Whether you are upgrading to something new and shiny or just trying to get rid of the broken down junker in your garage, that old car you have rusting away is likely worth some money.
We found an expert in buying and selling used cars to tell us the tricks dealers and enthusiasts use to get the most out of old cars. Richard Reina is the Product Training Director at CARiD.com, but he’s been in the industry for upwards of 35 years, working at car dealerships, importers, and now as a specialist in auto repair parts and custom upgrades. Reina is also an avid auto enthusiast, and is the owner of a green, 1967 Alfa Romeo coupe. He told us how to get that old car off your property while getting the most cash into your wallet.
Reina says that for the average consumer, the best way to go is to sell your car to a private buyer and to do so online. Of course, these aren’t your only options. You could sell your car to a dealership, but you might end up getting hundreds of dollars for a car that’s worth thousands. You also could part your car out, meaning break the car down into its constituent parts and sell them individually. If you have the time, space, tools, and know-how, Reina says you stand to make five to ten times as much money selling your car this way. But this can be a serious undertaking, and it’s probably not the way to go for the average seller.
Simply posting an ad on craigslist.com or autotrader.com is probably your best bet. The following strategy will help you learn how to sell a car and get the most money while doing it.
Do your research, collect your documents, prepare for a sale
Research is key to selling a car for the maximum price. Look online to see what other cars like yours are selling for in your area. You can use services like Kelly Blue Book to get the market value for your car. Arm yourself with as much information as possible. Then, collect all the necessary documentation for the car and get ready to sell it.
Get it running and driving safely
You may not be excited about putting more money into a car you’re about to sell, but Reina says it’s probably a necessary step. If your car is safely running and driving, a prospective buyer can take it for a test drive, which will help them imagine themselves owning the car. Remember: a running car is as much a marketing tool as a sell-able entity.
Also, taking steps to get your car running will give you further documentation for what is new on the car. Having documentation for a new fuel pump or starter can essentially add that value and more to the final selling price.
Clean it up
Reina says one of the best investments you can make before selling the car is an extensive detailing. A little bit of wax, tire shine, and shampooing the carpet may only cost $20-30, but you may yield hundreds more dollars from the sale. For higher end cars, you might consider taking the car to a professional detailer who will have better products and more experience.
Take high-quality pictures
Taking high-quality pictures is probably the most important part of an online ad.
“I’ve seen ads on Craigslist where the person took one picture, and it was at night during a snowstorm. The car was covered in snow,” says Reina. Obviously, that isn’t much help to a prospective buyer.
Instead, your ad should contain at least six photos: one photo of every corner of the car and at least one of the interior and one of the engine bay.
Be honest with your potential buyers
When you go about writing the ad, make sure you are telling the truth about the car. You may be tempted to omit details you think will get in the way of the sale, but Reina says that as an experienced buyer, sensing dishonesty from the seller is more likely to tank the sale than any particular problem with the car.
Not only should you be honest about the car, but you should try to get as much as possible in writing to prove that you’re telling the truth. If you think the car has a blown head gasket, get an estimate to have it fixed from a mechanic, and have that estimate with you when you are trying to sell the car.
Hold your ground if a seller tries to low-ball you
When it’s finally time to show the car to the potential buyer, all the steps you have taken will allow you to be prepared for even the toughest haggler. If someone wants to try to take the thing for forty cents on the dollar of what you asked, show them the documentation for why that clown needs to hit the road!
“If the buyer says they can find the same car for cheaper elsewhere, be prepared to let them walk away,” says Reina. You have to be able to call their bluff if you want to get the most out of your vehicle. By this point, you’ve put in so much effort, there’s no sense in folding at the point of sale.
Once you’ve done the necessary work, selling it should be the easy part.