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5 Tips For Selling a Used Car

Want to get top dollar when selling a used car? Keep these five tips in mind before you even consider putting that listing on Kijiji.

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Tips for selling a used carPhoto: ShutterStock

How to Get Top Dollar for Your Used Car

You’re thinking about buying a new car. The numbers will work, but only if you sell your car yourself and pocket the difference between retail and trade-in. So how do you get the most for your car?

We interviewed several people who only buy used cars from private parties. They shared their “turnoffs” and the selling techniques that impress them the most. Here are five of their best recommendations.

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Brush up on maintenance when selling a used carPhoto: ShutterStock

Tip #1 for Selling a Used Car: Catch Up On Routine Maintenance


Savvy buyers check fluids (engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid) to see if they’re clean and topped off. They also check for worn belts and burned-out bulbs. (Here’s how to change auto light bulbs if you find any.) You can even conduct your own brake check. Every small problem you fix before you list the vehicle is one less buyer obstacle when it comes time to negotiate the price.

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Invest in detailing when selling a used carPhoto: ShutterStock

Tip #2 for Selling a Used Car: Detail the Car


Buyers equate a dirty car with one that hasn’t been maintained properly. That’s an instant turnoff. Detailing means cleaning every nook, cranny and surface of the entire car. Do-it-yourself detailing sounds simple. But trust us, it’s a lot of work and it will take you an entire day. And even then it won’t look spotless. Plus, the cleaning supplies can cost you up to $85, not including the cost to rent a carpet/upholstery shampooer. All in all, DIY car detailing is a losing proposition. (Having said that, if it’s not in your budget, you can always consider these do-it-yourself car wash tricks.)

So what to do? Start by removing all your personal items (that is, junk) from the console, glove box and trunk-including the spare tire area. (If you need help in this department, consider these five car decluttering tips from the pros.) Then hire a professional detailer! That should cost $135 to $150. Tell potential buyers that you had the car professionally detailed—it’s a selling point.

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Organize documents when selling a used carPhoto: ShutterStock

Tip #3 for Selling a Used Car: Organize Your Records


If you’ve saved all your service records, great! Use them to prove you’ve diligently maintained the car. But it’s a mistake to think you can impress potential buyers by handing them a fistful of service receipts. They’ll be overwhelmed by the number of receipts and think you’re selling a lemon. Instead, enter all the maintenance and repair items separately on a single sheet of paper, listing them by date and mileage. Then staple it to the receipts.

Wondering how well you’ve actually looked after your wheels all this time? Consult our essential car maintenance checklist and find out.

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Advertise as a private party sellerPhoto: ShutterStock

Tip #4 for Selling a Used Car: Advertise as a Private Party

Small dealers often fix “salvaged” or “auctioned” cars and sell them in the classifieds by posing as private sellers. Differentiate yourself from the “dealers in disguise” by flaunting your private seller status. If you’re the original owner, put that at the top of the ad as well: “Private party/Original owner.” Place a free ad on an Internet car-selling site. Make sure you include plenty of high-quality photos so buyers can see the condition of your vehicle.

Need inspiration? Take a few cues from this gorgeous gallery of original Canadian auto photography.

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Avoid cheesy for sale signs when selling a used carPhoto: ShutterStock

Tip #5 for Selling a Used Car: Avoid Cheesy Signs

Drive-by advertising is a great way to sell your car, but don’t rely on cheap store-bought “For Sale” signs. Make your own on your computer and tape it to the inside of a side window. Then print “calling cards” with the make, model, year and mileage, price, phone number and selling features. Never force buyers to call for the price—they won’t make the call. Put the cards in a plastic page protector and tape it to the outside of the window.

Try to answer all phone calls in person rather than letting them go to voice mail-prospective buyers won’t leave a message. Then encourage callers to see the car in person. If you follow these steps, you’ll have cash in your hands in no time!

Considering putting that cash towards new wheels? Here’s the best time to buy a new car.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman