How to Sell Your Car Privately 

Thinking about passing up the dealership’s trade-in offer and selling your car on your own? Before you get ready to post that “For Sale” sign in your rear window, there are some things you should know before you opt to sell your car privately. Let’s discuss some warnings and tips to ensure your vehicle sale goes as smoothly as possible!

Gather the Right Paperwork

There are many ways to sell a vehicle. You can sell a car online, you can sell it to a dealership in person, or you can even give a friend a great deal on your used car. But with all of these options, one thing remains the same—you’ve got to have the right paperwork and processes in place if you want to pass off vehicle ownership in compliance with state and federal regulations. This means gathering the right paperwork and information.

Here are some things you’ll need to do before you sell your vehicle:

  • Find your vehicle title.
  • Ask the DMV what paperwork you need to transfer the vehicle title.
  • Request a vehicle history report.
  • Square up with your lender to make sure you don’t have any outstanding balances on your vehicle loan.

Check the Car Value, Name Your Price

Once you’ve made sure you can actually sell your vehicle, it’s time to see what your vehicle’s actually worth. You can do this by checking the value of your car online. The value will depend on the vehicle make, model, year, mileage, and overall condition. If your car has cosmetic damage or easy fixes, it might pay off to make these repairs before putting it on the market. P.S. get a car wash; your potential buyers will thank you!

After you’ve got an idea of what your vehicle’s worth, you can come up with an appropriate price. It’s best to stay close within the range of the fair market price, but you can also consider your financial needs too.

How to sell your car


Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of ways to advertise your vehicle that’s for sale. Whether you opt to use Craigslist, Facebook, OfferUp, or rely on your trusty “For Sale” sign, you’ll want to make sure your ads are compelling.

Here are some guidelines to help you create a strong ad for your vehicle:

  • Give details: Buyers will be less likely to call if you don’t include important details like mileage, price, MPG, and condition. Be a step ahead of your audience and make sure you provide these details for them. If you’re comfortable going lower on price, simply mention in your ad that the price is negotiable.
  • Take pictures: You know what they say, “a picture speaks a thousand words.” And it’s true, especially in advertising! Be sure to include high-quality photos in your ad that capture every angle.
  • Offer a test-drive: Words really can’t stack up to actually experiencing the look and feel of a car in person. Offer serious buyers the opportunity to test-drive the car before they make a purchase. Just make sure to arrange the test drive in a safe, public place.

Come up with some screening questions

If you’re trying to sell your car quickly, you won’t want to waste your time with unreliable sellers that might not follow through. Avoid wasting time with improbable buyers by having a few screening questions and caveats at the ready.

  • What’s your name? Ask for their full name before you set up a test drive. You’ll need this information to make the sale anyway, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise for the buyer. And if it does, you might consider this one a red flag.
  • What are you looking for in your next vehicle? This question will help you manage expectations and save time meeting with buyers that are looking for something your car doesn’t have.
  • When can you test-drive? If a potential buyer wants to buy your car without looking at it, chances are, this deal is too good to be true.
  • What’s your price? If your price is negotiable, be sure that the buyer is able to name a reasonable price so you’re not faced with an ultra-low offer on the day they test-drive.

Seal the deal

Once you’ve found the right buyer, you’re ready to sign away that clunker in favor of an upgrade! But first, you’ll have to agree on a price, sign off the title, give the buyer a bill of sale, and file a release of liability form. These documents show that the car is no longer in your possession as of the signing date.

In conclusion

Selling a car on your own might require a little more work and learning than heading to your local dealership. But follow these tips, and you’re well on your way to making a great sale!


About the Author

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Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal fun and accessible. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.

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