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How to Get the Best Price for Your Car

The following is a guest post from Aaron at Three Thrifty Guys.  Please check out that site – he literally got this post together for me just because he knew I was dealing with a lot this week.  In fact, the new carpet is being installed today.  Thank you Aaron!

Since I first started driving – some 20 years ago – I have never once bought a new car. I’ve gone through 6 cars and all have had their fair share of wear. Through good experiences and bad – I have learned a few things about selling an automobile and getting the best possible price.

First Thing’s First

My first two cars ended up stranding me on the side of the road. And I don’t blame them. They were pretty beat up and worn out. I had driven ‘em close to 200k miles and they were just plain tired. So, the first car I sold was my ’99 VW Jetta to a wise car flipper. (yes, they have car flippers too). I was just a few months removed from paying off the 5-year car loan on the used VW when I found a deal for another VW Jetta for sale (yes, same color) on Craigslist. I met with the owner – who seemed very upfront and traded my ‘99 Jetta for his older, yet “refurbished” model. While the ’99 had some defects – I soon would learn this ’97 model was even worse off. In a year and a half of ownership, I had spent just over $5k on that thing. It was a lemon.

From that poor experience, I vowed I wouldn’t try and take advantage of another person trying to buy from me.

I would be an honest used car salesman.

Check THE BOOK

When it comes to used car prices – the “Bible” is the Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Most dealers and private parties will be checking values by this resource. You should too. Know the price you should expect to receive based on your vehicles condition/mileage for both a private sale and a dealer sale (they give both). You can also check and see what your car is going for in the classified section of your local newspaper. Every situation is different, but I would suggest trying to sell your auto via a private party. You’re likely to get more.

Check your Car’s History

Make sure you know the history of your vehicle and what a potential buyer will see if they look up your car on sites like Carfax.com. Do your own investigation there so that you are prepared to handle any inquiries about your car’s past. Also, have you kept detailed records of all the repairs and maintenance performed on your car? Clean records will certainly help you maximize the price you can sell your car for.

Clean ‘er Up!

Spend a little bit of money (or do it yourself) for professional detailing. Having your car look sharp and clean could add hundreds more to the sale of your vehicle. Well worth the investment.

List it on Popular Websites

Obviously one of the best places to sell a car (and for FREE) is Craigslist. The site is widely known and used by everyone who surfs online. Other places you may want to advertise your car is at your place of work or at an organization you belong to (church, community club, etc). These are all free and will get you qualified leads and a quick(er) sale.

Negotiate with Confidence

One of the keys to a successful used car sale is to be confident in your pricing. Be sure you back up your price with facts like, “I have kept all the maintenance records since purchasing the car”, “I  have the history of the car in a detailed report which I will provide for you”, “I just put new tires on the car two months ago” OR “The price I am asking is consistent with Kelley Blue Book’s value”. When I have done my research and provide honest intel to a potential buyer, I feel more confident in my asking price.

More often than not, a buyer will ask you to lower your price. If you aren’t firm on your price, make sure you only go down in price by small increments. For example, if your asking price is $3500 and the buyer asks you to sell for $2750 – tell them, “I’ll go down to $3400.” This way you aren’t giving away the farm in the first round of negotiating. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a potential sale either. Especially if you feel your price is fair. A danger is thinking the first buyer will be your only prospect.

While this is not exhaustive – I do hope these tips help you get the best price for your car.

Do you have any ways you have been able to get a good price for your used car?

Crystal’s Comments:  Great advice!  I covered some of this in How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist, but I love these negotiating tips.  And the experience behind this post is stellar – I have only sold 3 cars in my life, 2 of my own and 1 for a relative.  Some day I will bite the bullet and sell my Chevy Aveo…I really dislike my crappy car, but I like keeping the money in the bank even more, lol.



FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 a year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $80,000-$100,000 through blogging, a rental home, and professional pet sitting.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you).  I even have all of my favorite tools on a resource page - I hope they help you too. This all gives me the time to be with my aging family members, the flexibility to stay close with my friends and family, and it should help if we finally get pregnant too!  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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17 thoughts on “How to Get the Best Price for Your Car

  1. I’ll be writing a post about this soon but we recently sold our car to CarMax. In the past I had used Craigslist but I didn’t want to be dishonest to a person that likely didn’t have much money and was probably struggling to get by (considering the car would have been sold for $2-3k).

    Our car actually needed $1500 in repairs done and CarMax offered me $2000 to buy it outright. Knowing that the KBB value of the car was $2800 it was a no-brainer.

    I got a good deal and didn’t have to be a bad used car salesman! Win-win! (ummm…except for CarMax)

  2. “Clean ‘er up” is definitely important. When I was selling my car I made sure to get it washed, waxed and detailed before I started showing it to people. It’s sort of like selling a house. People can’t imagine buying a car if all of your crap is still in it. Ditto for if you’re a smoker. Air out the car and get an air freshener so non-smokers aren’t turned off.

  3. @ Nice deal WorkSaveLive with CarMax. I’ve heard of them – but never met anyone who used em.
    @ Kari – the smoker issue would be a tough one to “clean-up” I’d think. I’m def turned off by a smoker car.

  4. I don’t have any plans for selling my car now, especially since I don’t own it outright yet but I plan to probably trade it in to the dealership if/when I ever buy something new.

  5. I would say that knowing what your car is actually worth and what you are willing to accept as the lowest offer is key. Heck is you know you really want $4k then price it at $4500 so you can bargain. But make sure that its actually worth that amount.

    I love used cars with no payments so when I am ready to sell I really don’t have much to worry about.

  6. Your negotiation tactic is excellent. As a seller it is foolish to play the “meet you in the middle” game. Stick close to your offering price and walk away if the buyer tries to undercut your selling price by a wide margin. There will be other buyers. Used cars are in high demand these days.

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  8. Use the sell my car website for a fast, fair price for your vehicle. All quotes are non obligational so contact us today and get our friendly team to see if they can help you today.

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