Tip 1: Catch up on routine maintenance
You're thinking about buying a hybrid.
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 their best
Catch up on routine
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. Every small problem you fix
before you list the vehicle is one less
buyer obstacle when it comes time to
negotiate the price.
Tip 2: 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 detailing is a losing proposition.
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. 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.
Tip 3: 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
Tip 4: 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.
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Tip 5: 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!