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How to Sell a Car: Everything You Need to Know!

How to Sell a Car: Everything You Need to Know!

When you decide to sell a car, there are a lot of things that you need to know. You need to know what documents to prepare, decide the best way to sell your car, and estimate the price of your vehicle. You definitely want to sell your car for the highest price possible. You may want to buy a new car right away, and you need money to make the first payment. This article will help you to understand the whole selling process and guide you through each step:

  1. Ways to sell a car
  2. Documents to be prepared
  3. Prepare your vehicle for sale
  4. Set a price
  5. Ways to list your car
  6. Test drive safety
  7. Pre-sale inspection
  8. Negotiation
  9. Paperwork
  10. Payment Options

Ways to Sell a Car

The first thing that you need to decide when you sell your car is how you will do this. There are a couple of ways to sell your car. Below, we will talk about each of them and their advantages and disadvantages.


This is the easiest way to sell your car. You just need to offer your vehicle as a trade-in to the dealership and exchange your old one for a new one with some additional payment. It will not give you the highest price for your vehicle but will save you time and sales tax. You will also save money by not paying to list your car on different websites. Besides this, you will not spend time meeting with buyers and replying to their messages and calls.

Now that you know about the pros and cons of the trade-in, let’s talk about the process in more detail . When you do a trade-in, you are mainly communicating with the salesperson from the dealership. Often, the salesperson will want to mix the trade-in value with the price of your new car and the cost of financing into one confusing number. You will need to be careful with this to make sure you are getting the best deal. Thus, you need to treat each amount as a separate transaction.

Also, do not expect to get the retail price for your car from the trade-in option. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the dealership will take care of all your paperwork and title transfer. Second of all, the dealership will take care of advertising your vehicle for sale. These will cost the dealership money. Both of these processes will save you a significant amount of time and nerves. Besides this, if you have a high-value trade-in, then you can save a lot on sales taxes. Here is more information on how to get the best trade-in value . Also, if you are from Indianapolis and if you are looking to trade in your car, the Indy Auto Man has the best offer for you and around 300 cars in inventory to pick from.

Instant Cash Offer

The Instant Cash Offer is an easy way to sell a car. You can do this online, over the phone, or at the dealership. You simply need to provide the VIN number of your car or a license plate number. You will need to add the vehicle description, its condition, and mileage. Then you will get an instant cash offer (ICO). You will need to be as accurate and detailed as you can when you provide the description of your vehicle because the price directly depends on it. The benefits of the Instant Cash Offer are that you will sell the car fast and get paid immediately. However, you will not get the retail value for your car, but you will save a lot of time. In particular, you will not need to communicate with customers directly and spend time replying to their calls and texts and showing your car to them.

Sell a Car Yourself

Selling a car yourself may give you the best price for your car, but it will take some time. You will need to spend time preparing your car and documents for sale. Then, you will need to list your car on a car selling website or try to sell it through social media. You will also need to meet with the clients by yourself and communicate directly with them. However, you will be able to negotiate with clients and get close to the retail price for your vehicle.

Below, you will find all the steps that you need to follow if you decide to sell your car by yourself. Also, you will find tips that will help you make the process easier and more convenient for you.

Documents to Prepare

This is one of the most important steps in the selling process. A properly maintained vehicle with a clean service/repair history will fetch a higher price, especially if you show proof of this on paper. It is important to have documents of all the repairs that you or the previous owner did. If a person is serious about buying the car, then he/she will look at the vehicle history report to learn more about the car. Often, the buyer will purchase a vehicle history report from CARFAX or Autocheck. Here is more information about how to get the CARFAX or Autocheck reports for your vehicle and the difference between these reports. You, as a seller, may make it easier for the buyers to purchase a report by yourself. Also, you will be prepared to answer all questions that buyers may have and explain everything to them. It will help you to establish better communication with the buyer and build credibility. Here you can find more information on how to read the CARFAX report .

If you are the first owner of the vehicle, then it would be a good idea to show the initial purchase documents to the buyers. One-owner cars are more valuable than cars that have multiple owners. Besides this, you need to prepare the title for the vehicle. If you still owe money on your vehicle but want to sell it, then you need to contact the lender to determine the procedure for getting the vehicle’s title ready. This step may take some time, so you need to get everything lined up for this step. If you sell your car through a trade-in, then the dealership will take care of this step.

Here is a list of the documents that you need to prepare to sell your car:

  • Car title
  • Bill of Sale
  • Odometer Statement
  • Service documents
  • Vehicle History Report ( CARFAX or Autocheck )
  • Original purchase documents (make sure to ask for a refund for the unused portion of the service contract and GAP insurance in case you purchased one with a new car)

Prepare your Vehicle for Sale

This step depends on how old is your vehicle, the mileage of your car, and how well you maintained it.

If you regularly maintain your vehicle, rotate tires, and do regular oil changes, then this process will not take a lot of time and will not cost a lot of money. You simply need to clean your car. The first impression of the car is really important. You want to take your personal items from the car and disconnect your phone from Bluetooth. Also, you want to clean the car inside and out and make it look new. You will need to wash carpets, seats, mirrors, and dashboards. You can do this by yourself or go to the car wash. Also, if you have any stickers or magnets on the exterior of the car, it is a good idea to remove them.

However, if you did not do a recent check on your vehicle, then you will have to take additional steps. You will need to go to the service shop and check your car. There, the mechanics will help you prepare your vehicle for sale and let you know if your vehicle has problems and if it needs repairs. Also, you may need to do some cosmetic repairs if your vehicle has scratches or other small problems. The right preparation of your vehicle for sale will help you get top dollar and help with the negotiation process because if your car has some scratches or repair problems, then buyers will use this to negotiate a lower price.

Set a Price

The next step is to set a price for the vehicle. The value of the car will depend on the make, model, year, mileage, options, and condition of the car. You need to know everything about your car and research the market before setting the price. It is a good idea to look for similar cars on the market and compare their prices to set the best price for your vehicle. You do not want to set a lower price, but your price should also be reasonable for your vehicle and its condition. If you establish a higher price than other marketplaces, then you need to prepare an argument that will prove your point of view. Consider talking with a mechanic and checking your vehicle to identify the mechanical condition of your car. You can ask your mechanic about the overall opinion of your car and use it in the ad description. Use car value estimation tools to set the best price for your vehicle.

Also, consider the power of the engine of your car when you set the price. Cars that have more power use more gas, and it may be a significant factor for buyers, especially when gas prices are going up. If you need to sell a car in a short period of time, then consider setting your price a little bit below the market. However, if your car is still under warranty or has a vehicle service contract, then the price of your car may be higher than the market price.

Ways to List Your Car

It is another important step in the selling process. If you do an instant cash offer or trade-in option, then the dealership will take care of this process. However, you will have to list and write an ad copy for your car if you decide to sell your car by yourself. There are a couple of ways to list and advertise your car.

Social media

You can promote it through social media. It is a good idea if you have a lot of followers on social media or friends that you think will be interested in buying your vehicle. You can simply make a post on social media with a couple of pictures of the car and a video walk around. However, try not to show the plate information or address to avoid unsolicited offers. Add catchy phrases to the description and accurate information about the make, model, year, condition of the car, history, and mileage. List the features of the car and its MPG; and information about the remaining warranty or service contract, if you have one. Include the reason why you are selling the car.

The next step is to post a couple of stories and continue to do this until you get a potential buyer. Also, you can list your car on Facebook Marketplace or NextDoor. These are two popular places where people sell their cars at no charge.


NextDoor is a website and mobile app where neighbors can connect with each other and sell some stuff to each other. You can list your vehicle in this app as well. Simply post a few pictures of the vehicle… However, it is better to add as many pictures as you can. Make pictures of the interior and exterior from different sides. Also, add a picture under the hood and pictures of the main features of the vehicle. Do the description right, the overview of the car, the price, mileage, make, model, year, condition of the car, and information about the transmission and engine. Besides this, add the list of main features and your contact information.

Car Websites

This is the most efficient option to sell your car. However, you will need to pay for the listing. Usually, it is a payment per vehicle listed. There are so many websites where you can list your car. The most popular ones are CarGurus, Autotrader,, and CARFAX. It is better to list your car on a couple of websites. It will help you to sell your car faster.

To have a good, informative listing, you will need to add good quality pictures of the car (interior and exterior, under the hood, and main features). You will need to add a detailed description mentioning the make, model, year, and mileage of the car. Explain the condition of the car and add information about the maintenance and repairs. Also, if you had any accident, you need to include the information about this as well. You need to list all the features that your car has. You can make an additional list with the top features as well. It would be helpful for buyers if you would include the CARFAX or AutoCheck vehicle history report, so they can learn more about your car. Do not forget to include the price and acceptable payment methods (personal check, cash, cashier’s check, Zelle). Also, you need to add the location where you will meet with potential buyers and your contact information. We recommend meeting at the police station or bank.


Safety is really important. When you sell your car through a dealership, you will not need to meet with the potential buyers personally, so you do need to take care showing them the car. However, when you sell your car by yourself, you need to consider that some buyers may not have good intentions.

Safe way to meet with potential buyers

The first tip is not to show your car at your home location to protect your personal information. It is better to choose a busy location where other people will be around. Ideally, in a location that has video surveillance. Try not to meet later at night when it is dark outside. Besides this, you may consider bringing friends to the meeting for your safety. Another tip is to choose only legitimate forms of payment for the transaction. It is safer to use a cashier’s check than cash. We recommend meeting at the bank to complete the transaction. Be aware of common scams and frauds to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one.

Save Test Drive

Most buyers will ask you if they can test drive the car before they make the purchase. Here is the list that you need to check before the test drive:

  • Insurance : Make sure that your insurance covers test drives. Simply contact your insurance company to find the information.
  • Driver’s License : Ask a potential driver about their driving license before giving the keys. Do not agree to test drive if you do not feel comfortable driving with the person.
  • Location : Plan the location for the test drive ahead. Choose only a familiar area. The best way is if this area would not have busy traffic.

Title Transfer

When you sell a car by yourself, you need to take care of paperwork as well. Each state has its regulation for paperwork for title transfer . However, most states require both the seller and the buyer to fill out the paperwork to make the title transfer legal. Usually, these documents include the price, the mileage of the vehicle, some personal information about the seller and buyer, and the date with their signature. A useful tip is to make a copy of these documents.

Pre-Sale Inspection

Some buyers may ask about the Pre-Sale Inspection. That means that they will ask their own mechanic to take a look at the vehicle, check the engine, and make a list of the repairs needed if needed. They may come with their own mechanic, but most likely, they will ask you to go to the service center with them. Then you will need to arrange a time that will be convenient for both and meet at the service center. Choose only a reputable service center for the pre-sale inspection. After the inspection, the buyer may ask about adjusting the price of the deal if the mechanic finds any problems with the car. But it is your own choice to agree or disagree with it. Also, a good idea is to ask for a copy of the mechanic’s report. You can discuss the vehicle’s problems with your own mechanic and decide if the repair is necessary. If this report is clean and the buyer still did not buy your car, then you can use this document to show the next potential buyer.


Most of the buyers will try to negotiate the price. Thus, you need to be ready for this. You need to know about all the problems with your vehicle if they are existent because buyers will use them as a factor in negotiating. Also, you need to determine the lowest acceptable offer for yourself, and if the buyer asks about a lower price, be ready to move on. Tell them that they may contact you if they reconsider their decision. If the buyer is making a reasonable offer, then be prepared to say yes. Thus, you need to have all the paperwork ready with you to complete the deal. Below, we will discuss this process and all the necessary documents for it.


You do not need to worry about the paperwork when you sell your car through an instant cash offer or trade-in. However, if you sell your car by yourself, you need to prepare a few documents to complete the deal.

First, check with the local BMV for information about the title transfer because each state has different requirements and regulations.

The buyer will need to do the following:

  • Retitle the vehicle
  • Register the car in their name
  • Pay transfer fees, including state taxes

The seller will need to provide the buyer with the title transfer documents that include:

  • Price of the vehicle
  • The exact number on the odometer at the moment of selling the car (do not round this number)
  • Date
  • Signature of the seller and buyer
  • Warranty or vehicle service contract information, if it is still valid

Payment Options

With the trade-in option, the value of your car will automatically apply toward the trade-in value of the new car. When you use an instant cash offer, the money may go toward your new car, or you may ask about a check that you can take to the bank or use a mobile app from your bank. If you still owe money for the car, then the money that you get from the sale may go to pay off your loan.

When you sell the car by yourself, it is best to discuss the payment option with the potential buyer in advance.

  • Cash. Taking cash is not the safest method of payment, but it is the fastest one because you do not need to wait a couple of days for the money to get transferred to your bank account. We recommend conducting cash transactions at the bank.
  • Online Payment. It is a convenient and modern way to pay for the purchase, but make sure that the buyer will actually do the transaction before you give him the keys and wait for the confirmation email as well.
  • Cashier’s check. This is the safest payment option, and you can easily redeem the check at the bank or by using the mobile app. Make sure that the buyer puts the right amount, date, and information on the check. Warning: make sure that the cashier’s check is valid, especially if it is from a bank you are not familiar with.

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