer

Real quick, a final coaching on the psychology of effectively selling a used car.

Getting a car ready to sell is simple when you have the right mindset.

Think like a used car buyer.


Again, buyers want to find a car that’s cared for, properly maintained and well-serviced.

In other words, they want a car that’s respectable.

Impress a potential buyer with a clean, well-maintained vehicle with original keys, owner’s manual and all maintenance and service documentation.

Time to get to work!

Behold! A Used Car Seller’s Checklist

These tips will help you off load a automobile for the most money possible:

  • Have the oil and other mechanical fluids serviced. They should look clean (smart buyers will check these service points).
  • Clean the battery. Replace it if it’s old (selling point).
  • Replace the belts, and perhaps the hoses, if the car wasn’t regularly serviced.
  • Service the tires and replace if worn (selling point).
  • Replace windshield wiper blades if they are more than 6 months old.
  • Replace burned out lights (interior and exterior).
  • Replace cracked and damaged headlight and tail lights lenses.
  • Get all of the trash out (greasy French Fries between the seats).
  • Empty the glove box except the owner’s manual, insurance papers and the registration (buy a replacement owner’s manual if it’s missing).
  • Remove devices that didn’t come with the car such as radar detectors, GPS, MP3 players and cell phones. No clutter.
  • Fix switches, knobs or handles that aren’t working properly (a clear sign the car was not maintained).
  • Get the parking brake adjusted if necessary.
  • Make sure the A/C blows cold. If not, have it serviced. If it smells bad, have it treated.
  • Lubricate door hinges and trunk hinges. Avoid undesirable squeaky noises.
  • Clean and treat door, hood and trunk seals and treat with a vinyl & rubber protectant.
  • Treat any plastic and rubber surfaces.
  • Clean out the trunk. Make sure the spare tire and jack are clean and stowed. A rusty jack should be cleaned and repainted or replaced. Remove any moisture from the trunk.
  • Vacuum the interior until every last crumb is gone.
  • Shampoo cloth seats, carpets and floor mats.
  • Make sure the dashboard, console, arm rests, cup holders, ash trays and steering wheel are spotless.
  • Clean the interior glass until there are no streaks or smudges.
  • Scrub the exterior, paying attention to the bumpers, area around the gas cap, door jambs and other soiled areas.
  • If your alloy wheels are damaged, have them repaired.
  • Remove bumper stickers and personalized license plate frames.
  • Repair minor nicks, chips, scratches and dings.
  • Polish the paint until it’s free of swirl marks, water spots and fine scratches.

Does this sound like a lot of work?

It can be if you’re not familiar with car detailing.

Don’t worry!

Everything you need to know is right here on this website.

For now you need to get a feel for assessing your car and its condition…

Rate Your Own Used Car’s Value

KBB Car ValueYou must understand how the used car buying and selling industry valuates used cars.

This will help to establish the right selling price for your vehicle.

Pay a visit to Kelley Blue Book.

Use their valuation tool. It spells out what a used car’s value should be by zip code.

Edmunds also offers an appraisal tool. A valuable second opinion!

Kelly Blue Book (KBB) in particular has a respected rating system. Cars fall into grades of poor, fair, good and excellent.

The difference between a car (less than five years old) in fair condition, and the same one in good condition is typically $1,000 or more.

It’s not uncommon to spend $100 on a visual improvement for a $1,000 boost in value.

Plus, you’ll make the vehicle sell faster!

Kelly Blue Book Used Car Conditions

Excellent (less than 5% of used cars fall into this category)

  • Looks new and in excellent mechanical condition. Needs no reconditioning.
  • Never had paint or body work and is rust-free.
  • Clean title history and will pass a smog and safety inspection.
  • Clean engine compartment with no fluid leaks, and free of wear or visible defects.
  • Complete and verifiable service records.

Good (most consumer-owned vehicles fall into this category)

  • Free of major defects.
  • Clean title history. The paint, body and interior have only minor (if any) blemishes. No major mechanical problems.
  • Little or no rust.
  • Tires match and have substantial tread remaining.
  • A “good” vehicle will need some reconditioning to be sold at retail.

Fair (difficult to command your price)

  • Some mechanical or cosmetic defects. Needs servicing, but is in reasonable running condition.
  • Clean title history. The paint, body and/or interior need work performed by a professional.
  • The tires may need to be replaced.
  • There may be repairable rust damage.

Poor (often difficult to sell)

  • Severe mechanical and/or cosmetic defects. Poor running condition.
  • May have problems that cannot be fixed ie. a damaged frame or a rusted-through body.
  • Branded title (salvage, flood, etc.) or unsubstantiated mileage.

Selling Your Used Car Online

So, you are ready to sell your car.

But how?

The strategy of slapping a sign in the car’s window, running a classified ad in the local paper and crossing your fingers no longer works.

Those days are over!

According to J.D. Power & Associates, well over 2/3 of people who buy used cars surf the net during the process.

Want to sell your car quickly and for a good price?


You’ll need to list it on some of the more popular selling sites.

Choosing a Used Car Website

Most websites that list used cars charge the seller a small fee, but not all.

Pick a classified site carefully. Avoid wasting time and money.

eBay Motors is a large online automotive marketplace. You basically sell your car auction style (buyers make bids).

Don’t worry!

You have control over pricing. As an eBay seller, you can reserve levels, or minimum sales prices. and offer a more traditional sales processes.

On these sites, you advertise your vehicle with a full-page ad and multiple photographs. charges for a simple classified with a single picture. It costs more for an elaborate listing with many photos and upgrades.

I personally like AutoTrader. They syndicate their ads out to other large sites. also charges for a listing with one photo (30 days). Again, it’s more for several pics that can stay up until the car sells.

Free Websites for Selling Cars

Not all classified sites cost money. is actually free.

The problem is ads aren’t as well structured. You’re left to create your own format.

Are you an HTML whiz?

If so, you can make an okay looking ad.

But there’s another downside…

A Craigslist ad only lasts a few days. You’ll need to post it again and again and again.

Caution: Craigslist is home to many spammers, scammers and extremely cheap-minded buyers.

Frankly, there are many time wasters on CL. With all that said, folks do have success with the service. It’s hit or miss.

Taking Good Photos is a Must

Take plenty of pictures.

Pics help establish a value in the buyer’s mind (before they ever see the car in person). A used car listing without photos will be completely overlooked.

Your car will attract more potential buyers and sell faster with lots of quality photos.

Show both interior and exterior pictures. Display the car’s true condition.

Here’s a good idea:

Take a picture of the odometer to confirm the miles.


It shows buyers that you are honestly disclosing everything.

That’s smart.

Have a car with special options? Take pictures and highlight them!

The more detailed your car listing is, the better your ad will perform.

Flexible & Friendly Gets the Sale

Selling a used car is still a face-to-face transaction.

Be willing to meet with prospects and engage in negotiation. Potential buyers typically do a test drive.

When speaking by telephone or email, ask that they arrive with their driver’s license and proof of insurance.

Selling your used car yourself on the Internet offers you and the buyer a win-win opportunity.

Chances are you will make a little more and the buyer will save a little (and save the stress of dealing with a used car lot!).

Here’s the deal:

Be willing to negotiate on price a little; just don’t be a pushover.

People want to feel like they got a deal.

That’s human nature.

Being firm on price can be a poor selling strategy.

Do this:

Set your price low enough to attract buyers, but high enough to allow for some negotiation.

The truth is used car sales are strong yet competitive.

So good luck, and happy selling!

Check out how to make your next car last longer!